User ID: Password:

November 7, 2008

Tech men, Fanning have huge day at ACC Cross Country Championships

By: Matt Kovatch

Devin Cornwall placed third individually at the ACC Championships.
The Virginia Tech men’s cross country team made a little bit of history on Nov. 1st, and women’s team member Tasmin Fanning was awfully close to doing the same. All in all, the ACC Championships in Chapel Hill, N.C., were a huge success for the Hokies as they continued to prepare for the NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 15th.

The men’s squad turned in its best finish at the meet since joining the conference in 2004, taking third place behind Virginia and N.C. State. With 75 points, Tech finished five points ahead of 15th-ranked Florida State and set a standard for itself to shoot for at the regional meet.

“Everyone really came through,” Tech head coach Ben Thomas said. “Our whole top seven ran a really solid race. Coming into the meet, I felt that if we ran the way we had been running, then we could definitely be fourth, but with an excellent race, we could be in the top three. Looking ahead to the regional meet, if we can run that same kind of race, it will give us a chance to be in the top-three there and that gives a good chance of making nationals.”

Individually, junior Devin Cornwall and senior Billy Berlin placed third and 11th, respectively, to earn All-ACC honors. That’s the first time two Tech men have made the all-conference team at the same time since joining the league, and in fact, they became the only two male Hokies other than Paul LaPenna in 2007 to earn all-conference honors since three Hokies did so at the Atlantic 10 meet in 1999.

Rounding out the top five for Tech was freshman Michael Hammond in 15th, freshman Will Mulherin in 20th and senior Phil Padilla in 26th. Hammond was just one place shy of earning all-conference honors himself and was just two spots from being the top rookie finisher and earning Freshman of the Year honors like Cornwall did in 2006.

“I always felt that Devin had the ability to do that,” Thomas said of the performance by Cornwall, who jumped to third all the way from 18th a year ago. “He just needed to be able to stay consistent with his volume of training and to stay healthy. He was finally able to do that for an entire summer and fall. He’s been ultra-consistent.

“But we had some other guys really step it up. Phil did a really nice job to be 26th in his last ACC Championship – that was huge. And it’s really a credit to Michael and Will. It’s hard to come in as freshmen and be that competitive right away, but they’ve done a great job of not being afraid to step in and compete with older, more experienced runners.”

The women’s team didn’t fare as well, finishing seventh out of the 12-team pack that was dominated by Florida State, but Fanning nearly made up for it all by herself. The senior from Charlottesville, Va., who earned All-America honors as a junior, fell just short of claiming the Hokie women’s first individual conference championship since 1986. It was a cross country equivalent of a photo finish, as Fanning lost to Susan Kuijken of Florida State, now the two-time reigning champ, by six-tenths of a second.
“It was one of the most exciting individual finishes I’ve ever seen at any championship race,” Thomas said. “Tasmin was ahead about 50 meters out, but it went neck-and-neck to the line and Kuijken just had a little more left at the end.”

While Thomas said he’s seen cross country races come down to the finish like that before, it was the overall nature of this race that made it so special.

“Everyone was still in it after the first mile, but the second mile got strung out with a lead pack of about six, and Tasmin was always at the front or sharing the lead,” Thomas described. “Then at the four-kilometer mark, she really decided to make a strong push, but the whole group followed her. It wasn’t until they came to the finishing field that Tasmin and Brie Felnagle (the third-place finisher from North Carolina) kind of broke away from Kuijken.

“It was strange to see what looked to be like three different winners take over in the last 800 meters. It looked like Felnagle was going to win at first, and then Tasmin, but Kuijken finally stole it at the end.”

The rest of Tech’s top five looked like this: senior Erin Reddan in 21st, senior Jess Fanning in 34th, junior Natalie Kretzer (a former Hokie tennis player) in 41st and freshman Sammy Dow in 59th. While Thomas would obviously like to see a better team effort at the regional meet in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Nov. 15th, Tasmin Fanning’s effort certainly shows that she has the ability to match or improve upon her 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships from a year ago.

“I didn’t even turn her loose [at the ACC meet],” Thomas said of Fanning. “For her, we’re really looking toward nationals, so this was more of a stepping stone and we wanted to run a controlled race. So the pace wasn’t to her strength, but she still almost pulled off the win.

“It gives her a lot of confidence that she can run with Kuijken, who is a national champion in the 1,500 meters and one of the fastest girls in the country in the mile. If Tasmin can finish that close to her, we’re hoping that with a faster pace, she’ll be that much more able to run with anyone by the time nationals come around.”

Women’s soccer clinches ACC’s seventh seed

With a 1-0 defeat of No. 11 Duke on Nov. 2nd, the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team clinched the seventh seed in the ACC Tournament by finishing with a 4-4-2 conference record. Tech hasn’t been to the ACC Tournament since 2004 when it bowed out to Virginia in the first round. Overall, the Hokies finished the 2008 regular season with a 10-7-2 mark. That’s the second-highest win total for Tech since, coincidentally, 2004, which was the only time in program history that the Hokies were selected to the NCAA Tournament. They went 11-9 overall and 4-5 in the ACC that season.

The win over Duke certainly strengthened Tech’s NCAA resume for this season, especially considering that it already upset then-No. 8 Virginia back on Oct. 9th and then-No. 21 Cal State-Fullerton in September. Tech won’t know for sure, though, if it will be invited back to the postseason until the conference tournaments are complete. The ACC Tournament takes place Nov. 5-9th in Cary, N.C.

In other news from the soccer team, Emily Jukich and Jennifer Harvey were named to the 2008 ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District III Team, with Jukich getting a second-team nod and Harvey making the third team. James Gilson of the men’s soccer squad was named a second-team honoree on the men’s ballot.

Also of note

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams began the 2008-09 season on Oct 25th, and each swept West Virginia and N.C. State at War Memorial Pool. Senior Sara Smith led the way with individual wins in the 200 free and 200 IM, while also helping Tech to capture the 200 medley relay in record fashion. The H2Okies then lost at Virginia on Oct. 29th … The golf team completed its fall season on Oct. 26th with a fourth-place team finish at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C. Sophomore Garland Green tied for fifth individually with a 5-over-par 221 … The men’s tennis team wrapped its fall schedule on Oct. 26th when freshman Corrado Degli Incerti Tocci won his bracket at the Crimson Tide Invitational in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The women completed their fall slate by sending five singles players and three doubles teams to various bracket finals of the Hokie Fall Invitational on Nov. 2nd.