Sprints, hurdles and relays preview with Tim Vaught

BLACKSBURG – After a stellar year for Virginia Tech’s track and field program, there is much to be excited about entering the 2018 indoor and outdoor seasons.

The program earned three ACC titles, set numerous school records and returns the majority of the student-athletes who accomplished the impressive feat.

Assistant coach Tim Vaught, who oversees the sprints, hurdles and relays group, sat down with Virginia Tech’s HokieVision and answered questions for the upcoming season. To watch the video of the interview in its entirety, click here.

Volunteer coach Hyleas Fountain joins the Tech staff and will assist with the sprints, hurdles and relays group. Fountain, who is an Olympian and a four-time NCAA individual champion at Georgia, most recently comes from North Carolina A&T, where she served as an assistant coach.

The key returners for the group on the men’s side are Greg Chiles, Michael Davenport, Brandon Thomas and Darius Watkins. Chiles boasts the program record for the indoor 400 meters, while the senior, Davenport and Thomas own the school’s record in the 4x400 meters. The quartet has combined for 14 All-ACC honors.

On the women’s side, some key student-athletes coming back to Blacksburg are Courtney Blanden, Arlicia Bush, Nora McKiver and Ama-Selina Tchume. Blanden, a former walk-on, pencilled her name into Tech’s record book this past spring in the indoor and outdoor 200 meters, as well as the outdoor 400 with top times. The trio has combined for 12 All-ACC honors.

Q: Last season was one for the ages for the sprints, hurdles and relays group. Why was that so?

VAUGHT: “Ever since I got here, my goal has been to build a winning tradition in my sprints and hurdles area. I think from day one of practicing like a champion, training like a champion, things have constantly been built into the program. I think the kids now understand what I’m looking for and what the staff is looking for, when it comes time for competition. This past season, I don’t think I could have written a better in the book with the guys winning the ACC Indoor Championship, my group scoring more points than they have ever score before. And then outdoor, the men and women winning the championship. Three years ago when I got hired, that was the focus from Coach [Dave] Cianelli, to win both a men and women’s championship – it was one of the discussions on my interview and two years later, it happened. To me, when I talk about it, it was a great season. With everything, I think it comes from structure which starts at the top. The way that everybody trained hard and were more passionate about what they got to do, I think it showed last season.”

Q: There are a few newcomers this year with freshman and transfers in the sprints, hurdles and relays group. What makes you excited about them?

VAUGHT: “The newcomers this year, we got a young group but a very talented group that are here. I’m looking for Caitlin Tate to be an outstanding short sprinter. I think her ability is untapped, but I’ve seen some bright things from her this fall. She’s been training hard and is very, very dedicated. The key on this level is staying healthy, and if everything goes as planned, she is going to be a big impact in the ACC this year. Kennedy Dennis is going to be a major impact as well, she is a tremendous starter. They go head-to-head at practice all the time and I love it because it is bringing out the best of them. We also have Keishaun Limehouse, who came in as a transfer. I’m super excited he decided to come here because I think he is going to be a big impact in the short hurdles. He has brought a lot of energy to the program and I think the sky is the limit for him.”

Q: After having arguably the best season for both indoor and outdoor in program history last spring, how do you keep that momentum going?

VAUGHT: “Well, when you are on top, I always tell the student-athletes, it is harder to stay on top than the reach to try to get to the top. You know, you have got to stay hungry and understand why you are here. It’s the reason why we won the conference championships last year, we worked hard and wanted to be No. 1. And if you can keep that mentality all the time, you can only be the best. As a mentality as an athlete, you always want to be the best at what you do. And you always want to be the hunter, not the hunted. If you keep that mindset, things will go well. Every time you step on the track, you’re the hunter. You’re not waiting for someone to catch you because you want to hunt and continue to be the best. For the athletes that did not win their respected individual events last spring, that’s what they are chasing now. For the athletes that did not make it to nationals last year, that’s what they are chasing after as well. The thing with track and field as a sport, you are always going to have a drive to continue to be the best. I always tell my athletes to surround themselves with champions.”

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