Producing champions: open discussion with coach Jack

BLACKSBURG – Following months of preparation and training fueled by a collective desire to take the Virginia Tech track and field program to new heights, the Hokie coaching staff, led by 16-year coach Dave Cianelli, is optimistic for the new season.

The Hokies open their 2017 campaign in just two weeks, as they play host to the Virginia Tech Invitational on Jan. 13-14, at Rector Fieldhouse, in Blacksburg. Leading up to the two-day event, will interview each event coach to discuss the excitement, challenges and expectations that await this year.

Most recently, we sat down with associate head track and field and throws coach Greg Jack. Tech throwers have won at least one ACC title at the league’s outdoor meet every year since the school joined the league. In addition, Tech throwers have been nearly successful at the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships, having won at least one individual title in seven of the school’s 11 years in the league.

Read coach Jack’s full transcription below or click HERE to watch the full season preview.

Talk a little about your event group. What are your goals for the upcoming season?

Coach Greg Jack: Obviously, our event covers the javelin, shot put, discus, hammer and weight throw events. We are a little thin indoors this year, but we have a great team coming back with outdoors. As usual, the goal is to improve on the following year. If that happens, then it is my job to make sure that the preparation is going well. We have to peak at the right time and prepare for the ACC Championships then move on to NCAA’s.

This year’s group has a very young women’s roster alongside a very experienced men’s roster. What are you looking forward to the most this season, and who are you looking at to assume a leadership role?

GJ: It’s great to have (senior) Irena Sediva coming back as the 2015 NCAA champion in the javelin. She is one of our seniors along with (senior) Eva Vivod, who always leads by example in terms of her work ethic. She just had a little bit of bad luck lately, but I really project her doing well this year. She was outstanding this fall. She really put in a lot of good training. I really like where she is at right now. (Senior) Irena (Sediva) has been a little banged up for the last year or so, but it looks like she is turning the corner on that. Of course, we are going to try and win that event one more time. We want to send her out in the right way as a senior. The two youngsters that joined us this year are freshmen: Emma Thor and Kajsa Wennberg. They are both from Sweden, and they have been a really good addition to our program. They are the future along with (sophomore) Pavla Kuklova who did a really good job for us as a freshman last year. She came in second at the ACC Championships in the hammer throw event. We are looking nice and loaded for the women’s team. We have a little combination of both experience and youth. This is going to be one pretty cool year, and I am excited to see how it all plays out.

The Virginia Tech track and field team brought in a great 2016 recruiting class for the women’s side, especially for the throwers group with the addition of Emma Thor and Kajsa Wennberg. What is it about this incoming class?

GJ: They had a great fall. They made some really nice adjustments. They are going to contribute right away at the ACC and national level. They are high level kids, and we are looking forward to seeing how they truly develop now that we are getting into our competitive season. It is just a matter of time before they make their splash on the scene.

Virginia Tech is known for having siblings compete on the same team as well as its family-like atmosphere on campus. What is it like to have a set of brothers compete on your squad? How do redshirt senior Jaka Muhar and sophomore Matija Muhar push each other? On that same note, how do they learn from one another?

GJ: The brothers are really close. They are roommates. (Sophomore) Matija (Muhar) just came in last year. He came in a little banged up with his shoulder. He went on to repair that over the summer and has worked really hard in getting that back. He had a great fall in terms of training. I really like how he is progressing. (Redshirt senior) Jaka (Muhar) is an outstanding student-athlete. He is an all-around guy. He is always there to help us out at the conference and national level. The two of those guys are the best one-two punch in our league. They went one and two last year, and I fully expect them to do it again.

The team ended the 2016 season on a big high, sending four throwers to the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Rising junior Marek Barta placed third overall at the national meet. Do you see this year’s squad picking up right where last year’s team left off?

GJ: (Junior) Marek (Barta) did a great job for us last year. He is a super talented guy. He is going to come back this year, and I fully expect him to do the same thing again. He placed third at the national championship, and we want to improve on that. Why come in second, when you can come in first? He definitely has all the ability in the world, and we look forward to seeing how the season progresses for him.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved multiple enhancements to Rector Field House, but the largest and most visible improvement will be the construction of an indoor throws area. What does this mean for the program, especially for your group of athletes?

GJ: We had this throwing thing going for so long that we are used to working around the weather and other things. It is going to be a pleasant surprise to have that facility at our disposal 24 hours a day. The biggest thing that I like is the commitment from the administration to make that kind of financial commitment. It says everything to the rest of the country and for the throwers around the world that we are serious with what we do, and we are going to continue to be serious about what we do.

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