Banner day for Hokies, as Tech women and men claim ACC outdoor titles

  • ACC Outdoor Championships

ATLANTA – The Virginia Tech men’s and women’s track and field teams made history over the weekend, as both teams claimed the team titles at the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Outdoor Track and Field Championships held Friday through Sunday at Georgia Tech’s Griffin Track and Field Facility.

For the first time since joining the ACC for the 2004-05 academic year, both Tech squads won the team title at the same league meet. The Tech women finished with 124.5 points, beating Florida State by six points and claiming the program’s first women’s title since 2008. The Tech men finished with 120 points and beat rival Virginia by a single point to sweep the league titles this year.

“It’s so hard to win, but winning both is huge,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “I knew we were in contention on both sides, but being in contention and winning is two different things. The fact that both teams came through is just incredible. Today’s performance probably ranks as the best performance overall because it includes both the men and the women. In the past, it was either one or the other. To have both do it, it’s really special.”

Both programs now have combined to win 13 ACC team titles in track and field and cross country.

“I told the men yesterday that they were not out of it [the team race],” Cianelli said afterward. “They had to go out and fight. Going into today, we were so far behind. Some people thought it was over, but these guys knew that they had a shot. They had to perform, and they did.

“The women knew that it was going to be very close as well, and we had to come through on the relay. That was our first championship for the women in nine years. It actually happened right here on this track nine years ago. It has been special to build the women’s program back up. It has been a three-year process to get them in a position to win this title.”

The races for the team crown came down to the final two events. The Hokies trailed Florida State going into the women’s 4x400-meter relay, but the Hokies’ team of Courtney Blanden, Ama-Selina Tchume, Nora McKiver and Arlicia Bush came in second with a season-best time of 3 minutes, 32.57 seconds, while the Seminoles came in ninth, thus sealing the title for the Tech women. The Tech men also trailed going into the 4x400 relay, but the Hokies’ quartet of Greg Chiles, Brandon Thomas, Drew Piazza and Michael Davenport came in third with a school-record time of 3:06.40 and finished three spots ahead of Virginia to clinch the title.

“You’re hoping things are going to fall your way on the final day, especially going from event to event, and they did,” Cianelli said. “The fact that it came down to the relay on both the men’s and women’s side was just nerve-racking, but I had confidence in these kids that they could come through.”

During Sunday’s finals, the Hokies collected a total of four individual ACC titles: Hanna Green, (800 meters and 1,500 meters), Neil Gourley (1,500 meters) and Piazza (800 meters). Of note, the Tech men and women walked away with a total of seven ACC crowns, as Peter Seufer (10,000 meters), Irena Sediva (javelin) and Sarah Edwards (3,000 steeple) all claimed gold in their respective events prior to the final day of competition.

Green, a senior from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, captured gold medals in both the 800- and 1,500-meter events, completing her four-year career with a total of six individual ACC championships. She defended her outdoor title in the 800, finishing with a season-best time of 2:01.28 for a new championship meet record. The victory marked Green’s fifth ACC title in the event, as she won three indoor titles and two outdoor titles. She also won the 1,500-meter race Sunday with a time of 4:15.08, collecting her first ever ACC crown in that event.

Gourley, a senior from Glasgow, Scotland, placed first in the 1,500-meter race with a time of 3:46.05 to collect his first individual ACC title. He most recently won a gold medal as a member of the distance medley relay team at this year’s indoor championships. Gourley was able to share the moment with his teammates, as Vincent Ciattei and Diego Zarate finished second (3:46.26) and third (3:46.95), respectively, in the event to give the Hokies a sweep of the 1,500.

Piazza, a senior from Danvers, Massachusetts, won the 800-meter run with a time of 1:46.76 to claim his first ever conference title. Teammate Patrick Joseph was not far behind him, as he crossed the finish line in 1:46.82 for a silver medal.

Tech’s day started with a bang, as Marek Barta and Eszter Bajnok landed on the podium in their respective field events. Barta, a junior who has only competed in one regular-season meet this year, threw 60.10 meters (197 ft., 2 in.) on his sixth and final attempt in the discus to earn a silver medal. Bajnok also made her outdoor debut in the triple jump, recording a best leap of 13.05 meters (42 ft., 9.75 in.), good enough for a bronze medal. She set a new school record in the event, breaking April Byrd’s mark of 12.93 meters (42 ft., 5.25 in.) set in 2000.

The Hokie men and women also made the most of their 4x100-meter relay teams, which was the first running events of the day. Both Tech squads notched new season-best times and claimed third-place finishes in the event. The women’s squad of Tchume, Blanden, Bush and McKiver clocked in at 44.63 seconds, while the men’s team of Dante Price, Davenport, Chiles and Darius Watkins finished with a time of 40.56 seconds.

Also, the Tech men and women got huge points from podium finishers Rachel Pocratsky, Davenport and McKiver in their respective events. Pocratsky collected a silver medal in the 800-meter race with a lifetime-best time of 2:02.67. McKiver came in third in the 400-meter hurdles, finishing with a career-best time of 57.87 seconds. Davenport also notched a second-place finish in the 100-meter sprint with a personal-best time of 10.28 seconds.

In addition, the Hokies got valuable points from Seufer (4th) and Gourley (7th) in the 5,000, Davenport in the 200 (5th), Laurie Barton in the 800 (5th) and Katie Kennedy in the 1,500 (6th).

The big news of the day, though, came when Blanden broke Olympian Queen Harrison’s school record in the 400-meter dash. Blanden, a junior from Weddington, North Carolina, reset her personal best twice this weekend, but no performance was better than her 52.24-finish in Sunday’s finals. She placed fourth overall in the event and bested Harrison’s mark by .64 seconds. Chiles also reset his own program record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.82 seconds, finishing fourth overall.

Other Hokies who competed in Sunday’s finals, but whose performances did not count toward the team scoring included Will Kendall (9th, high jump), Collin McKenny (16th, discus), Andrew Goldman (9th, 1,500 meters) Ashkan Mohammadi (12th, 1,500 meters), Abigail Motley (13th, 5,000 meters), Kennedy (14th, 5,000 meters), Jack Joyce (9th, 5,000 meters), Daniel Jaskowak (13th, 5,000 meters) and Zarate (17th, 5,000 meters)

The Hokies also edged Virginia in the Commonwealth Clash presented by Virginia529 – a head-to-head points competition within the 22 varsity sports in which both state schools sponsor. The win marked the Hokies’ first in this Clash since Virginia529 sponsored it three years ago.

Following the 2017 ACC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the Hokies will have one week off from competition prior to the NCAA East Regional held on the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington, Kentucky from May 25-27.

Fans can follow all the action during each meet of the 2017 outdoor season by following the squad on Twitter and Instagram.

PERSONAL BESTS

100 meters

Michael Davenport (10.28)

400 meters

Courtney Blanden (52.24)

800 meters

Rachel Pocratsky (2:02.67)

Laurie Barton (2:05.48)

1,500 meters

Katie Kennedy (4:20.65)

5,000 meters

Katie Kennedy (16:49.14)

Daniel Jaskowak (14:27.01)

400 hurdles

Nora McKiver (57.87)

Greg Chiles (50.82)

Triple jump

Eszter Bajnok (13.05 meters)

For updates on Virginia Tech track & field, follow the Hokies on Twitter

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