Tech sends program best to the NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech track and field teams will send a program-best 36 student-athletes to this year’s NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds held in Lexington, Kentucky, on the University of Kentucky’s campus from May 25-27.

The top 48 competitors in each event qualified for the NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds, with the exception of the relay teams only advancing the top 24 marks.

Tech’s women enter the meet ranked No. 12, jumping 18 spots in this week’s United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Top-25 Poll. The Hokie women boast 20 individuals who qualified in 13 different events, while the men show 16 participants in 10 different events. The top 12 competitors in each event will advance to the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held in Eugene, Oregon, from June 7-10.

“Our student-athletes and staff are excited about the NCAA East Regional Preliminary meet coming up at the University of Kentucky,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “This year, we have qualified the largest number of athletes in program history, and we are looking to advance the majority of these athletes to the NCAA finals held in Oregon.”

Read on, as we break down each competitor in their respective event group heading into next week’s competition.

Jumps: Freshman Eszter Bajnok will represent Tech’s jumpers in the triple jump. Bajnok made her outdoor debut in the event at the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Atlanta, resetting a 17-year-old program record with a mark of 13.05 meters (42 ft., 9.75 in). Bajnok earned a bronze-medal finish in the event and collected first-team All-ACC honors for the first time in her career. Her jump currently ranks No. 18 in the East region and No. 34 nationally.

Throws: This year’s ACC champion, Irena Sediva, leads the Hokies’ throwers following her first-place finish in the javelin throw at the conference meet. Sediva hopes to capture her second NCAA title in three years, as her mark of 58.68 meters (192 ft., 6 in.) is currently listed as the No. 1 throw in the nation. Teammate Eva Vivod, who won silver at the league championships with a mark of 52.14 meters (171 ft., 1in.), owns the seventh-best throw in the region as well as the 17th-best mark in the nation. Additionally, sophomore Pavla Kuklova and freshman Emma Thor will participate in the women’s hammer throw event following their second- and third-place finishes, respectively, at the ACC Championships. Kuklova notched a career-best mark of 63.16 meters (207 ft., 3 in.) at the conference meet, while Thor qualified for the East regionals at the Florida Relays earlier this year with a personal-best throw of 64.69 meters (212 ft., 3 in.).

Junior Marek Barta is the lone competitor on the men’s side with his 60.10-meter discus throw set at the ACC Championships. He placed second in the event, earning himself a top-10 regional mark.

Pole vault: Sophomore Deakin Volz will lead the men’s side, as he boasts the second-best vault on the team and the eighth-best jump in the region with a 5.41-meter height (17 ft., 9 in.) set at the Duke Invitational. In addition, senior Brad Johnson jumped 5.31 meters (17 ft., 5 in.) at that same meet to rank 12th on the regional list.

Senior Erica Hjerpe and junior Olivia Privitera both qualified on the women’s side, as the Hokie duo currently holds the No. 25- and No. 26-best mark, respectively, in the East region. Hjerpe vaulted a height of 4.10 meters (13 ft., 5.25 in.) at the Tennessee Relays, while Privitera cleared the 4.08-meter bar (13 ft., 4.5 in.) at the Hokie Twilight for a career-best mark.

Sprints/Hurdles: Junior Courtney Blanden will represent the Tech women in two events at the East regionals, qualifying for both the 200- and 400-meter dashes with school-record times. Blanden broke the school record in the 200-meter sprint while crossing the finish line in 23.01 seconds at the War Eagle Invitational. She also topped former Olympian Queen Harrison’s school record in the 400-meter dash, finishing in 52.24 seconds for fourth place at the league championships. Her 400-meter time currently ranks fourth in the region with three Miami competitors in front of her. Arlicia Bush also qualified for the 400 as a freshman, notching a time of 53.29 seconds at the Weems Baskin Invitational to start the season. Her time currently ranks No. 24 in the region.

Junior Nora McKiver and senior Jada Gundran will compete in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. McKiver earned a bronze-medal finish in the event at the conference meet, completing the race with a career-best time of 57.87 seconds, while Gundran recorded a personal-best time of 59.67 at the Virginia Grand Prix to earn herself a spot at the regional meet.

Michael Davenport, the reigning ACC Indoor Track Freshman of the Year, will compete in both the men’s 100- and 200-meter dashes. Davenport notched a lifetime-best time of 10.28 seconds in the 100 at the ACC Championships, finishing second overall and earning himself first-team All-ACC honors for the first time in his career. He also has boasted the fastest 200-meter time in the ACC since March 24, finishing with a time of 20.96 seconds at the Weems Baskin Invitational to start the season. Junior Greg Chiles will compete in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, as he owns the ninth-fastest time in the East region and has reset the school record in the event twice this season. His 50.82-finish earned him fourth place overall at the league championships.

Additionally, both the men’s and women’s 4x400-meter relay teams qualified for the East regionals. The men’s and women’s 4x400 relay squads finished strong at the conference meet, securing the points needed for the team titles. The women’s squad came in second with a season-best time of 3 minutes, 32.57 seconds, and the men’s squad placed third with a school-record time of 3:06.40. The women’s 4x100-meter relay squad also earned themselves a qualifying time at the conference meet, finishing with a season-best time of 44.63 seconds.

Distance: The Tech’s distance crew garnered six ACC championships at last weekend’s conference meet – three on the men’s side and three on the women’s side. Senior Neil Gourley leads the group of four in the 1,500 meters following his first-place finish at the conference meet. Juniors Ashkan Mohammadi and Vincent Ciattei and sophomore Diego Zarate also will compete in the 1,500-meter event. Of note, Ciattei and Zarate placed second and third, respectively, at the ACC Championships to give the Hokies a sweep in the 1,500. Seniors Drew Piazza and Patrick Joseph highlight the Hokies’ 800-meter race, as the Tech duo went 1-2, respectively, at the conference meet. They also recorded personal bests at the Virginia Challenge earlier this month, with Piazza breaking a school record in the event. Piazza and Joseph currently sit at No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, in the East region. Sophomore Peter Seufer also notched a team- and career-best time of 13:53.92 in the 5,000-meter race at the Virginia Challenge. Of note, Seufer claimed gold in the 10,000 at the ACC Championships, finishing in 29:21.49. Daniel Jaskowak also will represent the men in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, earning a qualifying mark of 9:03.09 at the Virginia Challenge.

On the women’s side, six-time ACC champion Hanna Green leads the group following her 800- and 1,500-meter performances in Atlanta. Green claimed gold in both events, setting a new championship meet record in the 800. Of note, she owns the fastest time in the East region and the second-fastest time in the country behind Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers with a time of 2:01.28 set at the league championships last weekend. Sophomore Rachel Pocratsky and freshman Laurie Barton also will join Green in the 800. Pocratsky owns the third-fastest time in the East region, while Barton sports the 18th-fastest mark.

Freshman Sarah Edwards will make her first NCAA appearance after winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the ACC Championships, crossing the line in 10:05.58 for the seventh-fastest time in the region. Freshman Kayla Richardson also will compete in the event, earning her qualifying time at the league championships with a mark of 10:11.89. Junior Abigail Motley will compete in the 10,000 following her podium finish at the conference meet, while junior Katie Kennedy participates in the 1,500-meter event at the East regionals for the first time in her career.

The men’s and women’s track and field teams most recently made history, as both teams claimed the team titles at the 2017 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships held last weekend 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.

Following the 2017 NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds, the Hokies will have a week off from competition prior to the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held in Eugene, Oregon, from June 7-10. The top 12 competitors in each event will qualify for the national meet.

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

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