KF’s Ricks sprinting for U.S. and more

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When King’s Fork alum Keith Ricks qualified for the U.S. national track and field team for the upcoming Pan-American Junior Championships, it came at a meet and with a performance which Ricks himself describes as, “pretty good.”

“I thought I could’ve performed better,” said Ricks about placing second in the country in the 200-meter dash at the U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. on June 27. That finish means Ricks will be competing starting on July 31 against the best junior, 20-and-under, athletes in the Western Hemisphere in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Don’t get Ricks wrong. He’s proud and ready for the chance to represent the country. It will be the first time Ricks, who’s a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech, has been a part of a U.S. national team and the first time he’ll compete internationally.

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“It’s really just a great experience to travel and to represent the U.S.A. As far as the team, it’s a great team and it’s a really good group of guys,” said Ricks.

At the U.S. Junior Championships, Ricks clocked in at 21.18 seconds in the final. Ricks traveled into Eugene only the day before, so perhaps some jet lag meant Ricks wasn’t entirely at his best. Ricks’ personal best, 21.02 seconds, came in late May running for VT in the NCAA Regional Championships.

Ricks will be on the same stage, at the same age, as track legends along the lines of Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt. Lewis won the 200 at the Pan-American Junior Championships in 1980. Lewis represented the U.S. in four Olympics, winning nine Olympic gold medals and being named “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee.

Bolt, of Jamaica, was arguably the biggest star of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games by shattering the 100-meter (9.69 seconds) world record and setting the 200-meter (19.30) world record.

In 2007, the U.S. team won the medal count at the Pan-American Junior Championships by a landslide. The U.S. won 48 medals; second-place Canada finished with 13.

In addition to the 200, Ricks hopes to be included on the American 4×100 relay team. With a dominating history, even up to the Olympic level, being a member on a U.S. 4×100 relay team is a huge opportunity for a young sprinter. In the Pan-American Juniors, with meets going back to 1980, the U.S. has won 12 of 14 4×100 relays.

“Most of the guys at the U.S. Championship Meet were at this meet, so I’m going in the right direction,” said Ricks, referring to the senior-level U.S. Track and Field Championships, which were held in Eugene at the same time as the junior championships. In Olympic years, the U.S. Track and Field Championships doubles as qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Team.

As if country and career weren’t enough motivation, Ricks will have a personal reason for excelling on the international stage.

“This meet, I’m dedicating it to my father (Marvin J. Ricks, Sr.). He passed away in February,” said Ricks.

Ricks has been keeping a relatively light schedule since the collegiate season ended.

“I’ve been training with my brother,” said Ricks. Ricks’ older brother, Marvin Ricks Jr., is an assistant coach for the track and field team at Norfolk State.

Ricks competed, and finished second, at a meet in New York City a week and a half ago. “It was a good tune-up meet, a good chance to stay sharp,” said Ricks. He leaves for Port-of-Spain on Monday, giving him three full days prior to competing. The extra time won’t be used for sightseeing or the Caribbean island’s beaches.

“When I travel, I’m just focusing on track. It’s a business trip,” said Ricks.

“My goal is to represent the U.S. well,” said Ricks. “We have to keep our reputation going.”