Keith Ricks is all about maintenance these days and it is paying off handsomely for him. The Virginia Tech sprinter is on top of his game and he looks for big things at the upcoming NCAAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Ricks rules. Going into the outdoor championships, he is in the top 15 in the 100 meters, ranked sixth in the 200 meters, and is a member of the Hokies’ 4×400 relay team. And by far Ricks is ready for the challenge. He showed that at the UCF meet earlier this season with personal bests in all three events he will be competing in in Des Moines in less than two weeks.
He was selected Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Track & Field Performer of the Week earlier this year after shattering three then-school records at the UCF Invitational. He ran in the 100 meters (10.22), 200 meters (20.75) and as the anchor of the 4×100 meter relay (40.11). He broke André Davis’ records in the 100 and 200 meters set in 1999 at the UCF Invite. He anchored the school record setting 4×400 meter relay (3:09.95) at the Florida Relays as well.
“The sky’s the limit,” Ricks said. “I want to keep improving and keep getting better. I’m looking for the best at nationals this year. This is my last one and I want to go out with a bang.”
And not going out banged up. Ricks could not stay healthy last season. He was able to advance to the quarterfinals of the 100 last year, but overall hamstring injuries ruined his year. The difference between last year and this one is the attention he pays to his body. He’s cooling down properly and eating the right things. Getting more rest, stretching more and attending to rehab more – doing the small things that goes into track and field.
“If I were younger I wouldn’t be doing that,” Ricks said. “Now that I am older I do those things to stay on top of things. I remember it was after I made the finals of the (Atlantic Coast Conference) championships that I really got hurt. During that season I didn’t really have that strong peak.
“After the ACCs, I didn’t run at all until the regional championships. That was the first time I even got in the blocks. I was working on my hamstring and getting that together.”
His coach, Charles Foster, sees how that has been the key to Ricks this season. He’s seen Ricks fight through things more to achieve his success.
“Keith is finally strong enough for his muscles to be able to carry his weight plus some,” Foster said. “And his focus has been exemplary this season. But this started at the beginning of the school year. He refused to let minor aches and pains interfere with his ambitions and it certainly shows when it needs to show – namely NOW!”
Indeed there is a greater sense of urgency for Ricks. This is the last chance for the senior and he thinks by his competing in the ACC and in some of the tougher meets this year, he is ready for the challenges ahead in Des Moines.
“Every meet I have been trying to capitalize each time out,” Ricks said. “Every meet I give it my all. This is my last year competing for Virginia Tech and I want to do the best I could.
“Competing in the ACC is a strong conference, and it has had strong competition every year. There have always been some strong guys coming from the ACC. I race against the best pretty often. It’s fun to compete against guys like Maurice Mitchell and Kymar Hyman [both Florida State]. Now I have some time to rest up, get my body back together. I hope I can do some good things there and just give my best.”
“I’m so proud of the pride he has taken as a leader this year,” Foster said. “I feel like I need pom poms to cheer him on. He’s happy with his performances, but certainly not satisfied. He should do well at the nationals.”