Track and Field will look to build on last year’s success after the women’s team won conference championships for the indoor and outdoor seasons and the men matched their best outdoor finish since joining the Atlantic 10.
The women come into this season hoping to continue the success they’ve had in recent years after winning back-to-back indoor conference titles, and with it comes the pressure of maintaining that level of excellence.
“I need my athletes to respect the process of training, and to respect the process of being a champion,” coach Jon Riley said. “It just doesn’t come easy. We didn’t become champions by just stepping on the track.”
Sophomore jumper Aliyah Newman looks to be an important piece for this year’s team after winning the outdoor conference title in the triple jump and setting a school record.
“I really don’t try to chase records or chase marks,” Newman said. “So really just keep getting better, keep training, keep working hard.”
Newman earned All-Conference honors when she was selected to the All-Rookie team for both seasons due to her success in the triple jump, and her talent should help to fill the gaps that have formed due to the departure of some athletes that were integral to last year’s championship run.
“I think we are really ready to step forward,” Newman said. “De’Nisha Smith and Taylor McCormick being leaders on the team, I do feel that power dynamic is gone. But I think as a team we are used to winning so we are always ready to win.”
One of those athletes that could step up for VCU this season is freshman sprinter Chanelle Hodges.
“Hodges is going to be someone to really look at,” Riley said. “I think she is going to have a lot of success if she continues to work like she is doing.”
Looking to take the next step after finishing in third place a season ago, Riley feels this team has an opportunity to do so.
“If we’re going to win it on the men’s side, this is our best chance,” Riley said. “This is our year.”
Redshirt-senior sprinter Nicholas Buckingham returns after missing last season after being part of a school-record-breaking 4×400 team during the 2017 indoor season.
“I’m really excited to be back this year,” Buckingham said. “I feel like we can break the school record for the 4×400 at the very first meet.”
Riley also believes some key freshmen — such as Emmanuel Waller and Daiqwaun Faircloth, who run long and short hurdles, and short sprinter JeVon Waller — could have an immediate impact on the program and help it reach its goals.
“I think those three guys are going to be the catalyst for us for the future,” Riley said. “But this year, I think they can come in and score and do some really good things for the team.”
The indoor season begins Jan. 11-12 when the teams travel to Virginia Tech.
Andy Riddler Contributing Writer