The shot putter duo of Ryan Coles and Brandon Ruffin made program history at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field East Preliminary Round. Prior to this year, VCU never had a male thrower reach the NCAA postseason.
Going into the NCAA postseason, Coles was seeded 40th in the East regionals with a school record throw of 17.70 meters (58’1”). While, Ruffin was ranked 43rd with a mark of 17.66 meters (57’11 ¼ ”).
On May 29, the shot putters posted top-40 finishes at the Jacksonville, Florida venue. Ruffin placed 30th with a throw of 17.39 meters (57’ ¾ ”), while Coles finished 38th throwing 17.08 meters (56’ ½ ”).
Coles and Ruffin finish their junior seasons filled with personal bests and school records.
Ruffin broke the indoor shot put record with a heave of 17.81 meters (58’5 ½”). The Chesapeake, Virginia native found it surreal to hold a VCU record, despite holding the discus record at Oscar Smith High School.
“It’s crazy, I never imagined getting one (a record) in college,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin also broke the outdoor shot put record at the George Mason Spring Invite in April with a throw of 17.59 meters (57’8 ½”). Coles dethroned Ruffin later in the season with a throw of 17.70 meters (58’1”). Additionally, Coles holds the discus record with a toss of 52.58 meters (172’6”).
When the two broke each other’s records, they always congratulated one another with tongue-in-cheek humor.
“We would congratulate each other and say ‘Just wait until next week”,” Ruffin said.
Finally, due to both men’s remarkable efforts this season, Ruffin and Coles were both distinguished with the Atlantic 10 Co-Performer of the Week honors.
Coles attributes his success this year to his heightened focus and drive.
“I stayed focused which I had problems with in the past,” Coles said. “This year I stayed hungry during practice and at the meets.”
On the contrary, Ruffin believed his improvements mainly pertained to his technique and strength.
“I had more knowledge of what to do in order to hone in on my craft,” Ruffin said. “I also got stronger.”
The duo also dominated at this year’s A-10 outdoor championships by placing in the top-2 spots in both the shot put and discus; Ruffin claiming first and Coles second.
Coles and Ruffin were named All-Conference in the hammer, claiming the third and sixth spots respectively. Ruffin also earned the Most Outstanding Field Athlete honor having received same distinction at the A-10 indoor championships back in February.
Ruffin said these accomplishments were the highlights of his junior season.
“I’m truly blessed and didn’t expect to blow up. I had the tools, coaching and people around me to do it.” Ruffin said.
Over the course of the season, Coles also had his fair share of accomplishments. He broke the VCU discus record three times this season. Coles’ best throw was 52.58 meters (172’6”), which he set at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) Outdoor Track & Field Championship in May.
Additionally, over the course of the outdoor season, Coles finished in the top-four in every throwing event, including seven top-two finishes, according to VCU Athletics.
Although Coles and Ruffin were engaged in a battle for school records throughout the year, the duo feels that their relationship consists of friendly competition rather than a rivalry.
“We both plan to do well (at the meets), but don’t plan to compete against each other.” Coles said.
“We are brothers basically,” seconded Ruffin. “We get each other pumped and we congratulate each other.”
Looking forward to next season, the duo said they can’t be entirely satisfied with the season just passed.
Specifically for Cole, who is projected to be one of the top throwers in the A-10 conference in all throwing events except the hammer throw, he would like to work on his rotation in throws and make more of a statement at the A-10 Championships and the NCAA postseason.
“I plan to dominate the conference next year in shot (put) and discus and hopefully take the Most Outstanding Field Athlete honor,” Coles said. “I would also like to make it to the NCAA Championship finals. Realistically, I would like to be able to achieve this by the outdoor season.”
Coles has his sights on post-collegiate competition.
“I would like to continue training and be invited to the Olympic Trials for Rio 2016. But it all depends on how I do next year,” Coles said.
Ruffin has chosen to redshirt the entire 2014-2015 season, essentially taking the year off and competing with no allegiance to VCU Ruffin’s collegiate studies factored into the decision.
“I am redshirting mainly for school due to intensity of the (mechanical engineering) program I am in.” Ruffin said.
Ruffin also pointed out that by redshirting, it would allow Coles to allocate points and accolades in his final year of eligibility. Therefore, once Coles graduates Ruffin can continue to dominate within the conference and beyond. However, like Coles, Ruffin’s decision to compete professionally depends on how he performs in his final year of eligibility.