KOIVUNEN TAKES LEAP OF FAITH

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Freshman Janniina Koivunen is averaging 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season.

Freshman Janniina Koivunen is averaging 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season.

By Nan Turner

Freshman VCU forward Janniina Koivunen loves the game of basketball. It’s why she was willing to leave her family in her native Helsinki, Finland and move to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue the sport.

Koivunen first moved to Greensboro, N.C. for a year before heading down the road to Thomasville to attend New Hope Christian School. The transition proved difficult, but not insurmountable for Koivunen.

“That was really different because high school here is so much different,” Koivunen said. “The whole game here is so different. The court is shorter, so that is also different. The tempo is different. It was hard in the beginning but I got used to it.”

Despite the major changes, Koivunen escaped one sometimes-difficult aspect of moving to a different country.

“I went to an English school back home,” Koivunen said. “I was good with it, of course some words I maybe didn’t know, but it wasn’t that bad.”

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RUFFIN TAKING A ‘SHOT’ AT GREATNESS

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Brandon Ruffin won a CAA shot put title last spring and is poised to make his mark on the Atlantic 10.

Brandon Ruffin won a CAA shot put title last spring and is poised to make his mark on the Atlantic 10.

By Nan Turner

Sophomore thrower Brandon Ruffin has been busy breaking records again this season, and with the Atlantic 10 Conference Indoor Track Championships approaching Feb. 16-17 in Kingston, R.I., he could be primed for individual gold.

At the New Balance Invitational on Feb. 2, Ruffin broke the school record in shot put with a throw of 17.06 meters (55′ 11.75″). That toss was good for eighth place in a deep field and was a full meter better than his previous best, set just a week earlier.

Ruffin was enthusiastic about his New Balance results, but admits he was hesitant to celebrate.

“It felt great,” Ruffin said. “Since it was the first event and it was on the first day and I had another event the next day, I didn’t want to get overly excited because I knew I had to still compete. It felt good to throw farther.”

Heading into the A-10 Championships, Ruffin ranks second on the league’s performance list in both the shot put and the weight throw. Last spring as a freshman, Ruffin won the shot put placed second in the discus at the CAA Outdoor Championships. He captured five victories overall last spring and earned an invite to the U.S. Junior National Championships last summer. The 19-year-old thrower appears to be on a fast track to stardom.

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