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February 4, 2014

The best may be yet to come for OU track and field program

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Oakland University’s Bryce Stroede, left, is pictured at the Eastern Michigan Tri Meet earlier this season. Oakland’s track and field program is less than 10 years old.

ROCHESTER — Oakland University’s track and field program is still pretty young.

The Golden Grizzlies began competing in outdoor track in 2006 and indoor track in 2008.

Paul Rice has been at the helm of the program since its inception. And while Oakland may still be in the process of trying to put together a top-tier program, he has seen progress over the years.

“We’re very young, as far as the age of our program,” he said. “We’ve taken some big strides and had some great success pretty early on that a lot of programs don’t see as early as we saw it. But at the same time, we always have to remember where we’re at in that process of building, basically, a legacy with our program. I think the group we have right now is an incredible foundation for us moving forward. It’s taken time to get to this point. I think we’re on a big upswing right now.”

“We’re still developing. For me, I’ve developed just as much as the program has over the years. Right now, I have an incredible staff of assistant coaches. This year, I was blessed to get my first full-time assistant coach, which has made my job a little easier.”

Given that Rice ran cross country for Oakland in the 1990s and later served as an assistant coach with the program, he is a good candidate to talk about the growth of the university in recent years, which includes the field of athletics. That growth could help expand recruiting efforts even further.

And while winning is likely high on the priority list for most Division I coaches, doing so at his alma mater may make it all the more meaningful for Rice.

“It’s been a very special experience for me,” he said. “I think I’m 16 years in now of being a coach at Oakland. I still feel like I haven’t given back as much as I’ve gotten out of the program. I got so much out of being an athlete at Oakland. … Been a fun ride for me being a former athlete at Oakland. Watching this campus develop — it’s been incredible.”

Aside from how young the program is, an argument could be made that Oakland track and field has been at a disadvantage due to the lack of a track facility on campus. It doesn’t seem that will be an issue for too much longer, as Oakland University’s athletic department is reporting that it is scheduled to get a new track facility, possibly as soon as next season.

That is just one reason for Rice’s optimism about the state of Oakland’s track and field program moving forward.

“We’ve got a solid future ahead of us,” he said. “I think the next two or three years, with our new track facility that’s opening up, the recruiting will get a little easier for us because we can start to attract a different kind of athlete that maybe in the past we haven’t been able to get. I think two or three years down the line — special things with this program. These athletes that are in place now are part of that process. They work really hard to keep the program moving in a positive direction. Very excited for our future. The future is bright, and the best is yet to come.”

Oakland’s men’s and women’s team each finished in third place at the Eastern Michigan Tri Meet Jan. 10 and in second place (both squads) at the Jack Skoog Open in Mt. Pleasant Jan. 17.

The Golden Grizzlies are scheduled to compete at the YSU Invitational Feb. 7-8 in Youngstown, Ohio.