DES MOINES, Iowa – Junior Alexander Ziegler (Dischingen, Germany) won his second straight national title in the hammer throw as the Virginia Tech track & field team competed Friday on day three of the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship at Drake Stadium. In addition, senior Hasheem Halim was fourth in the triple jump, sophomore Darrell Wesh placed fourth in the 100 meters and redshirt senior Joe Davis was seventh in the pole vault to earn points for the Hokies.
In the team race, the Hokie men stand second overall with 28 points, after 14 of 21 events scored. Florida leads with 36 points. Last year, the Hokies finished a program-best fifth with 36 points. Tech has one more scoring opportunity tomorrow with senior Michael Hammond in the 1500 meters.
Ziegler was dominant as he won the NCAA title in the hammer throw with a personal best mark of 248-7 (75.78m) on his fifth attempt. Ziegler's winning throw was a PR by over two meters and gave him the Olympic Games "B" standard. He now ranks as the No. 8 all-time collegian in the event, just one spot behind his former Tech teammate and national champion, Marcel Lomnicky (248-10, 75.84m).
"I felt really good at the meet today," said Ziegler. "On all my throws, I felt the turns were really good and my technique was solid. The break (in between flights) didn't really interrupt me and actually I got the time to refocus a little bit and do what Coach Jack asked me to do, which was to finally finish one throw. The fifth one was probably the closest to actually finishing it. I really had a good feeling with that one."
Every one of Ziegler's throws would have won him the national title as he was the only man to throw over 70 meters in the competition. With an initial mark of 232-5 (70.86m) on his first toss, Ziegler improved to 239-4 (72.96m) and 240-7 (73.35m) on his second and third attempts. After getting his fourth round throw out to 238-2 (72.59m), Ziegler unleashed his 248-7 (75.78m) personal best on his fifth throw. He capped the meet with a toss of 230-7 (70.29m).
"I knew I had to be at my best here and I was really confident in myself. I knew I could PR and I wanted to do it right here, and that's what it was," said Ziegler of defending his national title. "I'm glad I could put it together today."
Ziegler won Tech's 12th overall individual national title, all of which have come in track & field. He joins former Hokie throwing great and four-time NCAA champion Spyridon Jullien (2005-2006 weight throw and hammer throw) as the only athletes in Tech track & field history to win back-to-back NCAA titles. He also joins Jullien, Lomnicky and hurdler Queen Harrison as Tech athletes to win multiple national championships. He is also the 11th man in NCAA history to win two straight NCAA hammer titles.
Virginia Tech has now won three of out of the last four and five out of the last eight NCAA titles in the men's hammer throw. Tech's five NCAA titles in the men's hammer is tied for second all-time in NCAA history with Southern California for the most national championships in the event. Only SMU (6) has won more. In nine out of the last 10 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Virginia Tech has had at least one man on the podium in the men's hammer.
Ziegler earned his sixth All-America honor and has finished no worse than third in each of his six NCAA meets.
Wesh finished fourth in a very tight final in the men's 100 meters. Running into a strong headwind (-2.3m/s), Wesh turned in a time of 10.30. The winner had to decided based on time to the thousandths of a second as the top-3 finishers all ran 10.28. With his fourth place finish, Wesh became the first student-athlete in Tech track & field history (male or female) to earn a podium finish in the 100 meters.
"I felt pretty good warming-up and came out there to execute," said Wesh. "I got a good start and was probably first or second out of the start. At the end there, I tightened up a bit and it got me. Fourth is good, but I was looking to win and I was really close (to winning)."
Halim notched a school record and personal best 54-1.25 (16.49m) to place fourth and earn his third top-4 finish at nationals in the triple jump. He opened with a solid season best 53-1.75 (16.20m) on his first attempt. After fouling on his second jump, Halim hit his PR in the third round. He beat the previous school record of 53-4.5 (16.27m) set by Phil Saunders in 1986. He now holds the indoor and outdoor school records in the triple jump.
"Everything was clicking, my run throughs, my jumps, everything felt really springy," said Halim. "I'm just happy I was able to do it (jump a PR) at nationals. I achieved three of my four goals today. One was the school record, one being a PR, one being a 54-foot jump. The fourth was that I wanted to get better than what I was indoor (third), but I ended (my career) on a good note."
Davis cleared a PR of 17-8.5 (5.40m) to place seventh and earn a podium finish. That mark puts Davis into a tie for No. 4 in Tech history. Davis opened his competition with a second attempt make at 16-4.75 (5.00m). He then posted first attempt clearances at 16-10.75 (5.15m), 17-4.5 (5.30m) and 17-8.5 (5.40m), before bowing out at 18-0.5 (5.50m). It marks the second straight year Davis made podium at the outdoor national meet, as he was eighth a year ago.
"I felt great and I felt like my body was ready for this meet," said Davis. "I felt fast and ready to go. I was trying to keep my posture and once I got off the ground, I thought about just being aggressive and then clearing. You can't really think about too much in competition, you just have to trust your steps and know that you can do it."
Also in the men's pole vault, redshirt senior Hunter Hall finished 16th at 17-4.5 (5.30m). Freshman Valentina Muzaric finished 14th in the shot put after hitting her best mark of 53-3.5 (16.24m) on her first throw. Senior Will Mulherin finished 21st in the men's 5000 meters in 14:30.11 and junior Denis Mahmic also competed in the hammer, but did not record a mark after fouling on all three of his attempts.
Hammond will be Tech's lone competitor on Saturday. He will run in the final of the men's 1500 meters at 11:17 a.m. CDT. Tomorrow's action will be televised by ESPNU, beginning at 12 noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT. ESPN3 will also carry the event online.
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