Laidig, Bajnok led the Hokies in the final day of competition

  • Virginia Tech Invitational
Virginia Tech Invitational
Final Results

BLACKSBURG – Led by first-place finishes from vaulter Torben Laidig and jumper Eszter Bajnok, the Virginia Tech track and field teams concluded the two-day Virginia Tech Invitational with 31 top-five marks – 14 coming from Saturday’s performances at Rector Field House.

“I’m very pleased with this opening competition,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “Overall, we are where we need to be in relation to our conference championship. Obviously, there were some performances that stood out. I think Torben had an excellent start in the pole vault. Hanna [Green] had a great performance in the mile yesterday, along with Rachel Pocratsky in the 1,000. I think our men’s 4x4 showed great effort today, so it’s a starting point.

“That’s what I try to emphasis to them. It just gives us an indication of where they are, but there is still a lot of work that has to be done. That’s the important thing. The next six weeks will go very quickly, so they have to take advantage of every week and get better, as we prepare for the conference championships.”

Redshirt junior Olivia Privitera earned Tech’s first top-five finish of the day with a mark of 3.77 meters (12 feet, 4.5 inches) in the women’s pole vault. Senior Erica Hjerpe also competed in the event and placed eighth, jumping 3.62 meters (11 feet, 10.5 inches).

Bajnok donned maroon and orange for the first time this season, as the 2016 Hungarian Junior Female Athlete of the Year leaped 12.52 meters (41 feet, 1 inch) to finish first overall in the triple jump.

“This was my collegiate meet, so I thought it went really well,” Bajnok said. “It was different, but it is just like any other competition. I’m satisfied with my results today. Moving forward, I just have to concentrate on the results and go from there.”

“Eszter showed me a lot of competitiveness and a lot of fire today,” men’s and women’s jumps coach Paul Zalewski said. “Her first jump wasn’t really who she is as a jumper, but she jumped it, saw the mark and really didn’t like it. Then I saw the fire turn on. Everything after that was a lot better.

“One of the biggest things I learned from her today was that she is very coachable in competition. She was able to make the adjustments that she needed to make. It was great to see that. It was a great learning experience for me, and I thought it was a really good opener for her just to kind of knock some of the cob webs off and get a feel for the competition. Overall, I was very pleased with her efforts.”

The 4x400-meter relay team made up of juniors Ama-Selina Tchume and Courtney Blanden, redshirt junior Jada Gundran and freshman Arlicia Bush posted a third-place finish, with a time of 3 minutes, 46.60 seconds in the women’s final event of the day.

On the men’s side, Tech claimed five of the top six spots in the 400-meter dash. Army’s Jose Santana captured first place in 49.07 seconds. Tech freshman Matthew Baker followed closely behind with a second-place time of 50.03. Sophomore Jack Strollo and senior Alexander Merritt each recorded personal bests to place third (50.34) and fourth (50.36), respectively, while sophomore Jared Bane (51.49) and junior Austin Kolko (51.52) rounded out the Hokie lineup with fifth- and sixth-place finishes.

The vaulters also captured four of the top five spots in their respective event. Laidig, a redshirt junior, led the way for the Hokies with a mark of 5.51 meters (18 feet, 1 inch).

“The end result was pretty good,” Laidig said. “I felt like I was a little bit shaky in the beginning, but that is normal this early in the season. I pulled myself together and ended up with 5.51. Overall, I’m happy with the result.”

Charlotte’s Keon Howe placed second (5.21 meters) in the event, followed by a personal-best jump from Tech redshirt junior James Steck for third (5.21m). Redshirt senior Brad Johnson and sophomore Deakin Volz completed the Hokie lineup and finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with a mark of 5.06 meters (16 feet, 7.25 inches).

In the men’s high jump, junior Will Kendall recorded a personal-best mark of 2.01 meters (6 feet, 7 inches), earning a second-place finish. Kendall’s previous personal best was set at this same meet in 2016 (1.94 meters), so he showed a tremendous improvement from last season. Sophomore James Carver placed fourth with a jump of 1.96 meters (6 feet, 5 inches).

“Will did a phenomenal job,” Zalewski said. “We tweaked his training since he got back from break, and it showed today. He was jumping the best that I have ever seen him jump, and this is the third year that he has been here. I was very pleased with the way Will jumped.”

The men’s 4x400 relay team closed competition, as the Hokies’ quartet of seniors Corey Hackett-Greene and Dante Price, junior transfer Greg Chiles and freshman Michael Davenport ran to a second-place finish with a time of 3:14.84 seconds.

Looking ahead, the Hokies will play host to their second of four home meets this season in the Hokie Invitational from Jan. 19-21 at Rector Field House. Fans can follow @VT_Track on Twitter for updates and additional information.

Personal Bests

· Jack Strollo – 400m (50.34 seconds)

· Alexander Merritt – 400m (50.36 seconds)

· Will Kendall – high jump (2.01 meters)

· James Steck – pole vault (5.21 meters)

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