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 this week's interview Coach Richburg wraps up Aggies' indoor and outdoor seasons, talks his schedule leading up to the Olympics Games and talks about coaching collegiate athletes and Olympic athletes..
bleedCrimson.net: Talk a little bit about this past weekend's WAC championships. You had some strong individual performances and had another regional qualifier.
Orin Richburg: It went real well for us. We had Ingrid Flores who made it into the regional meet at a league champ, the WAC champ in the 5000m and also picked up Randi Grimes in the javelin in addition to the hammer with a school record in the javelin. So it went fairly well for us. We still have some things we have to do. We still have to get a few more numbers into the program so that when we go to the WAC championships we have more opportunity to score points.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about both of your seasons, both the indoor and the outdoor and what are you pleased with in your first year as the head coach.
OR: During the indoor season we came in with the young ladies we had in the program and just tried to give them the opportunity to compete. We tried to do some things to see exactly what they could do so we tried to take as many young ladies as possible to the different meets that we went to so they could understand what it is to be successful at the WAC level. Then with the outdoor season same thing. We were able to go down to Arizona and we had a couple of meets with UTEP and also had an opportunity to go to Albuquerque for a meet. That gave us quite a bit of opportunity with all the team members so that we didn't have to make a big distinction of who traveled and who didn't travel because we had some meets that were relatively close with the Arizona meet and the two meets down in El Paso and also with the meet in Albuquerque. It gave the young ladies an opportunity to compete and that paid off for us towards the end of the year. We went to the conference meet and had some pretty good performances. We took 18 young ladies and out of the 18 I think 15 of them scored in some capacity whether it was on a relay or whether it was in an individual event.
So looking at it from that standpoint I think just having that opportunity to compete to try to gain some confidence, that gave them a little bit of an idea of what it's like to be successful at the WAC level.
bc.net: What will the schedule be like for the athletes heading into next season?
OR: What we'll do for next year, we'll have a list here in the next few days, we're still waiting on a couple young ladies who we sent letters to see if they sign. Once we get that tabulated we'll have a press release of some of the ladies we have been in contact with. We want to make sure we don't leave any stone unturned in the state of New Mexico with the young ladies that are potentially coming in or that we potentially might get.
For next year we'll do our fall program once we're able to start with the 144 days we're able to practice, we'll set that schedule in place some time in October and go through with our fall program in terms of general conditioning and also with our weight training. Not anything extremely heavy because some of the young ladies coming in might not have had any extensive weight training so we use a gradual program in the weight room. Just get them familiar with body weight and things like that and eventually hope that they can pick up a few pounds on the weights.
Then we'll get started with our indoor season we'll do basically the same thing we did last year. Texas Tech has a meet, Albuquerque is supposed to get their indoor track back. We're waiting on the situation there, they're putting that schedule together if that comes about that gives us an opportunity to go to Albuquerque a couple times and allows us to not have to travel a long way and gives us an opportunity for our young ladies to compete. It also gives them an opportunity to take more people to give us that opportunity to get a little bit better. Same thing with the rest of the schedule, maybe to Colorado, we went over to Colorado for Air Force and then getting ready for the conference meet. Then head into basically the same thing in Tucson for an outdoor meet, a couple meets over in El Paso. We went over to Colorado for an outdoor meet, we'll hit UNM again with their outdoor meet. Then maybe one other meet of a little higher caliber. But we want to make sure we don't have to separate our team out and send what everybody considers your better kids to a meet and then leave some of your kids at home. I don't like to separate my team so we want to try to keep everybody together and get to a point where everyone realizes they have the same opportunities no matter what their ability levels might be. As long as they're doing working hard and doing the things that we feel they need to do in order to help the team get a little bit better.
bc.net: What kind of progress are you looking for in your teams from year one to year two and individually with them going from year one and getting used to you and your coaching style and that familiarity that comes in year two?
OR: The main thing is just going from one to two, there's nothing different there. It's just getting them to understand that everyone is treated the same. You don't want to single out someone as being your best athlete because when you do that you create animosity in your program. The kids that have done fairly well that maybe got a regional qualifier and may be going to the regional meet or placed really high at the conference meet, we just want to continue with that situation and let everyone know they're very important to the team. We want to do is continue to build confidence and harmony within the team and by building that harmony, you never know, that person that might not have that ability to compete at that level but because they feel that they're very important to the team, they go out and give you a performance that just off of hard work and understanding, gives you something that helps you in the standings as far as the conference is concerned. So there's not a lot of difference, we try to give everyone that opportunity to compete. By competing you see some of the things that you might have to do, you might push a little harder in training without us having to get on you and say you should be doing this and you should be doing that. We hope that by giving them an opportunity to compete that they understand that they do have some ability they just have to push themselves a little bit harder in what they're doing and have a little bit better understanding of their event. By doing that it makes a big difference and those are things that we normally try to do in our program.
bc.net: Obviously you'll be heading to the Olympics this summer, what will your schedule be like leading up to the Olympic Games?
OR: We want to finish up with our recruiting, that's why we're in here now. We're in between sessions with our spring semester and our summer. We're in now trying to finish up the recruiting. We want to try to put this year's recruiting class and also getting a heads up on next year's recruiting class. We can start doing a lot of stuff after August 1st for our recruiting next year but just identifying some of those kids that had a good junior year and just letting them know we could be interested in them next year as a potential student-athlete at NMSU.
June 18th and 19th I'll be in Eugene, OR for the trials, also they have the Junior meet in Columbus, OH which we choose the Junior team to go to Poland and represent the United States in the Junior World Championships. From there to Eugene, then get back here for a couple of days just to try to get things set up here with recruiting and all the other administrative things we have to do. Getting together our schedule for next year, get that finalized, start looking at travel for next year in terms of where we're going and trying to budget those things and what it's going to cost us to get to the different places we want to go. Then I have to be in Stockholm on the 21st of July for a relay meet and then we go from Stockholm a couple of days later to London for a relay meet and then from London to Monte Carlo then from there we go into the training center for about 10 or 11 days before the Olympics Games then we'll move into the [Olympic] Village about the 14th or 15th of August, right before Opening Ceremony. Then go in and try to do the best possible job we can with the relay at the Olympic Games. Then head back and try to be back in Las Cruces on the 28th or 29th of August. As soon as we can get back in that allows us to get back and get some work done. I believe that school starts some time around the 25th of August so I'll be a couple days late but Coach Harkins and Coach Gregory will be handling our Cross Country, get the kids back and start them training for next year.
I have a busy schedule but again that schedule can't interfere with what I'm trying to do here at New Mexico State which is to make sure our program here is in great shape. You don't want to go and take care of somebody else's program when your own program is not doing the kind of things it needs to do. It's a great honor to be part of the Olympics staff but understand that my main responsibility is to take care of New Mexico State University and our student athletes here. If I can take care of that then I can give a little bit to the U.S. team but my primary focus is NMSU.
bc.net: Is there any difference from a coach standpoint and your mindset going from coaching college student-athletes to coaching the men and women who are going to be competing in the Olympics?
OR: No, not really because for the last five or six years for our elite athletes that have been fortunate enough to make a World Championship or Olympic team because we do a series of domestic relays in the States for the last five or six years you have an opportunity to be around those young ladies and young men and you find out the character just like you want to do with your team at the college level. The mindset is no different, you still have to go in and establish the relationships with the athletes. The main thing is if you have to make a hard decision they understand that decision is fair. When you're putting together a relay, everyone thinks they can be on that relay. So what we have to do is say, hey we did our series of domestic relays, we've seen you drive off, we've seen you handle the stick, we've seen this and that and as long they know it's fair and that you've given them the opportunity to present what they have, that's why we're going to do a series of relays before we go into our training center. We're going to take 10 athletes on both sides of the short relay to these meets in Stockholm, London and Monte Carlo. We'll take ten athletes and then at that point after we've run those races we have to make a decision on which six that we're taking into the Village for our designees for the relay. Out of that we're only allowed to add two additional people. We have to take the top three in the 100 meters because they're already a part of our relay program in the 4x100 and 4x400 because they're in the individual events. Normally our fourth place person at the trials in our alternate in the event so that person is automatically included. So we have four people that are automatically included and we can take two additional people. And then out of that you make sure that those two fit into what we're trying to do with the relay and the four that are automatically in the Games already they have to understand that they are not guaranteed a spot in the relay because we still have two people we can pick from anybody on the team out of the hurdles, out of the long jump, out of whatever other events that come into play that you're either in the 4x4 or 4x1.
It becomes a situation that you do the same thing you do in college. You try and build a good relationship with the athletes and let them know that you care about them but sometimes you have to make a hard decision and if that hard decision doesn't affect them in the way that they think it should that there's no hard feelings or animosity. Everybody always wants to compete and represent their country just like all the athletes we have here want to represent NMSU. We can only put four on the field for that relay. We can run two in the first round and then bring two in but once we make a change you can't go back in. The four that we run in the first round we normally try and keep two back so that if something happens we have enough people to put the relay on the field. So we do the same thing with our college program as we do with our National team.