KINGSTON, R.I. - After sweeping the Atlantic 10 Indoor and Outdoor track and field titles in both 2001 and 2002, Rhode Island remains optimistic entering the 2002-2003 season. The Rams have been training hard in the off season, stressing the quality of their workouts, while looking to not only defend their Atlantic 10 titles, but also to capture their first New England Championship titles in ten years after finishing a close second during the last outdoor season. Head coach John Copeland and assistant coach Derek Yush are determined to return to the NCAA Championships as well.
"Like most teams we continue to strive to succeed in all levels of competition while always keeping in mind as we step forward not to look too far ahead," said Copeland.
Junior tri-captain Colin Aina (Providence, R.I.), a provisional qualifier in the 55 meter high hurdles (7.37), and a three-time Atlantic 10 high hurdles champion, looks to defend his titles this season. Aina, who holds three Rhode Island hurdle records will also defend his status as a New England Intercollegiate champion.
"We're expecting Colin to capitalize on last winter's provisional spot and earn himself an NCAA qualifier's slot in both the indoor and outdoor seasons," says coach Copeland.
Junior Jesse Andoscia (North Kingstown, R.I.), who was a New England scorer last season in the intermediate hurdles, looks to improve upon his personal best of 52.91 seconds and also become an ICAAAA scorer. Andoscia is backed by junior Matt Lyons (Rockaway, N.J.) and freshman Patrick Mills (Bay Shore, N.Y.), who both have the potential to break 54 seconds this year.
Sophomore Steve Miceli (Mashpee, Mass.) and junior Chad Washington (Monticello, N.Y.) will take the reigns in the short sprints. Miceli, a New England runner up in 2000 is looking to better his personal best of 6.61 in the 55 meter dash. Washington, in only his second season with the Rams, is ready to challenge the ICAAAA 200 meters qualifying time of 22.24. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on freshman Eric Groce (Rutland, Vt.) this season. During his high school career, Groce was the Vermont state champion in the 200 throughout his four years, holds four state high school records and will have an immediate impact on the Atlantic 10. Freshman Corey Draffen (New Bedford, Mass.) will also be looking to score in the sprints. Posting a personal best of 10.94 in the 100 meters, Draffen will join Groce and freshman Kayode Akinsinde (Coventry, R.I.) as an exciting group of freshmen sprinters.
Joining Andoscia in the 400 meters are sophomore Kevin Lopes (Portsmouth, R.I.) and freshman Rob Johnson (Rumford, R.I.). Lopes, who improved from 51.9 to 50.22 in his freshman campaign, will set his sights on the New England Championship. Johnson, a three-sport athlete in high school, will run indoor track for the first time in his career, attempting to better his 50.9 personal record.
One would think the Rams would be in some trouble, with the loss of three of the four members of the school record holding 4 x 100 meters team, but with the addition of Groce, Draffen, Miceli and Akinsinde and returnee Washington, the Rams will look to better last year's time of 41.60. With Lopes and Andoscia, having run 3:15.86 in the 4 x 400 meters, Rhode Island will add Johnson, Mills and Akinsinde to the two returnees.
The 2002-2003 Rams have received a facelift in the middle distance and distance areas. The re-vamped squad adds six freshmen to this group who should prove to be an exciting cast to watch for the next four years. Freshmen Kyle Poland and Andrew Poland (North Scituate, R.I.), and Cole Henault (Pascoag, R.I.) each finished top 15 in the Rhode Island state cross country meet during their senior years. Joining these starters will be freshman transfer Adam Bloom (Narragansett, R.I.) and freshman Leandro Bonvehi (Coventry, R.I.) who will add depth in the 800 meters. Freshmen Andrew Clark (Reading, Mass.) and John Hoffman (Fort Plain, N.Y.) will also compete for the Rams, providing backup for junior Peter Anzovino (Cornwall, N.Y.) and sophomore Martin Donovan (Wakefield, R.I.) all of whom competed on Rhode Island's cross country team this past fall.
Senior tri-captain William Johnston (Warwick, R.I.), who joined the Rams last season as a hammer and weight thrower, placed third at the ICAAAA meet with a throw of 198-0 feet, earning him all-east honors. Johnston, who was Atlantic 10 champion and New England Intercollegiate runner up, will be setting his sites on the NCAA Championships this season.
"We expect Johnston to compete throughout the season at an ICAAAA level and potentially become an NCAA qualifier," says Coach Copeland.
Sophomore Sean Bramley (New Platz, N.Y.) is coming off of a very successful freshman campaign where he was an ICAAAA qualifier in the discus (157-3), as well as a New England qualifier in the shot put and discus. Bramley, who has adapted extremely well to the college implements, scored three times in three chances at the Atlantic 10 Championships and will look to the school record in the discus this spring.
Newcomer Andre Reid (South Windsor, Conn.) joins the Rams for his first collegiate term in his sophomore year as a shot putter and discus thrower. Reid is the Connecticut state record holder in the shot put in both indoor and outdoor competition. In his senior year of high school, Reid was Golden West Champion with a throw of 65-0, putting him fifth in the nation among high school shot putters. As Connecticut state champion in the shot, and discus as well as a medallist in the javelin, Reid looks to attack some school records in the shot put immediately.
Fellow sophomore Jamie Finneran (Kittery, Maine) also brings a hefty set of credentials to the table. As a freshman, Finneran placed third in the javelin at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals, earning himself a spot on the USA junior team that competed at the World Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. Finneran, an ICAAAA qualifier, was also a New England runner-up and an Atlantic 10 runner-up, boasting a throw of 218-8 in the javelin, less than a foot off of the school record. Both the Rhode Island record and the NCAA championships are in Jamie's near future.
Freshman Rob Scales (Red Bank, N.J.) who will join Finneran in the javelin provides a solid 1-2 punch for the Rams. Scales was third at the Adidas Interscholastic Championships with at throw of 206-4, earning him the seventh farthest throw in the nation in 2002. In the New Jersey Meet of Champions, Scales became state runner-up when he posted a personal best throw of 191-11.
The jumps prove to be one of the most talented and deep areas on the Rhode Island track team. Washington returns in the triple jump and long jump, after making quite an impact last year. In 2002, Washington posted a personal best of 48-3 in the triple, qualifying him for the ICAAAA's. In his quest for 50-0 Washington has also become a New England scorer and an Atlantic 10 Champion in the triple jump as well as a New England qualifier and Atlantic 10 scorer in the long jump with a best of 22-8.5. Aina will also be joining Washington in the long jump again this year. Aina, who was Atlantic 10 champion in the long jump, will look to greatly improve upon his personal best of 22-9, and score at the New England level.
Joining the horizontal jumps corps is sophomore Jonathan Green (Great Neck, N.Y.), who will look to the ICAAAA's in his first year of competition. Green,is a 23 plus jumper and could challenge Washington in the triple jump.
Senior tri-captain Brett Matthews (Scarborough, Maine) returns for his fifth year. Having won four Atlantic 10 titles in the pole vault, Matthews sets his sights on improving his personal best of 15-9, and capturing a New England title. Matthews will be backed-up by sophomore Taylor Majewski (Warwick, N.Y.) an Atlantic 10 scorer with a personal best of 14-7 and a pair of freshmen Dustin Bilbruck (Gillespie, Ill) and Adam Zucconi (Marlton, N.J.), who each have vaulted 14-0.
In the high jump, sophomore Evan Lima (Warwick, R.I.) will look to improve upon his personal best of 6-9.5 and is aiming at the top of the Atlantic 10 and New Englands in addition to looking for his first ICAAAA qualifying mark, which is only two inches higher than his personal best of 6-7.
Bilbruck brings a great deal of athleticism to the multi event area. Bilbruck, who played football, basketball, baseball and track earned all-conference in all four sports as well as being named all-area in football and track, was primarily a jumper and sprinter for Gillespie high school. His marks of 14-0 in the pole vault, 22-2 in the long jump, 11.0 in the 100 and 50.9 in the 400 will set him up to challenge the Rhode Island school record in the decathlon in just his first year. Lima will also be doubling as a pentathlete for the Rams competing in the indoor pentathlon for the first time, and bringing to the table a 6-9 high jump, 21-6 long jump and 8.19 55-hurdle time.