bleedCrimson.net will be conducting interviews with Aggie women's track and field head coach Orin Richburg throughout the 2008 season as Coach Richburg builds the Aggie track and field program. In part one of this week's interview Coach Richburg talks about how he got the job at NMSU, takes us through a typical practice for the track and field athletes and talks about their recent meet at Texas Tech and the upcoming meets at Texas Tech and the University of Washington .
bleedCrimson.net: How did you wind up at NMSU as the track and field coach?
Orin Richburg: The last five or six years I've been coordinating all of relays for our National Team, Olympic Team and World Championship Team, so I've put together all of our relays when we go into international competition. I've been traveling with those teams for the last five or six years. I stepped down in 2002 from the University of Washington as the head track and field coach there. At that time I was asked to be the coordinator of our relay program after the incidents that we had in 2000 at Sydney with the guys pulling their shirts down, we thought it would be appropriate to have a domestic relay program where we bring all the athletes together and get them to understand the procedures that we go through so when we do get to international competition and we're in front of the whole world that there's certain procedures and certain things that are expected of athletes. So for the last five years I've been coordinating the relays and putting all those together and things have been working real well.
In June of this past year I got a call from Dr. Boston asking if I'd be interested in the position here at New Mexico State University and I got in touch with Dr. Boston and spoke with him a little bit and came down for an interview and talked with him and got a chance to look around and saw the area and my wife and I enjoyed the area. The job was offered to us and we decided to come down and be the head track and field coach at NMSU.
bc.net: Can you talk a little bit about each of the assistant coaches and what each of them brings to the table?
OR: Right now we have Paul Harkins who ran for me at UW, he's our distance coach and the last couple years he's been at Brown University and we were able to get him when I took the job here to come in and work in our program and he has an understanding of what we look for in a coach and he understands me as a because he ran for me. Paul's in doing a tremendous job with our distance athletes. We were able to get Meaghan Gregory who was also at Brown, she's in right now as a volunteer coach in our program and we're hoping eventually to be able to do some other things there, she's helping as a volunteer coach in the middle distance area there and in our men's cross country. And we have Scott Fister who is our throws coach. Scott is a person who was here on the staff prior to us coming to NMSU and when I came in I was able to talk to Scott and thought he had some good qualities in terms of things that we were looking for and he was connected in the community, he had some contacts, he knew where to go to get this and where to go to get that. He's our throws coach doing some of the throws and working with some of our other multi-eventers and also helping out in the jump area. That gives us a good flexibility and having those ties that we need to have knowing someone in the community.
bc.net: What kind of advantage does it give you to be able to walk into a recruit's home and say, I've coached athletes who have gone on to participate in the Olympics, I've coached the National Team and I'll be at the '08 Olympics and I was able to turn UW into one of the country's top programs and then from an athlete standpoint, having set records at Kent State.
OR: The thing is you look at it, you don't wanna go in and brag to recruits about things you've done, you go in and try to present a situation that's going to be a family situation. The main thing is our program is based off of harmony and cohesiveness in terms of what we do. Our program is a family situation so when we sit down with recruits we try and tell them what we can offer them at NMSU. That is we give them the opportunity to come and perform on an athletic field as well as perform in the classroom. So when we go in I try not to dwell so much on what I've done and been fortunate enough to do as a coach and as an athlete. So I just try and use my experience in terms of as an athlete, being a highly recruited athlete and per se not being a successful coach but being a coach that has been able to be chosen by my peers to represent our country. So what I try and do is I try and go in and let them know that the things we do are genuine, that we are very truthful, that what we tell them we'll try and fulfill. That we'll try and make sure that all the young women that we bring into our program will have the opportunity to graduate. And we will bring in student athletes that have that ability to perform in the classroom as well as on the field.
I don't try to go in and swarm someone with what I've done, I know sometimes as an athlete myself, that would turn me off. I had an opportunity when I came out of high school to go any place in the country and a lot of recruiting trips I took, the situation just turned me off. Gale Sayers met me at the University of Kansas, Abner Haynes met me at North Texas State so that did not impress me because basically those people were not going to be at those schools when I got there because they'd already graduated. What we try and do in our program is we try and do things that are real and in terms of looking at it from a standpoint of what we can do here to make it as easy as possible for you to attend NMSU and be a student athlete and have the opportunity to represent the university as well as represent the community along with your family and yourself in terms of what you do as an athlete.
bc.net: You were able to build the University of Washington into a very good program, how does the situation here at NMSU and the resources compare to UW and how many of the pieces are in place now that will enable you to turn NMSU into a top tier program?
OR: The main thing is a lot of times I don't look at facilities. See a lot of times we all as coaches, we think facilities are what make us great coaches. You look at your bowl situation that you just had with all of your top teams that just went into bowl games. A lot of those teams went into the bowl games with 6-6 records right? The records of those teams were 6-6 and a lot of them had great facilities and had all the things they needed to make them successful. So as a coach I don't feel the facilities are the most important factor in terms of what we do. We have to get young ladies in our program that understand what we have to do in order to be successful. That's work hard, do the things that you need to do and you will be successful. Facilities are great but again it does not make us great athletes. So basically we have the things that we need, we have a track, we have a weight room, we have a training room and we have all the resources as far as academics and other things that we need to attract student-athletes at NMSU and by doing that we feel that the things that we need to be successful are here and it's just a matter of us getting out and recruiting and getting young ladies that can come in and be very successful at the WAC level and then get to the Regionals and then eventually to the NCAAs.
Just to give you an example, we have a young lady that we brought in that's a freshman for us and she set new school records in the hurdles and was able to in her first week get WAC Athlete of the Week so those are the kind of kids that we want to get into our program. Solid student athletes that can come in and be very very successful. Again a lot of us look at facilities and think that facilities make us great coaches. I don't think that's the case. You need to get great people, believe in what you're doing, believe in the situation that you have and make the best of it. When you start harping on what you have and looking at what other people have you, you're worrying about what someone else is doing and not worrying about your own situation. So we look in our own backyard, take what we have available to us and go to work at that.
bc.net: Can you talk about the different events that are a part of track and field and talk about some of the athletes that you currently have for each event?
OR: We have the sprints and the hurdles and jumps and also our distance area and also our throws. Right now we have a freshman young lady by the name of Devin Brooks that came in from Seattle, WA that has already had some success here at the university in her first meet. We have Candyce Allen who's a returning sprinter in the program, Leah Benton who is a state champ from Arizona in the in the 100 meters and 200 meters, then we go up to our 800 meter distance runners we have some pretty good people in that program, Brandi Gutierrez who's from El Paso, Ingrid Flores who is one of our returning athletes, Christine Herrera, Brittany Hurtado, all those people are returning athletes in our distance area. Then in our field area Randi Grimes who is one of our returning field people in terms of throws, we were able to get a young lady by the name of Jordan Veney who transferred in from UMass-Amherst who had a little bit of success this past weekend as well as Randi Grimes. We feel pretty good about what we're trying to do here, some of the athletes we have had a fairly decent weekend in terms of looking at what our athletes have done in the past. We had 15 athletes pop into our top 10 list on the different events this past weekend so if that's an indication of where we need to go, we feel that we're in the right direction right now.
We have a great group of young ladies in the program, they all understand priorities. Once you have priorities, that's something we can't take away from you as a coach so priorities mean that you know where you're supposed to be, that means being in the classroom, you know where you're supposed to be, that means being at practice, when you're in a hotel you know what the parameters are, that you're in your room, that you're quiet, that you're not disturbing other people. Those are the kinds of things that we try to put into our program, we start that from day one in terms of what's expected, in terms of all the things, behavior, academics, training. We feel like we have all those things in place, our young ladies and coaching staff understand all those things and we're just trying to carry those things out and if we can continue to carry those things out we feel we'll be very very successful here at NMSU.
bc.net: Take us through what typical workout or practice session involves for the team?
OR: What we normally do is we try and meet every day at 3:00 and what we try and do is we try and meet as a family. That means that all the athletes are at practice at 3:00, we try and get there and that way the kids have an opportunity to mingle a little bit together before practice starts. Then as we get ready to go into practice what we do is, distance kids get with Coach Harkins, they will sit down and talk about what they have to do today. The throwers will get together with Coach Fister and they will talk about that. The sprinters and hurdlers and jumpers will get together. What we normally do is we take our throwers and sprinters and hurdlers and jumpers and we're doing what we call our pre warmup. That means we try and do that together and build team harmony in the mean time our distance kids are also there doing their pre-stretching stuff in terms of what they have to do. So we try and go through our practice preparation, doing some drills, doing some easy strides, doing some things that allows our bodies to get loosened up and ready to go for whatever we have. After we go through that for 15 to 25 minutes that's our stretching, etc. and our strides and then we break off into our different groups and a typical day might be the hurdlers might hurdle, the jumpers might do some runway approaches or things like that and then our sprinters and middle distance kids or quarter milers we would go into our base work in terms of our conditioning work and then we finish that off with some strides and then we do our stretching afterwards and conclude that particular day. If it's a particular day that we have to get into the weight room those will be short days for us so we can get into the weight room and do some tone work. A lot of people to get strong, we want to get strong but we also want to make sure we're getting toned so we go in and do some things that allow us to get a little stronger without going in and breaking the kids down. A lot of young ladies in track and field coming out of high school have not been into the weight room quite a bit. So we try to take that to the next level by going gradually through the things we like to do and work on some tone and trying to build a little strength and once we feel we've done that then we hit the road and we're off and running.
bc.net: Can you talk about your meet you had this past weekend?
OR: At Texas Tech, we were able to have some pretty good performances. The tempo was set right off by Devin Brooks our freshman hurdler in the first race she broke a 15 year old school record in the hurdles, she came back in the finals and won the finals on Friday against some pretty good competition. Then she came back on Saturday morning and won her first heat of the hurdles and so all four of her competitions she was able to break the existing school record in the 55 meter hurdles. We had some other young ladies that came in, we had Randi Grimes who came in and had a big improvement in her weight throw, she moved up to third or fourth on our all time list. Then we also had Jennifer McConnell, Michelle Barndard and Jordan Veney who popped into our top 10 list on our 35-pound weight. Came back on Saturday and Jordan Veney moved up to 4th on our list in the shotput and some of our distance kids popped into the top six or seven in our distance event in the 1000m, the mile, 800m, etc. We felt it was a very good weekend for us, we went in, the kids competed very well and they understand when they put that on that uniform they represent the university, they represent our community so when we do that we try to take pride in what we do. Once we put on that Aggie uniform we feel that we're going out and not only representing our families but representing the university and all the things that go into having a successful program.
bc.net: Next week you're traveling back to Lubbock and then the following week you have a homecoming of sorts going back to Seattle, can you talk about those two meets and what you'll be looking for as far as performance and evaluation from your team?
OR: Going back to Texas Tech gives us an opportunity because it's a bus trip for us, it gives us the opportunity to take all the kids. All the kids are working hard so right now we don't want to separate out because everyone has ability levels. Once you start selecting meets, basically you're saying you're going to this meet because you're better than the other kids on the team. So these first couple of meets for us gives us the opportunity for our whole team a chance to travel, it gives our whole team a chance to go out and perform. Sometimes we take a few more kids from the team that are working just as hard as say a star on the team and are one of our other people that we say might not have the ability of the person that we as coaches sometimes look at as one of our better athletes. We give all these young ladies an opportunity to go out and perform and give them a chance to build some confidence and to see the competition that we'll be going against and what we have to do. What we do there is we give those young ladies a chance to go out and perform.
The next weekend going to UW, it's an invitational meet, we'll have UCLA, Southern Cal and Stanford and a lot of the other PAC-10 schools there. It'll be a very small group that we're taking back. Coach Harkins will take that group back because we have a big recruiting weekend that week, it's the week before the signing day and we have a couple recruits coming in. I'm going to stay back and host those recruits. The next two weeks are very important for us recruiting-wise.
We'll send a small group back to UW, Devin Brooks will be one because she is from the Seattle area. We have a couple young ladies, Leah Benton and Jordan Veney and Randi Grimes and some of the other that we need to go ahead and give the opportunity because it's an invitational and those young ladies have been able to get an invite into that invitatational meet. We feel this could be very important for us and eventually we hope to have to 20 to 25 athletes being invited to these meets that are a little higher scale in terms of what we're trying to do at the university.