Hokies collect four top marks in Saturday's events at Doc Hale meet

  • Virginia Tech "Doc Hale" Elite Meet

BLACKSBURG – Highlighted by Hokie distance runners and sprinters, the Virginia Tech track and field teams recorded four first-place finishes on the final day of the Virginia Tech “Doc Hale” Elite Meet held Saturday at Rector Field House.

On the No. 17 men’s squad, redshirt junior Torben Laidig and sophomore Diego Zarate earned first-place finishes in the pole vault and mile, respectively. The women followed suit with senior Tessa Riley placing first in the mile and sophomore Shannon Quinn finishing first in the 800-meter run. Of note, the Hokies completed the two-day invitational with 26 top-five finishes.

“We are honing in on the conference championships,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “We had some really great performances this weekend, which will give us a clearer picture of who is going to be competing and where they are going to be competing.

“The distance runners are doing very well in Winston-Salem, so that is a very good sign. Brandon Thomas also ran very well in his first collegiate race, so he will be part of our conference team moving forward. Right now, it is just a matter of keeping everyone healthy and focused. We also want to raise their confidence moving into the ACC Championships.”

The women pole vaulters earned Tech’s first top-five finishes of the day, as redshirt junior Olivia Privitera and senior Erica Hjerpe placed fourth and fifth, respectively, both jumping a height of 3.87 meters (12 feet, 8.25 inches).

The men also captured three of the top five spots, as Laidig led the Hokie lineup with a vault of 5.52 meters (18 feet, 1.25 inches) for first place. Redshirt senior Brad Johnson and sophomore Deakin Volz tied for second with a height of 5.27 meters (17 feet, 3.5 inches). That height was a new personal best for Johnson.

“The vaulters made some good technical progress today, and that should show here in the next few meets,” pole vault coach Bob Phillips said. “Brad [Johnson] made some good adjustments this week as well. Overall, it was a very steady performance by the whole group, with some good signs heading into championship season.”

In the 200-meter dash, junior Courtney Blanden placed fourth in her section and set a new personal-best time of 23.82 seconds, the third-fastest time in Tech history. Brittni Spruill currently owns the school record in the event with a time of 23.62. Freshman Arlicia Bush (24.98) and junior Ama-Selina Tchume (24.69) also recorded career bests in the event.

“Courtney [Blanden] has come a long, long way,” sprints, hurdles and relays coach Tim Vaught said. “Last year at this point, I think she went 24.6 as her indoor PR [personal record]. Then today, she goes 23.8. We still have two meets before ACCs, but to see progression like that, we are definitely setting ourselves up to compete well … and if Courtney keeps running the way that she’s doing, she can probably have a chase for nationals. That is the goal.”

Sophomore Jared Bane finished in second on the men’s side, narrowly missing a new personal-best mark with a time of 22.08. Bane’s career-best time of 22.07 seconds came last weekend at the Bob Pollock Invitational. Of note, senior Alexander Merritt and junior Austin Kolko also set personal bests in the event.

“Another good weekend,” Vaught said. “We are definitely going in the right direction. I feel like I keep saying the same things over and over, but that’s what we do. It is definitely coming together.”

Riley led the Hokie women by running the mile in 4 minutes, 56.01 seconds to win. Zarate (4:08.35) and Ashkan Mohammadi (4:09.88) went 1-2 on the men’s side, both recording personal-best marks.

The 800-meter run concluded the two-day event, as Quinn raced to a first-place finish on the women’s side with a personal-best time of 2:11.79. Her previous time of 2:13.88 was set last season in the prelims of the ACC Championships. Senior Shannon Morton ran the event unattached, placing second, followed by freshman Catherine Stone in third with a time of 2:13.90. Freshman Sarah Edwards also raced the 800 for the first time in her career, finishing in fifth with a time of 2:16.41.

Junior Kevin Cianfarini led the 800 on the men’s side with a second-place finish overall, recording a personal-best time of 1:51.48. Freshman Owen Buck ran unattached, finishing in third with a time of 1:51.51.

Additionally, a contingent of the distance runners competed in the men’s and women’s 3,000- and 800-meter events along with the one-mile race at the Camel City Invitational in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday afternoon, and the group recorded five top-five finishes.

Senior Hanna Green headlined a good day for the distance runners on both the men’s and women’s teams, earning a second-place finish in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:03.31. Freshman Laurie Barton also competed in the event for the first time as a Hokie, placing sixth overall with a time of 2:07.95. On the men’s side, seniors Drew Piazza and Patrick Joseph both completed the race with top-five finishes. Piazza placed third with a time of 1:49.41, landing fourth on Tech’s all-time list. Joseph also recorded a lifetime-best time of 1:50.33 for fifth place.

Sophomore Rachel Pocratsky, who owns the school record in the 1,000 meters, ran a personal-best time of 4:45.38 in the mile - the fifth fastest time in school history. Her previous time of 4:56.57 was set last season at the Doc Hale Elite Meet. Senior Neil Gourley and redshirt junior Vincent Ciattei went 3-4 in the mile on the men’s side. Gourley finished the race in 4:01.14, while Ciattei recorded a career-best time of 4 minutes, 6.23 seconds.

In the men’s 3,000-meter race, sophomore Peter Seufer and senior Daniel Jaskowak finished in 10th and 11th, respectively, with Seufer recording a personal-best time of 8:10.26. Junior Katie Kennedy also recorded a career-best mark of 9:39.20, placing sixth overall on the women’s side.

A contingent of sprinters and distance runners will compete next weekend at the Vanderbilt Invitational held Friday and Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee, and the jumpers will participate at a meet held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Looking ahead, the Hokies will return home the following weekend for the Virginia Tech Challenge on Feb. 17-18.


Pole Vault

Brad Johnson (5.27 meters)


Ashkan Mohammadi (4:09.88)

Diego Zarate (4:08.35)

Vincent Ciattei (4:06.23)

Rachel Pocratsky (4:45.38)

200 meters

Arlicia Bush (24.98)

Courtney Blanden (23.82)

Ama-Selina Tchume (24.69) – tied her previous mark

Austin Kolko (22.79)

Alexander Merritt (22.49)

800 meters

Catherine Stone (2:13.90)

Sarah Edwards (2:16.41)

Shannon Quinn (2:11.79)

Laurie Barton (2:07.95)

Kevin Cianfarini (1:51.48)

Patrick Joseph (1:50.33)

Owen Buck (1:51.51) – unattached

3,000 meters

Katie Kennedy (9:39.20)

Peter Seufer (8:10.26)

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