Six Hokies punch tickets to Eugene

  • NCAA East Regional Preliminary

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Six members of the Virginia Tech track and field teams punched their tickets to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Friday evening at the 2017 NCAA East Preliminary Rounds held at the University of Kentucky’s Outdoor Track and Field Complex.

Pole vaulter Brad Johnson, sprinter Greg Chiles, distance runner Sarah Edwards, and 800-meter runners, Hanna Green, Drew Piazza and Patrick Joseph, all posted top-12 marks in their respective events, advancing to the national meet held in Eugene, Oregon, from June 7-10.

Johnson, a senior from Virginia Beach, started the day off strong for the Hokies with his 5.25-meter height (17 ft., 2.75 in.) in the men’s pole vault competition. He cleared the first two bars on his first attempt, leading him to 5.15 meters (16 ft., 10.75 in.) midway through the event. It then took Johnson two tries to clear the next two bars, eventually ending his run at 5.25 meters. He attempted the 5.35-meter mark (17 ft., 6.5 in.), but failed to make the clearance on all three attempts. With Friday’s qualifying mark, Johnson advances to his third straight NCAA Outdoor Championships.

On the track, the Hokies’ middle distance group added three more qualifiers. After advancing from their preliminary rounds on Thursday, Piazza, Joseph and Green all earned top-three finishes in their respective heats to secure themselves a spot in the men’s and women’s 800-meter race at nationals.

Both Piazza and Joseph competed in the third and final heat, placing first and third, respectively, in the men’s 800. Piazza, a senior from Danvers, Massachusetts, led from start to finish, completing the race in 1 minute, 47.10 seconds to mark the second-fastest time of the day. Joseph, a senior from Leesburg, Virginia, finished slightly behind Middle Tennessee State’s Eliud Rutto to come in third with a time of 1:48.32. The NCAA Outdoor Championships marks Joseph’s second straight appearance, while Piazza takes his first trip to Tracktown after placing second in the 800 at this year’s national indoor meet.

Green, a senior from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, mirrored Piazza’s race, as she also earned a first-place finish in her heat with a time of 2 minutes, 2.53 seconds. The reigning Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion notched the third-fastest time of the day behind Villanova’s Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (2:02.11) and Middle Tennessee State’s Abike Egbeniyi (2:02.34) who placed first and second, respectively. This marks Green’s fourth NCAA Outdoor Championships appearance.

In the second heat of the men’s 400 hurdles, Chiles, a junior transfer from Chesapeake, Virginia, was ready to fight for a shot at qualifying for his first ever national outdoors meet. He reset his own program record for the third time this season, crossing the line in 50.39 seconds to notch the final qualifying spot in his respective heat. Chiles placed ninth overall and advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the first time in his career.

Edwards, a freshman from Bellingham, Massachusetts, capped Friday’s events by running the second-fastest time in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal. The reigning ACC champion qualified for her first NCAA championship event with a school record time of 9 minutes, 52.89 seconds. Edwards broke the previous mark set by Sammy Dow in 2012 by nearly 11 seconds (10:03.37). Of note, New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier currently boasts the fastest time in the East region, finishing in 9:50.51.

Tech now boasts a total of 10 national qualifiers, including six competitors from the women’s side and four participants from the men.

Other Hokies who participated in Friday’s quarterfinals, but did not qualify for the NCAA Championships in their respective events included Courtney Blanden (19th, 400 meters), Rachel Pocratsky (14th, 800 meters), Laurie Barton (16th, 800 meters) and Deakin Volz (NH, pole vault). Senior Daniel Jaskowak and sophomore Kayla Richardson also competed in the men’s and women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal, both placing 44th overall in their respective heats.

Furthermore, freshman Michael Davenport and Blanden participated in the first round of the men’s and women’s 200-meter dash, but failed to qualify for the quarterfinal round of competition, both earning fifth-place finishes in their respective heats.

Saturday’s field events are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., with the track events starting at 6 p.m. Junior Marek Barta will lead us off in the men’s discus throw set for 2 p.m., followed by the women’s 4x100-meter relay team at 6 p.m. Additionally, the SEC Network will provide a live stream coverage via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Saturday’s broadcast will start at 6 p.m. and run until the meet’s conclusion.

Of note, 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. The Hokies will have a week off from competition prior to the NCAA Championships.

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

PERSONAL BESTS

400 hurdles

Greg Chiles (50.39)

3,000 steeplechase

Sarah Edwards (9:52.89)

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

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