Dave Cianelli

  • Dave
  • Cianelli

  • Director of Track & Field and Cross Country

The Virginia Tech men’s and women’s track and field programs already rank among the best in the nation, but Dave Cianelli oversaw two teams who took things to another level during the 2016-17 season.

In fact, the 2016-17 campaign probably ranked as the best in his 16-year tenure as the director of track and field and cross country at Virginia Tech.

"Each year has its own challenges and rewards," Cianelli said. "But the thing that stood out about this year was that we were able to not just maintain the men at a high level and keep them progressing, but also to really get the women going and execute the women’s plan and see it come together.

"All of that, and just watching how our kids battled and performed, was really satisfying. Certainly, this year ranks right up there as the most satisfying I’ve had as a coach."

How good was 2016-17 for Cianelli? Well, the men’s and women’s track and field teams combined to win three ACC team championships, the men’s team finished a program-best seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships; the women’s team finished 11th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships; and Irena Sediva captured the school’s 16th individual national championship, winning the javelin and joining former Tech standout and Olympian Queen Harrison as the only two females in program history to win at least two national titles.

Tech track and field teams now have won 13 ACC championships under Cianelli, who is entering his 17th year as the head of the Tech track and field and cross country programs. The men’s team swept the ACC team titles in 2017, winning both the indoor crown and then besting rival Virginia by a point to claim the outdoor title. The championships continued the incredible ascent of the men’s program, which has won four ACC indoor titles and three ACC outdoor titles since 2011.

On the women’s side, Cianelli and his staff put together a plan three years ago to rebuild the women’s program, and the plan worked perfectly, as the Hokies captured the ACC’s outdoor crown, which marked the program’s first ACC title since 2008 and the fifth overall.

The success extended into the summer as well, as runners Sarah Edwards and Laurie Barton qualified for the Pan American Junior Championships held in Lima, Peru. Edwards won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the USA Junior Championships, while Barton won the silver medal in the 800.

The 2017 season simply built upon a relatively terrific 2016 season, both at home and internationally, for Cianelli’s group. The men’s team won the ACC’s outdoor team title and finished eighth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships - its third top-10 finish in a six-year span.

On the international scene, three of Cianelli’s former athletes participated in the Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Former Tech hurdler Kristi Castlin competed in the 100-meter hurdles for the U.S. team and won a bronze medal, becoming the first Virginia Tech student-athlete to win a medal at an Olympics. Also, former thrower Marcel Lomnicky competed in the hammer throw for Slovakia and former sprinter Darrell West ran in the 100-meter dash for Haiti.

The Olympics appearances marked the first for both Castlin and Wesh. Castlin, a seven-time All-American at Tech whose career concluded in 2010, qualified for her first Olympics after finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. Track and Field Team Trials held in Eugene, Oregon. Wesh, whose career concluded in 2013, was a three-time All-American. Also in 2016, pole vaulter Deakin Volz won the gold medal at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Under-20 World Championships held in Poland. He set a school record with a vault of 5.65 meters (18 feet, 6.5 inches).

Those things are only a continuation of the good things that have happened with the programs since Cianelli’s arrival in the fall of 2001. In his 16 years, Virginia Tech track and field athletes have produced 16 NCAA individual national titles, 213 NCAA All-America honors and 159 individual conference champions.

Contact Coach Cianelli
E-Mail: dcianell@vt.edu
Phone: (540) 231-3094

Virginia Tech (2001-Present)
  • 16 NCAA individual champions, the first in Virginia Tech history
  • 213 All-America Honors
  • 81 All-Americans
  • 13 ACC team championships
  • 159 ACC individual champions
  • 12 BIG EAST champions
  • 13 ACC Track and Field Athletes of the Year
  • 2010 Bowerman Award Winner, Queen Harrison
  • 13-time ACC Coach of the Year
  • 17-time USTFCCCA Southeast Region Coach of the Year
  • 115 new school recordsĀ 
  • 6 Olympic competitors

    Southern Methodist University (1988-2001)
  • Five top-three team finishes at the NCAA Track and Field Championships
  • Seven top-five team finishes at the NCAA Track and Field Championships
  • 16 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Track and Field Championships
  • 2000 Men's Western Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships
  • 1995 Men's and Women's Southwest Conference Cross Country Champions
  • 27 NCAA individual national champions
  • 123 All-America honors
  • 52 All-Americans
  • 95 conference champions
  • 19 Olympic and World Championship competitors

    Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo (1985-1988)
  • 1985, 1986, 1987 NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country Champions
  • 1985, 1986, 1988 NCAA Division II Women's Outdoor Track and Field Runner-up
  • 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 CCAA Women's Cross Country Champions
  • 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 CCAA Women's Outdoor Track and Field Champions
  • 1987 NCAA National Champion - Javelin
  • 78 All-America Honors
  • 40 All-Americans
  • 70 Conference Champions

    Total Career
    67 NCAA Champions
    414 All-American honors
    174 All-Americans
    319 Individual Conference Champions
    24 Conference Team Championships
    25 Olympic or World Championship Qualifiers
    Since 2005, Virginia Tech track and field and cross country teams have combined to finish in the top five nationally three times, the top 10 nationally nine times and the top 20 nationally on 25 occasions.

    The 2017 men’s team recorded the program’s top finish ever at the NCAA Indoor Championships, coming in seventh overall. It marked the program’s third top-10 finish since 2012.

    The 2017 women’s team recorded the program’s second-best outdoor finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships when it came in 11th in large part to Sediva’s national title and Hanna Green’s silver medal in the 800-meter run (the Hokies came in fifth in 2010). Tech’s women now have finished in the top 20 on four occasions under Cianelli.

    In addition, the Hokies have won their 16 individual national titles since joining the ACC for the 2004-05 academic year. Spyridon Jullien won the weight throw and hammer throw in back-to-back years (2005 and 2006) and both Queen Harrison and Alexander Ziegler won three national titles. Sediva won two national titles in the women’s javelin (2015 and 2017) in her three years at Tech.

    Harrison and Castlin rank as arguably the top female performers ever under Cianelli. In 2008, Harrison made history when she earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by finishing second in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. At age 19, Harrison was the second-youngest female track and field athlete in history to make the U.S. Olympic Team. She became the first Virginia Tech track and field athlete to represent any country at the Olympic Games and only the second Hokie to become an American Olympian in any sport following Bimbo Coles, who represented the United States in basketball in 1988.

    In 2010, Harrison became the first athlete in NCAA history to win national titles in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles at the same event. Later that year, she won The Bowerman Award - the highest accolade given to the year’s best student-athlete in collegiate track and field.

    Castlin, the 2007 ACC women’s track and field Freshman of the Year, did not win an NCAA championship during her career, but she claimed the silver medal on three occasions, and she took gold in the 100 hurdles at the 2007 USA Junior Outdoor Championships and the Pan American Junior Championships. She competed at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in 2008 and 2012 and did not make the Olympic team, but she broke through with her performance in 2016.

    At the ACC level, Virginia Tech track and field and cross country teams have combined to win 13 team titles - eight on the men’s side and five on the women’s side. The men’s team won the indoor titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, while claiming outdoor crowns in 2012, 2016 and 2017. The men’s team also won the ACC’s cross country team title in 2012. The women’s team swept the indoor and outdoor titles in 2007 and 2008, and then won the outdoor crown in 2017.

    In 2017, both teams won the outdoor title in dramatic fashion. Both trailed entering the final event of the meet - the 4x400-meter relay - and both finished high enough to earn the requisite amount of points needed to claim the crowns. Sediva and Green led the women’s team, with Green winning gold medals in the 800 and 1,500, while Drew Piazza (800), Neil Gourley (1,500) and Peter Seufer (10,000) all won gold on the men’s side.

    Cianelli won three ACC Coach of the Year honors in 2017, claiming the ACC Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year award, along with the ACC Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year and the ACC Women’s Outdoor Coach of the Year honors. Those give him 13 ACC Coach of the Year awards since the 2004-05 season - the year that the school joined the league.

    His staff also has received national acclaim, as the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named distance and cross country coach Ben Thomas the 2017 National Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year for the indoor season. He became the first ACC assistant coach ever to win this award. His distance runners accounted for 21 points in leading the men’s team to a seventh-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships.

    Thomas also was selected ACC Cross Country Coach of the Year 2012 after leading the Hokies to the ACC team title. Tech finished 22nd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships that year.

    In addition, Bob Phillips, an All-American for Virginia Tech in the pole vault in 1980 and the man who coaches the Tech pole vaulters, received the USTFCCCA Assistant Coach of the Year honor for the Southeast Region in 2016 after his pole vaulters collected 38 of 39 possible points at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Phillips won the same award in 2011. Since 2000, Phillips’ athletes have earned 40 All-America honors in the pole vault and he has coached a total of 42 conference champions at Virginia Tech, including 30 in the ACC.

    The Virginia Tech track and field and cross country teams not only excel on the track and course under Cianelli, but also in the classroom.

    In 2017, Green was named the ACC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice - during both the indoor and outdoor season, becoming the first Tech female to win the award, and she recorded a 4.0 grade-point average in each of her final five semesters at Tech. On the men’s side, Torben Laidig was named the ACC’s Indoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, giving the Hokies a sweep of the league’s top academic honors for indoor track.

    Twenty-one Tech track and field athletes made the All-ACC Academic Outdoor Track and Field Team in 2017, with 12 of them being from the men’s team - the most of any school in the league. In addition, 11 Tech track and field athletes made the 2017 indoor squad.

    In 2014, the women’s cross country team earned USTFCCCA All-Academic recognition for the eighth year in a row. Frances Dowd, a member of that team, and Stephan Munz were named to the Capital One Academic All-America Team that same year. In 2013, Alexander Ziegler was named by the USTFCCCA as the National Student-Athlete of the Year, as well as a Capital One Indoor Academic first-team All-American. Dowd won the NCAA Elite 89 Award for the 2012 NCAA indoor season as the student-athlete with the highest GPA at the NCAA Championships.

    Kelly Phillips also received national recognition for her academic work, becoming a two-time Capital One Academic first-team All-American in 2011, and she also won the NCAA Elite 88 Award as the student-athlete with the highest GPA at the NCAA Championships. In 2010, both Matej Muza and Castlin were honored as the ACC Scholar-Athletes of the Year for track and field.

    Since 2004, 10 Virginia Tech track and field athletes have earned a total of 15 academic All-America honors.

    Prior to Tech, Cianelli was an assistant coach for 13 seasons at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. With the Mustangs, Cianelli worked with 19 Olympic and World Championship competitors, 27 NCAA national champions, 123 All-Americans and 95 conference champions. Cameron Taylor of New Zealand was a 1992 Olympian and All-American in the 200-meter race, and Tytti Reho won the 2000 NCAA national championship in the 800. In cross country, both the men’s and women’s teams won the 1995 Southwest Conference Championship and earned a spot at the NCAA Championships.

    During Cianelli’s 13 years at SMU, the track and field teams finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships 15 separate times. Cianelli served as the assistant women’s track and field and cross country coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from 1985-88 and he helped the outdoor track and field teams to three straight runner-up finishes at the NCAA Division II Championships. Cianelli also coached a total of 13 All-Americans and one NCAA national champion while at Cal Poly SLO. Cianelli began his coaching career at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, California, as the head boys and girls track and field coach from 1982-84. In three seasons, he coached seven junior national qualifiers in the heptathlon and decathlon.

    Cianelli and wife Ellen have two children, Mariah and Sebastian. Ellen Cianelli works at Virginia Tech as an early intervention specialist in Hokie Wellness. Mariah, a 2016 graduate of Virginia Tech, currently lives and works in Washington, D.C., while Sebastian graduated from Blacksburg High in 2017 and attends Radford University.