The Portland State Vikings have begun their 2014 track and field season, starting off the year with indoor meets which will ultimately lead up to the Big Sky Conference indoor championships. That meet is a long way off, but preparation begins now for head coach Ronnye Harrison and his team.
PSU is coming off a very successful 2013 season in which Harrison saw his women compete for a Big Sky championship in both the indoor and outdoor season. Unfortunately the women fell just short, finishing second place in both seasons.
The goal this season is the same as last year’s: to challenge for a Big Sky championship. Ultimately, the Vikings hope to be in the same position as last year—if not better—when it’s all said and done. However, there is a major difference between this year’s and last year’s teams: seniors.
The men did not have the same success as the women, but saw a season of growth in which their athletes set themselves up for the future. Now the men are hoping to work their way up in the conference. Mid-table is the goal for the Vikings at the Big Sky championships, which would be a large improvement over the last few seasons, which have seen the men finish around the bottom.
Last year’s seniors played an important role in getting the team to the second place finish by getting PSU points in the Big Sky championship. But even with a young crew this time around, the Vikings coaching staff has not lowered their expectations at all.
“We graduated a lot of potent point scorers,” assistant coach Johnathan Marcus said. “A lot of the coaches this year were kind of sweating bullets, thinking where are we going to make up the deficit, but we’ve actually been able to reload with a lot of young, talented recruits. They’ve really proved themselves in training, and their first race at [the University of Washington].”
The track and field squad was very successful at the University of Washington, which concluded with eleven Vikings qualifying for the Big Sky Conference tournament. Continuing with the trend of youth, six of the Vikings’ qualifying times came from underclassmen. One of those underclassmen was sophomore T-Roy Brown, who broke the PSU record in the 3,000-meter. His time is also currently second in the conference.
The success continued up in Seattle with junior Jazmin Ratcliff. The sprinter qualified for the championship meet in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.65 seconds. She also qualified in the 60-meter hurdles. This meet took place on Jan. 18, very early in the indoor season that runs until March. Even though the Vikings want to peak in late February, this meet was a good preview of what PSU can accomplish this season.
One of the reasons the Vikings could be successful this season is a very large squad. Coach Harrison and his staff have a lot of athletes to work with, who could all potentially step up if other athletes have problems.
“Having a large team will help raise the level of ability for all the athletes on our team,” Marcus said.
“It also helps with flexibility, in terms of what kind of team we can bring to specific meets during the regular season. If someone is sick, banged up or stressed, it allows us to bring more bodies in different events to represent the university well. It’s also more fun to see more Portland State athletes at a meet. It shows that our track and field squad is alive, healthy and excelling.”
This big group of Vikings is exciting for the coaching staff because of the potential they have. When a large group like this is so young, there is no way to know how much they can accomplish, and for the athletes, that makes them want to do as well as possible.
“We feel like we have the firepower,” Marcus said. “With the youth, there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. They bring a fresh perspective and attitude and they are hungry. They are a really hungry group who wants to accomplish as much as they can.”
After returning from the Cherry and Silver Collegiate Invitational in New Mexico where they inset results Monday.
The Vikings will compete next at the UW Invitational, on Jan. 31. That meet is the first of three meets, leading up to the Big Sky Championships on Feb. 27. If any Vikings qualify for the NCAA indoor championships, they will travel to New Mexico on Mar. 14, continuing their indoor season.