User ID: Password:

June 17, 2009

Track and field caps Tech's athletics year with seven All-America performances

By: Matt Kovatch

Yavgeniy Olhovsky collected All-America honors in the pole vault for the fourth time in his career at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, aiding in the men’s team’s 16th-place finish.

Because the track and field season lasts so long, it tends to sometimes get unfairly lost in the shuffle. But while most of Tech’s campus was long gone for the summer, the Hokies’ track and field squad was still hard at work in anticipation of its crowning moment, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The collegiate season’s final event took place June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark., and the Hokies had a wildly successful trip that was highlighted by Virginia Tech’s biggest headline – track and field or otherwise – of the 2008-09 academic year.

Just in case you didn’t look at the cover before opening this magazine, hammer thrower Marcel Lomnicky reached the sport’s pinnacle – as a freshman, no less – by winning the national championship in his event on June 12. It was just the fifth national title in school history, with the other four all coming from another thrower, Spyridon Jullien, in 2005 and 2006. There’s more on Lomnicky on page 26, but he wasn’t the only one making waves in Arkansas.

Seven of the eight Hokies who made the trip to the meet earned All-America status, with only senior Natalie Sherbak falling short. That didn’t stop the women’s team from making a little history, though, as it went on to claim an outdoor program-best 12th-place finish. There’s no telling how much higher that finish would have been had Sherbak fared better and had 2008 Olympian and 2009 ACC Performer of the Year Queen Harrison been available for the meet. Harrison did not qualify because of a hamstring injury suffered between the ACC Championships (where she won both hurdling events) and the NCAA East Regional.

In addition to Lomnicky, pole vaulters Yavgeniy Olhovsky and Hunter Hall helped the men’s team to a 16th-place finish, its best showing since tying for 12th in 2006 thanks to Jullien’s final national title of his career. That also could have been higher, but javelin thrower Matthias Treff did not compete after undergoing elbow surgery following the NCAA East Regional.

Texas A&M won the team championship on both the men’s and women’s sides. Here’s a look at how each of the Hokies who competed at the national meet fared. Note: The top eight finishers in each event, no matter their nationality, are named All-Americans. But if, for example, two of those top eight are non-American athletes, the next two highest-placing American athletes will also be named All-Americans.

Marcel Lomnicky – Men’s Hammer Throw

The freshman from Nitra, Slovakia, won the national title by a healthy margin, as his toss of 235 feet, 6 inches topped the second-place throw by more than three feet. He entered the meet having recorded the nation’s third-best toss of the outdoor season, and he had won the event two weeks earlier at the NCAA East Regional with a throw of 232 feet, 5 inches. See page 26 for more on Inside Hokie Sports’ athlete of the year.

Hunter Hall – Men’s Pole Vault

Just a sophomore, Hall became an All-American for the second time in four months after finishing seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. This time, he placed 10th with a vault of 17 feet, 2.75 inches to record an outdoor career best. The Fort Wayne, Ind., product qualified for the national meet by taking third at the NCAA East Regional.

Yavgeniy Olhovsky – Men’s Pole Vault

Olhovsky, who was the runner-up in the pole vault at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March, concluded a fantastic junior season by tying for fourth with South Carolina’s Marvin Reitze. The Petah-Tikya, Israel, native cleared 17 feet, 6.5 inches to cement his place among the nation’s elite, as it was his fourth All-America showing in a row. Olhovsky placed second at last year’s outdoor championships and fifth at last year’s indoor meet. His most recent accomplishment almost never happened because of a disappointing performance at the NCAA East Regional, where he tied for fifth and had to win a jump-off to advance to the national meet.

Kristi Castlin – Women’s 100-meter Hurdles

Kristi Castlin was the national runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles, helping the women’s track and field squad to a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The junior from Douglasville, Ga., added to her impressive resume by turning in her best effort at an outdoor national meet during her three seasons. Castlin was the country’s runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles on June 13, clocking in at a time of 13.15 seconds to collect the fifth All-America honor of her storied career. She ran the semifinals in 13.09 seconds a day earlier to punch her ticket to the finals. The performance came two weeks after she ran a season-best 12.89 seconds to claim the NCAA East Regional crown.

Dorotea Habazin – Women’s Hammer Throw

Habazin had a breakout season as a sophomore and it culminated with the first All-America performance of her career, a fourth-place finish in the hammer throw on June 12. Her throw of 214 feet, 11 inches was the latest in a string of accomplishments for the product of Zagreb, Croatia. She had previously won the event at both the NCAA East Regional and the ACC Championships, and she also set the new Virginia Tech record (216 feet, 6 inches) at the Georgia Tech Invite on May 15.

Brittany Pryor – Women’s Hammer Throw and Discus

Brittany Pryor competed in two events at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, finishing 10th in the hammer throw and 11th in the discus.

Pryor was the only Hokie to compete in two events at the national championships, and she collected All-America honors in one of them to give her six career All-America nods. The most recent one came in the hammer throw, where she joined Habazin by placing 10th in the event with a toss of 188 feet, 10 inches. Pryor took third in the hammer throw at both the NCAA East Regional and at the ACC Championships. The redshirt senior from Niagara Falls, N.Y., also competed in the discus, an event that she won at both the NCAA East Regional and the ACC Championships. At the national meet, though, she fell just shy of the top 10, placing 11th with a heave of 155 feet, 6 inches.

Natalie Sherbak – Women’s 10,000 Meters

Sherbak, a redshirt senior from Virginia Beach, began the 10,000-meter run on June 11, but was unable to finish, pulling out of the contest at the 7-kilometer mark. It was an anticlimactic end to an otherwise magnificent year, one that saw her win the event at the ACC Championships. She was an All-American in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships, as well as the 3,000-meter champion at the ACC’s indoor meet in February.

Asia Washington – Women’s 400-meter Hurdles

Washington, a junior from Piscataway, N.J., took fourth place in the 400-meter hurdles to capture the second All-America accolade of her career. She achieved All-America status at the 2007 indoor national meet by running the 800-meter leg of the fourth-place distance medley relay squad. She punched her ticket to the 2009 outdoor championships with an at-large bid because she held the nation’s fifth-fastest time of the season prior to the East Regional, where she only finished sixth. She made the most of her invitation, clocking in at 57.05 seconds to score five team points toward the Hokies’ effort.

In other Tech sports news …

Two Tech baseball players were chosen in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 10, with outfielder Steve Bumbry going to the Baltimore Orioles in the 12th round and pitcher Rhett Ballard going to the Colorado Rockies in the 26th round. Pitching recruit Joe Mantiply of Danville, Va., who signed a national letter-of-intent with the Hokies in the fall, was selected in the 48th round by the New York Mets … Steve Domecus was named to the All-ACC baseball second team following the season, becoming the first Hokie baseball player to be named to an All-ACC team in Tech’s five seasons in the league … In addition to Jenna Rhodes’ accolades outlined on page 35, softball players Charisse Mariconda and Jessica Everhart were each named to both the NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region Team and the VaSID All-State First Team … Junior men’s tennis player Pedro Graber was named to the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American District III At-Large University Division Team … The 2009 Virginia Tech wrestling signing class has been ranked fifth nationally by W.I.N. Magazine, just behind national powers Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Oklahoma. For head coach Kevin Dresser, it’s his third top-10 class in as many years.