May 15, 2016
Tech men's team claims ACC outdoor championship
Tommy Curtin and Matija Muhar won gold medals to cap a near-perfect meet for the Hokies
2016 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships

Final results from the ACC's outdoor meet

VT's All-ACC selections

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Virginia Tech men’s track and field team brought home two gold medals and three silver medals on the final day at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and won the ACC team title Sunday at Mike Long Track.

It marked the second ACC outdoor title for the men’s team since the school joined the ACC for the 2004-05 season and the sixth overall ACC men's crown in track and field and cross country. Under Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country, the men’s and women’s programs have combined to win 10 ACC titles.

The Tech men finished with 129 points, easily outdistancing second-place NC State, which had 93. UVA came in third with 80.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet,” Cianelli said afterward. “You come into a meet like this and you feel like you’ve got a shot, but I’m just blown away at how the guys across the board exceeded every expectation that I had. It’s just amazing.

“I think we had close to a perfect meet across the board. It’s so rare that it happens in our sport, but I think these guys were motivated after indoors and it gave them focus coming into this outdoor championship to try and win it. Getting that huge day on Thursday with the pole vaulters and Tommy [Curtin] in the 10,000 just spread to the rest of the team. We got on a roll and just kept going.”

In arguably perfect fashion, Thomas Curtin sealed the team title for the Hokies. He won the 10,000 on Friday night and then came back and won the 5,000 on Sunday. He was behind a pack of about four or five runners with 200 meters left, but used his kick to pass all of them, winning in a time of 13 minutes, 52.33 seconds.

“I know I can kick,” Curtin said. “The last 200 meters, you’ve got to put it all on the line and I knew I had it there. I wasn’t worried. With three laps to go, I knew I was there. I was pretty confident.

“Winning the team title as a senior is awesome. I couldn’t wish for anything better, especially the group of people that we have.”

The title marked Curtin’s third ACC title in the event and the seventh of his career spanning both track and cross country.

“He’s developed himself into one of the best in the country,” Cianelli said. “When he came in, he was just an above average distance runner out of high school, but it shows you what can be done when you dedicate yourself and you work hard. Obviously, he has the talent, but he’s a fierce competitor and you can see that on the track.”

Tech’s day started with a bang, as Matija Muhar and Jaka Muhar claimed gold and silver, respectively, in the javelin, which was the first event on Sunday. Matija, a freshman who had not competed this spring because of a shoulder injury, threw 248 feet (75.60 meters) on his first throw. No other competitor challenged his mark, so he continuously passed on his remaining attempts through the finals.

“Coach [Greg] Jack and I had talked about it and I was just hoping to score,” Matija Muhar said. “First place is really awesome. I was expecting to throw less [distance], but the throw was perfect and I’m happy with that. We were talking about going after the school record, but I have time.

“I’m really happy with my result and I’m really happy for my brother. He came in second. This is like a dream come true.”

Jaka Muhar’s best throw was 224 feet, 7 inches (68.47 meters) and that enabled him to claim the silver medal behind his younger brother.

The Hokies also made the most of their two finals qualifiers in the 1,500-meter race and their two qualifiers in the 800, with all four guys scoring points.

In the 1,500, Neil Gourley claimed silver with a time of 3:42.97, just eight-tenths of a second by winner Henry Wynne of UVA. Tech’s Diego Zarate also scored a point in this event, finishing eighth with a time of 3:45.37.

In the 800, Patrick Joseph narrowly missed defending his outdoor title in the event. His time of 1:49.30 was just three-hundredths of a second behind winner Robert Heppenstall of Wake Forest, who finished in a time of 1:49.27. Tech’s Vincent Ciattei came in fifth with a time of 1:49.70.

The men’s team also got a silver medal from thrower Marek Barta, who came in second in the discus. His best throw was 195 feet, 9 inches (59.68 meters) and added eight points to the team total.

In addition, the Hokies got points from Manuel Ziegler in the triple jump and from the 4x100 relay team of Dante Price, Darius Watkins, Samuel Denmark, and David Prince. Ziegler came in fifth and his best jump went for 51 feet, 7 inches (15.72 meters). The 4x100 team came in seventh with a time of 41.13 seconds and Watkins also scored in the 200, coming in seventh with a time of 21.26 seconds.

On the women’s side, the Hokies came in ninth with 45.1 points. Florida State won the team crown with 106.5 points, followed by Miami with 88 and Clemson with 85.

“I’m proud of how the women competed,” Cianelli said. “We’re thin right now, but I think, in a year, we’re going to have an excellent team. I think they realize that, too. All the ones that are returning are pretty excited about next year.”

Tech’s Hanna Green continued her domination in the 800, but it wasn’t easy. Green led for the entire race and then had to fend off Duke’s Anima Banks at the finish line. Green’s time of 2:02.45 was just five-hundredths of a second ahead of Banks and her time also qualified her for the Olympic Trials.

Also, the Hokies got points from freshman Rachel Pocratsky, who came in fifth in the 1,500. Pocratsky appeared in line for a bronze medal, but North Carolina’s Caroline Alcorta and Duke’s Madison Granger passed her in the final 100 meters. Pocratsky’s time of 4:19.41 was less than a second behind Alcorta, who took home bronze.

The Tech track teams now gear up for the NCAA regional meet, which will be held in Jacksonville, Florida on May 26-28.

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