Kaitlyn Fulmore, Contributing Writer
“Get good sleep, hydrate, focus.”
These self-care tasks, repeated by track and field assistant coach Thomas Sage, are guiding the men’s team on their path toward the Atlantic 10 championship.
“You can do everything right at practice,” graduate student hurdler Ian Davis said. “But at the end of the day, if you’re not handling yourself off the track, you only have yourself to blame.”
The team is focused on preparing for the A-10 outdoor track and field championship next month as both freshmen and sophomores adjust to the increased physical workload of their first outdoor season.
“It’s the boring stuff that’s gonna win a championship,” Sage said. “We just got to lock in and do all the little things.”
Goals for the season
The men’s track and field team has one main goal this season: winning an Atlantic 10 championship.
“Our men’s team is really deep this year, and that’s exciting for us because we really have not had this level of depth,” Sage said. “We got our fingers crossed that this is the year.”
With the cancellation of the 2021 indoor A-10 championship due to COVID-19 protocols, the team is training to perform at the end of the outdoor season.
The amount of training this year has been greater in volume but lower in intensity, Sage said. He added that they are “starting to see some of those dividends pay off.”
After last season ended early, this year is the last chance for some athletes to grab the title of champion.
“I fully expect both VCU teams to win the conference championships this year,” Davis said. “I think we have a really competitive, talented team, and I think we’ll be able to put it together in a month.”
After getting his senior season cut short a year ago, Davis is returning for his final season with the goal of competing in the NCAA championship.
Davis began the 2021 outdoor season with a first-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles at the USF Bulls Invitational from March 19-20, and placed first again at the South Florida Invitational from April 2-3.
“That was the fastest I ever opened up for a season in the hurdles,” Davis said. “It gave me a lot of hope that this season will pan out the way I want it to go.”
Junior thrower Jaekob Vollbrecht started the season strong with a second-place finish in discus and third place in shot put at the USF Bulls Invitational. During the recent South Florida Invitational, Vollbrecht earned first place in discus.
Other returning athletes who placed in recent invitationals include junior hurdler Emmanuel Waller, junior sprinter JeVon Waller and junior multi-event athlete Mykalee Atkins.
Emmanuel Waller placed second in the 4×400-meter relay, and JeVon Waller placed third in the 4×100-meter relay at the South Florida Invitational. Atkins placed second in the decathlon at the Bobcat Invitational on March 28.
A total of 10 freshmen joined the men’s track and field team this season — tied with juniors for being the largest class group on the team.
Freshman sprinter Lewis Freeman, a runner on both the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relay teams, said the USF Bulls Invitational was “a big eye-opener.” Freeman placed sixth in the 400-meter dash.
Two weeks later at the South Florida Invitational, Freeman placed second and third in the 4×400- and 4×100-meter relays, respectively.
“It’s kind of scary because the potential [for the season] is through the roof,” Freeman said.
Freshman hurdler Marcus Wilson, a Bristow, Virginia, native, concluded his first indoor season with two first-place finishes and ranked twice in the top three. Wilson’s first outdoor season seems to be following a similar path. At the Colonial Relays in Williamsburg from April 2-3, Wilson placed second and set a personal record in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.05 seconds.
Another freshman with a successful indoor track season, freshman Trevor Thomas, recently placed third for high jump at the South Florida Invitational with a new personal record of 2.03 meters.
The Rams have competed in three invitationals this season so far, with multiple top-three rankings by different athletes.
At the USF Bulls Invitational, VCU had eight top-three finishes at their first meet, with first-place victories from both Davis in the 110-meter hurdles and senior thrower Willie Schwartz in the hammer throw.
“I was happy about my teammates and the energy everyone else was bringing to their first meet,” Davis said. “Just being back on the track was an amazing feeling.”
The South Florida Invitational landed the black and gold with seven top-three finishes, with junior jumper Camron Browne placing first for the long jump with 6.83 meters. The 4×400-meter relay team set a personal best with a time of 3:15.46.
“We PR’d when we had so many things stacked against us,” Freeman said. “People raced an hour before, so we’re not running on fresh legs and we were still able to get second. It makes me really excited for what we can do.”