May 13, 2016
Tech men vault into lead after first day of ACC Championships
Chris Uhle and Tommy Curtin won gold medals and the vaulters claimed the top seven spots in the event
2016 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships Results from day No. 1 of competition

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Virginia Tech pole vaulter Chris Uhle and distance runner Thomas Curtin both won gold medals and the Hokies’ pole vaulters claimed the top seven positions in the event, lifting the Tech men’s track and field team to first place after day No. 1 at the ACC Championships held at Mike Long Stadium.

The pole vaulters accumulated 38 of the Hokies’ 57-point total. The Tech men stood 44 points ahead of second-place NC State and 47 points ahead of rival Virginia.

“This day was pretty close to perfect,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “No way did we expect to do what we did in the vault. The guys had that as a goal, but it just never happens – and it happened, so it was amazing. I don’t think that’s ever happened in my career over the years. It might have at some point.

“Not just that, but Tomas [Kruzliak] threw very well. He competed well and the same with Pavla [Kuklova] in the women’s hammer. Then the men’s 10K just capped off the evening, with Tommy winning and Andrew Gaiser getting eighth. Those are the types of performances, what Andrew did, that make a big difference at the end of the meet.

“I couldn’t be happier. It’s just day No. 1, but it’s a great start. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”

Uhle won with a vault of 17 feet, 7.25 inches (5.37 meters). He edged teammate Torben Laidig, who won the silver medal with a vault of 17 feet, 3.5 inches (5.27 meters). Deakin Volz came in third, followed by Jeffrey Linta, Jared Allison, James Steck, and Brad Johnson.

The ACC title marked the second for Uhle, who won the event during the indoor season in February of 2015. He received a medical hardship waiver last spring because of a hamstring injury that shelved him for much of the spring and that waiver enabled him to compete in one final outdoor season.

“I hurt my hamstring last spring and then I thought I was healed, and during warm-ups for the ACCs, I tweaked it again and that was heartbreaking,” Uhle said. “At that point, I didn’t know I’d be able to come back because I had competed in a few meets early in the season. I said to my coach, ‘Can we do anything about it? I can I get it back.’ Lo and behold, I was able to.

“It was upsetting not to be able to wear the VT uniform during the indoor season, but coming back and the atmosphere we have … and our group grew with the addition of Deakin Volz and Torben coming back. Honestly, vaulting with them, I knew it was going to be a battle.

“After we realized we were going 1 through 7, the weight was off our shoulders. I wanted first place. I really wanted it, but I would have been happy with anyone on the team taking it. Going 1 through 7 is tough to do, but it was great walking away with the win.”

Curtin capped the evening with a victory in the 10,000-meter run – the final event of the day. He stayed near the front for the entire race and several runners went to the front at various points. With two laps to go, Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, who beat Curtin in the 5,000 during the indoor season, took the lead, but Curtin passed him on the final lap and pulled away.

Curtin won in a time of 29 minutes, 42.49 seconds, besting NC State’s Luis Vargas by more than 2 seconds and Knight by nearly 4. The victory marked his first ACC title in the 10,000 and his sixth overall in track and field and cross country.

“I just sat on the leaders,” Curtin said. “I know to trust in my kick. I know what I’ve got. I waited until someone made a move. When Justyn made his move, I thought it was perfect for me. I love when someone makes the move before I do. You can look at them, see their form, and see what they’ve got. You know what it will take to zip past them. I like that. I felt smooth up until that last lap and then I went after it.”

Gaiser ran arguably the best race of his young career. He finished eighth in the 10,000 in a time of 30:17.45.

Kruzliak finished second in the hammer throw, adding eight points to the Hokies’ total. He led going into the finals after throwing the hammer 227 feet, 6 inches on his third throw. That stood until UVA’s Hillmar Orn Jonsson threw it 234 feet, 8 inches (71.52 meters) on his final throw. With one attempt left, Kruzliak came up short of Jonsson, going 227 feet, 7 inches (69.37 meters) to claim the silver medal.

Also, the Hokies’ Mackenzie Muldoon, Darius Watkins, Neil Gourley, and Diego Zarate all positioned themselves to help with the scoring. After the first five events of the decathlon, Muldoon was seventh overall with 3,518 points. Watkins won his heat in the preliminaries of the 200-meter run with a time of 21.30 seconds, qualifying for Sunday’s finals, and both Zarate and Gourley qualified for the finals in the 1,500 on Sunday. Zarate finished third in the preliminaries with a personal-best time of 3:44.50.

On the women’s side, the Hokies were fifth with 11.10 points. Most of those points came from freshman Pavla Kuklova, who won a silver medal in the women’s hammer throw. She threw the hammer 199 feet, 4 inches (60.77 meters) on her first attempt and that marked the best of her six throws. Florida State’s Katja Vangsnes won the event with a toss of 205 feet, 1 inch (62.51 meters).

The rest of the points came from the women’s pole vaulters. Hannah Meador finished in sixth, while Erinn Schaal, Olivia Privitera, and Emma King all tied for eighth with two other vaulters. The points were split evenly among the five vaulters.

Other Tech women positioned themselves to help with the team scoring. In the 1,500-meter run, two Hokies qualified for Sunday’s finals. Rachel Pocratsky finished second in her heat with a time of 4:27.56, while Tessa Riley came in fourth in the same heat with a time of 4:31.14. The top three in each heat plus the next three best times qualified for the finals.

Saturday’s events start at 10 a.m. with the women’s javelin, with the decathlon starting at 11:15 a.m.

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