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VCU junior Jaleesa Williams poses in front of her school-record mark at the NCAA East Regional last week.

VCU junior Jaleesa Williams poses in front of her school-record mark at the NCAA East Regional last week.

RICHMOND, Va. – Two VCU athletes punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships last weekend, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come.

Sophomore Kiara Porter was fifth and shattered her own school record in the 400-meter run, while junior Jaleesa Williams placed sixth and demolished the program mark in the discus at the NCAA East Regional last weekend in Greensboro, N.C. to secure their bids. It’s just the second time two VCU women have reached the NCAA Championships in the same season, and the first since 1997. Williams is the first VCU thrower in school history to advance from the regional meet.

Their performances stamped an exclamation point on VCU Head Coach Jon Riley’s fifth season with the Rams. Riley inherited a program that was largely uncompetitive on the conference level, let alone the national stage, and has guided it to unmatched prominence. But even measured against accomplishments of the last few years, Porter’s and Williams’ regional performances were a breakthrough.

“I feel like it’s a total validation for years of 60-hour weeks and all the time that we’ve put in,” said Throwing Coach Ethan Tussing.

Beyond that, they could be another springboard for the resurgent program. VCU was the only school in the Atlantic 10 Conference to send two athletes to Eugene, Ore. for the NCAA Championship meet. That kind of information will raise a few eyebrows.



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Kiara Porter ran for the United States at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

Kiara Porter ran for the United States at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

RICHMOND, Va. – Her name is Kiara Porter. She’s 5-feet tall, from Yorktown, and is most likely faster than you. In the time it takes you to walk to the copier, she can win a gold medal.

Just a sophomore, she’s already broken or assisted in six school records, won seven conference titles and represented the United States in the 1,600-meter relay at the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Barcelona last summer, where she won – you guessed it – a gold medal. Earlier this month, she was named the most outstanding performer of the Atlantic 10 Conference Outdoor Championships after winning four events. By several units of measure – particularly at 400 meters – she’s the fastest woman in VCU in history. It’s not by accident.

“Everything I put on paper, she tries to hit it,” says VCU Track Coach Jon Riley. “She’s just focused. Her work ethic and her work capacity to do a lot of intensity is high. She has a high threshold for pain. That makes her very successful.”

All that pain has been worth plenty of gain for the rising junior. While many of her peers are just starting to hit their athletic stride, figuratively speaking, Porter is eying the next big thing. For her, that’s reaching in the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore. in June.



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VCU rising sophomore Kiara Porter will represent team USA in Barcelona July 10-15.

RICHMOND, Va. – Before she races, Kiara Porter – VCU’s pint-sized sprinter – has to literally look up to her challengers. But afterwards, Porter’s competitors often find themselves looking up at her on the podium.

A rising sophomore molded from five feet of pure fast-twitch muscle fibers, Porter is soon going to find out if that success will translate internationally.

Last week, the Yorktown, Va. native ran a school-record 53.07 in the 400 meters at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind. to take fourth. The finish earned Porter a spot on the USA Junior 4×400-meter relay squad at the IAAF World Junior Championships July 10-15 in Barcelona, Spain.

Porter, who has never traveled abroad, will leave for Spain on July 6. In Barcelona, she’ll be one of a pool of six runners that will comprise USA’s 4×400 relay team. The Americans will have to advance through qualifying to reach the finals. Although her relay squad likely won’t run until July 14, she’ll stay busy soaking in the experience.

Porter would be the first Ram to compete at the World Juniors, an accomplishment she hasn’t overlooked.

“That just means so much to me,” she said. “I would’ve never expected to make it this far in track my freshman year. To run on this level, it’s just an honor to be welcomed on the team.”



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