Barta, Gunnarsson steal the show at Florida, Texas Relays

Florida Relays Results | Texas Relays Results

Lisa Gunnarsson proved herself among the nation’s best in the pole vault at the Texas Relays at Mike A. Myers Stadium and Marek Barta came out in the discus throw with some power at the Florida Relays at Percy Beard Track at James G. Pressly Stadium, giving Virginia Tech track and field national marks on Saturday.

“Overall an excellent weekend for our team,” director of track and field and cross country Dave Cianelli commented. “A school record by Lisa in the pole vault and the first female over 15 feet in school history was historic, as well as Eszter Bajnok matching the school record in the long jump. Marek Barta and Greg Chiles were just off their school records in the discus and 400 hurdles.

“For many of our athletes, this was their first meet of the outdoor season and we are where we need to be right now. We have to continue to improve every day as we get prepared for our championship meets."

Going up against four All-Americans and the 2018 NCAA Indoor champion, Arkansas’ Alexis Jacobus, Gunnarsson outdueled the champ and Co. and set a personal-best mark of 4.60 meters (15 feet, 1 inch) to place second, only behind Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. Gunnarsson, a Sweden native, topped Martina Schultze’s mark in Tech’s record book set in 2013, and currently owns the No. 1 mark among college athletes.

Later in the day, the men’s pole vault event took place and Deakin Volz tallied a sixth-place finish with a mark of 5.50 meters (18 feet, 0.5 inches) and Torben Laidig cleared a height of 5.35 meters (17 feet, 6.5 inches) to place 11th.

“Both of the girls jumped great this weekend,” pole vault coach Bob Phillips mentioned. “For Lisa to come off a sprained ankle with a personal-best, school-record and National Junior-record for Sweden was a really incredible performance for her. And although the results didn’t show it yet, Rachel really had her best technical meet of the year and we just need to keep building on that.”

Barta threw for the first time this season and started it off with a bang, tossing a mark of 61.13 meters (200 feet, 7 inches) in the discus throw to place first. The senior’s mark is No. 3 in the country and first in the ACC.

“It was an interesting series for him, to open up at 59 meters for his very first throw of the season was a great start,” throws coach Andrew Dubs shared. “After that he was in a funk and was struggling to find any rhythm or positions for the next four rounds.

“Training had been going well the last couple of weeks so I knew he had a good one in him. After the fifth round, he just needed to calm down, relax and settle into to 'His' throw rather than force one.

“To go 61 meters on the last throw of the meet after struggling for five rounds, that’s exceptional. To stay that mentally focused and be able to put one together under those circumstances shows tremendous maturity and mental fortitude on his part. Just an incredible competitive effort to battle through and put out the best opener of his career. Exciting signs to come for later this season!”

The women’s 4x400-meter relay made up of Courtney Blanden, Kennedy Dennis, Caitlan Tate and Arlicia Bush put together the eighth-fastest time in program history, crossing the finish line in 3 minutes, 37.94 seconds to place third in the finals at the Texas Relays. The men’s 4x4 consisted of Greg Chiles, Brandon Thomas, Jared Bane and Michael Davenport and the quartet placed eighth in the finals.

The Hokies will compete next at the Tennessee Relays from April 12-14 in Knoxville.

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