Tech concludes the 2017 NCAA East Preliminary Rounds with 21 Hokies advancing to nationals

  • NCAA East Regional Preliminary
Final Results

Saturday’s Results

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Virginia Tech track and field teams capped a strong three-day performance at the 2017 NCAA East Preliminary Rounds, locking in four more individual qualifiers and a relay team Saturday evening to send a program-best 21 student-athletes to the national meet held in Eugene, Oregon, from June 7-10.

“To reset and refocus after the conference meet, which is such an emotional high, I think our team did a really great job,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “This is a really high quality meet, and to get through to Eugene is such a tall order in every event. To have 21 individuals representing Virginia Tech at nationals is really fantastic. I am looking forward to it. It’s been an unbelievable year, and we want to go up there and finish off the season right for the people that have made it to the national meet.”

There was nothing easy about the final day of competition at the University of Kentucky’s Outdoor Track and Field Complex, which included a four-hour weather delay, but the Hokies rose to the occasion. Following rain and thunderstorms, thrower Marek Barta, distance runner Peter Seufer, 1,500-meter runners, Vincent Ciattei and Neil Gourley, and the women’s 4x400-meter relay team all remained focused to collect a top-12 mark in their respective events.

“I think they were prepared for that [weather delays],” Cianelli said. “We talked about it before the meet, and I think they did a great job. It could’ve been a lot worse than it was, but I think they did a fantastic job. That is always an unknown factor. I’m very proud with how they competed and how they handled the weather delays that we had.”

Barta, a junior from Havirov, Czech Republic, got the ball rolling in the men’s discus. He placed sixth in the event overall, throwing a distance of 58.56 meters (192 ft., 1 in.) on his first attempt to qualify for his third straight NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The Hokies’ distance group then added three more qualifiers to Tech’s total. After advancing from their preliminary rounds on Thursday, Gourley and Ciattei placed second and third, respectively, in heats one and two. Ciattei crossed the line in 3 minutes, 46.85 seconds to earn the event’s third-fastest time of the day. This will mark Ciattei’s first NCAA Outdoor Championships appearance in his three-year career. Gourley also advanced to the national meet for the third year in a row with a top three-finish in his heat, but ended up placing 15th overall with a time of 3:56.65.

Seufer, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion in the 10,000 meters, notched his first NCAA Championship berth with his 14:18.58-finish in the 5,000-meter race. Seufer placed fourth in his heat – 14th overall – to earn an automatic bid to this year’s national meet.

In the second heat of the women’s 4x400-meter relay, the Hokie quartet of Courtney Blanden, Ama-Selina Tchume, Hanna Green and Arlicia Bush crossed the finish line in 3 minutes, 36.57 seconds for fourth place. With one more heat remaining, the four-member crew had to wait and see if they earned themselves a top-12 spot in the event. Luckily, their 3:36.57-finish placed 11th overall and was good enough for the quartet to travel across the country to Tracktown.

“We have a good mix of young athletes that are going to the national meet for the first time, and then we also have some veterans that have made it there before, so it’s a nice mix,” Cianelli said. “I’m really happy about the group that we are taking. I think everyone has an opportunity to go up there and perform well. Hopefully we will bring home a lot of All-American certificates and place high as a team. That’s our goal.”

Other Hokies who participated in Saturday’s competition, but did not qualify for nationals included Eszter Bajnok (22nd, triple jump), Katie Kennedy (17th, 1,500 meters) and Diego Zarate (19th, 1,500 meters).

Additionally, the Hokie quartet of Tchume, Blanden, Bush and Nora McKiver competed in the women’s 4x100-meter relay quarterfinals, notching a season-best time of 44.60 seconds for 14th – just shy of a ticket to Eugene. The four-member crew of Brandon Thomas, Greg Chiles, Drew Piazza and Michael Davenport also competed in the men’s 4x400-meter relay, finishing the race in 3:09.18 for 20th place overall.

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.

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

PERSONAL BESTS

1,500 meters

Katie Kennedy (4:18.83)

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