Two school records go down on Tech's final day in Nashville

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech track and field teams' momentum continued on the final day of competition, as the Hokies recorded numerous personal best marks on Saturday at the Music City Challenge, held on Vanderbilt’s campus in Nashville, Tennessee.

The men’s 4x4 relay team – senior Drew Piazza, junior Greg Chiles and freshmen Brandon Thomas and Michael Davenport – captured gold in the final event of the afternoon and led the Hokies with a school-record time of 3:11.11. Today’s mark broke an 18-year-old record set by Stith, Walker, Sangbana and Davis in 1999. The previous program best was listed at 3:11.50, as the Hokie quartet broke the time by .39 seconds.

“The men’s team went head-to-head with Georgia,” sprints, hurdles and relays coach Tim Vaught said. “They came out in first place, but they went back-and-forth the whole race. They were leading one leg and then behind the next. Michael Davenport was so accurate at the 4x4. He raced like a champion. It was a pretty exciting race. The crowd really got into it.”

Chiles also highlighted the group in the 400-meter dash, shattering his own school record set just two weeks ago at the Bob Pollock Invitational on Jan. 27. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native eclipsed a season-best mark of 47.42, finishing in fifth place overall.

“He’s starting to get it,” Vaught said. “He knows what I’m looking for, and I saw it in him three weeks ago. He is good enough to break some records, and I said it before. He can possible go 46 seconds in the 400 this season.

“I saw some flaws today, but he can correct that going forward. He is a guy that is a student of the sport, and he is just trying to get better every day. He wants to be the best. He is just one of those guys that wants to be a part of a winning program, and that is why he transferred here.”

Senior Neil Gourley also was a winner for the Hokies on an evening in which 16 of their athletes set personal bests. The Glasgow, Scotland, native ran the 3,000-meter race in 8 minutes, 5.25 seconds, breaking his previous career-best mark of 8:16.30 set back in 2015 at the Hokie Invitational. Of note, Gourley shaved off 11.25 seconds from his previous time and recorded the fifth fastest time in Tech history.

“Neil had to run out front by himself after the first few laps,” distance coach Ben Thomas said. “It was a really good solo effort, and it sets him up really well for conference. It also was a good strength workout for him, and I think it’s a race he can run really well at the ACC Championships.”

In the women’s 3,000, junior Katie Kennedy finished in second with a personal-best time of 9:30.45, landing in sixth on Tech’s all-time list. Marta Freitas, who ran unattached, won the race in 9:24.60. Freshman Kayla Richardson also came in ninth with a time of 9:47.65.

The Hokies also claimed three of the top-five spots in the men’s mile. Georgia’s Bryan Kamau won the event with a time of 4:03.73. Seniors Patrick Joseph and Daniel Jaskowak crossed the line behind Kamau, finishing in second (4:04.89) and third (4:08.34), respectively. Belmont’s Ben Weisel placed fourth with a time of 4:10.58, while senior Ashkan Mohammadi rounded out the top five with a time of 4:11.13.

Tech also got a strong performance from senior Tessa Riley who came in ninth in the women’s mile. The Midlothian, Virginia, native clocked a personal-best time of 4:50.77.

Also, sophomore Rachel Pocratsky led the Hokie women with a fifth-place finish in the 800. The Olney, Maryland, native, who also owns the school-record time in the 1,000 meters, logged a time of 2:05.29 – a time that ranks fourth on the all-time list. Sophomore Shannon Quinn and freshmen Catherine Stone and Sarah Edwards also recorded career-best times in the event. Quinn finished in 12th with a time of 2:11.19, followed by Stone in 14th with a time of 2:12.35. Edwards came in 19th with a personal-best time of 2:13.99.

On the men’s side, redshirt junior Vincent Ciattei finished in third with a career- and season-best time of 1:49.04 – the fourth fastest time in program history. His previous mark of 1:54.84 was set last season at the Doc Hale VT Elite Meet, shaving off a total of 5.8 seconds. Junior Kevin Cianfarini placed ninth with a personal-best time of 1:50.50.

Sophomore Diego Zarate also ran the 800 for the first time in VT uniform, finishing with a time of 1:51.45 for 12th place. Zarate was not alone, as freshman Owen Buck put on the orange and maroon for the first time in his career, finishing in 14th with a time of 1:51.96.

“We worked pretty hard this week, but most of the folks running the 800 were on their second race of the weekend,” Thomas said. “A lot of them raced on Friday and were feeling pretty strong on Saturday. That is what the ACC Championships are all about. You have to be just as strong in the final day. One of our goals this weekend was to set a time that could get us in the fastest heats at the conference championships, and everyone is really starting to turn that corner.”

In the 400-meter dash, junior Courtney Blanden paced the Hokie women in fourth, finishing with a personal-best time of 54.38 – the fourth fastest time in school history. Freshman Arlicia Bush followed closely behind Blanden, placing in sixth with a career-best time of 54.84. A time that sits eighth on the all-time list. Junior Ama-Selina Tchume also checked in at No. 21 with a time of 56.13, while redshirt junior Jada Gundran came in 27th with a career-best time of 56.62.

Chiles was not alone in the 400, as Davenport placed 12th with a personal-best time of 48.17 – the fifth fastest time in program history. Thomas also sported the VT uniform in the 400 for the first time this season, finishing 15th with a time of 48.50.

Senior Aaron Simpson also qualified for the finals in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.24. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native ended up placing sixth overall with a personal-best time of 8.11. His previous-best mark was set last season at the Bob Pollock Invitational with a time of 8.18 seconds.

Lastly, the women’s 4x4 relay team of senior Hanna Green, Blanden, Tchume and Bush placed second with a time of 3:40.04 – narrowly missing first place by .45 seconds.

“Our first ‘A’ 4x4 team had a season best,” Vaught said. “The crowd was great. We were leading the first three legs, but we made some mistakes and got passed at the end. It is still a young team, and they are still learning to compete like they need to.”

“It was the first time we ran our ‘A’ team together, and we are hoping that their time set today will get them into the fast heat at conference,” Thomas said. “The girls ran strong. It was a really encouraging race moving forward.”

Additionally, a quartet of student-athletes competed at the Liberty Elite Invitational held inside the Liberty Indoor Track Complex in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Junior Mackenzie Muldoon competed in two events for the Hokies. The multi-event athlete qualified for the finals in the 60-meter hurdles, placing sixth overall with a time of 8.41. Freshman Matthew Baker also participated in the 400, finishing in 10th place overall.

In the field events, junior Will Kendall jumped a height of 1.88 meters (6 ft., 2 in.), placing sixth in the high jump. Freshman Eszter Bajnok also competed in the triple jump, leaping a total of 12.34 meters (40 ft., 6 in.) to place second overall.

Of note, Tech finished today’s events with 20 top-10 finishes.

“It’s that time of year were everyone is starting to run fast and prepare for the conference championships,” Vaught said. “It’s that time of year where you sit down and hope that everything comes together. That is what’s going on right now."

The Hokies will close their regular season at home with the Virginia Tech Challenge held Feb. 17-18, their fourth and final home meet of the season before the ACC Indoor Championships.



Courtney Blanden (54.38)

Arlicia Bush (54.84)

Jada Gundran (56.62)

Greg Chiles (47.42)

Michael Davenport (48.17)


Rachel Pocratsky (2:05.29)

Shannon Quinn (2:11.19)

Catherine Stone (2:12.35)

Sarah Edwards (2:13.99)

Vincent Ciattei (1:49.04)

Kevin Cianfarini (1:50.50)

Diego Zarate (1:51.45)


Tessa Riley (4:50.77)


Katie Kennedy (9:30.45)

Neil Gourley (8:05.25)

60 hurdles

Aaron Simpson (8.11)

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