CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The University of Miami track and field teams are hard at work preparing for their upcoming season. Each week, HurricaneSports.com will introduce you to members of the cross country and track and field programs.
In addition, be sure to follow UM Track & Field/ Cross Country on Twitter (@MiamiTrack) for the latest news on the squad.
Continuing on the "Going the Distance" series, find out about sophomore runner AJ Ricketts...
Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
High School: Pensacola Catholic HS
Major: Journalism & Sports Administration
Why did you decide to attend the University of Miami?
The combination of the broadcasting program, weather, and opportunity to walk on to the cross country/track team all pulled me to Miami. I originally enrolled at Marquette, but the chance to challenge myself in a place that was initially out of my comfort zone pushed me to change my mind and come to Miami.
What was the best aspect of being part of Miami's Track teams?
There is a lot of tradition at Miami, yet at the same time there is an opportunity to take the program to a place it hasn't been in a long time. To be a part of that goal with a group of teammates that is like family is a speical thing, and having great coaches and facilities adds to the enjoyment of the pursuit of that goal.
You have accomplished quite a bit while at Miami. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment throughout your collegiate career?
Athletically, making the ACC Championship was a goal since I came here, so racing in that meet this year was a great experience. It wasn't that long ago I was struggling through high school track, so to run at ACCs was a nice sign of progression. If anything though, the experience there inspired me to work harder to soon gain a competitive presence at that and other big meets down the road. Outside of running, the chance to broadcast Miami athletic events and interview ESPN personalities has been a notable personal accomplishment - with every month that passes it seems a great opportunity arrives that can only happen at Miami.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My high school coach, Eric Nelson, was a huge influence throughout my four years at Pensacola Catholic. Whether it was encouragement after subpar races, or honesty if I ever was misguided, it was the perfect balance, and he helped mature me as a runner and a person. Few days go by where I don't think of a lesson or principle I learned going through his program.
What are some of your goals for the season?
I simply want to run to my potential. I know there is a lot of room for improvement, and am confident if I do all the little things that training consists of, the results will come.
Have you ever played any other sports?
I played junior varsity basketball in high school, though I was often sent to the bench for throwing the ball to the other team when I was in the game. I still take pride in my three-point shot however.
What do you feel was the biggest challenge you came across in since your arrival?
I had never been injured through athletics before college, so developing a bulging disc in the spring was very frustrating. You never realize how much a sport means to you until it's taken away for a while. Fortunately, we have a great athletic training staff here, so overcoming the setback through rehab with them was a smooth process.
What is/are the biggest difference(s) between high school and competing at the collegiate level?
Obviously the mileage and training habits are adjustments that you realize right away. I would say running well personally and still being at the back of a race is a humbling thing - you quickly realize the talent that you're racing every week at this level. As a result, you have to train that much harder, and smarter.
What did you do, both individually and as a team, to prepare right before a meet?
Cross country is a lot about routine - team dinners, meetings, and warmups are all common things we've established throughout the season. For me, when warming up I try to be very aware, just going over splits to hit, runners to keep an eye on, etc. I always get in quick prayer before the gun goes off, and from there it's all about trust in training.
What is your favorite workout?
400s on the track can be fun especially if I'm feeling well - otherwise, I really appreciate steady-state runs on the trails back home.
What do you do away from running and studying to relax?
Hanging out with friends at Waffle House or Panera Bread is a favorite pastime, or just relaxing in the dorm while catching up with high school friends is nice.
Three words to describe you and why?
Passionate - I really enjoy everything I'm involved in and the people I work with.
Competitive - Competition is a great motivator and pushes me to perform better
Loyal - I've had a lot of great people guide me throughout the years, and in turn I try to stay in touch with them and remember they are the ones who helped me get here.