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March 10, 2011

TECH MEN TAKE ACC TRACK AND FIELD CROWN - The Hokies' depth shows as they end Florida State's dominance

By: Jimmy Robertson

Alexander Ziegler (middle, with the maroon jacket), Marcel Lomnicky (right) and Denis Mahmic (left) celebrated with throws coach Greg Jack after the Hokies took the top three spots in the weight throw event at the ACC Indoor Championships. Behind them, Tech captured the men's title with 140 points.

Dave Cianelli and the Virginia Tech men’s track and field team had been knocking on the door of an ACC title only to be inhospitably turned away every time.

This time around, they just decided to knock it down.

The Hokies ended Florida State’s eight-year reign of dominance in men’s track and field by throwing, vaulting and running away with the ACC crown at the ACC’s Indoor Track and Field Championships held at Rector Field House on the Hokies’ campus.

The title marked Tech’s first team title since 2000 when it won the last of four straight Atlantic 10 crowns, and it marked Tech’s first ACC crown in men’s track and field. The Hokies blew away the league’s bunch, amassing 140 points – the most points scored in the championship meet since 2006 – and easily distancing itself from Florida State, which finished second with 98 points.

“It feels good,” said Cianelli, Tech’s director of track and field and cross country. “It’s been a five- or six-year process of building the men’s side. The women have had success at the ACC level (four titles), but the men … it’s taken us a while to get to where we could challenge.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been close. But this team, I knew they’d have an excellent chance if everyone stayed healthy. The kids were really focused. From day one, they’ve worked hard. Florida State has been the standard bearer in our conference for so long, and to beat them, you’ve got to have a very, very good group.”

As usual, Tech dominated in the throwing events and in pole vaulting, while also getting contributions in other events. For the meet, the Hokie men finished with just three individual titles, but showed depth as a team, getting points from several sources.

Tech got huge contributions from its throwers, as Alexander Ziegler led a 1-2-3 finish in the weight throw for the Hokies. Ziegler won his second straight ACC crown in the weight throw with a toss of 70 feet, 4.5 inches. Marcel Lomnicky and Denis Mahmic came in second and third, respectively, for the Hokies.

In the pole vault, Tech’s Stephan Munz claimed gold, with a vault of 17 feet, 9 inches, and the Hokies claimed four of the top five spots in the event. Hunter Hall, Yavgeniy Olhovsky and Joe Davis finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Tech’s other individual winner was Michael Hammond, who claimed gold in the mile run. He ran it in a time of 4:07.47.

However, the Hokies won the meet because of the performances of some of their unsung heroes. For example, Hasheem Halim and David Wilson came in second and third in the triple jump, while Chris Walizer finished fourth in the mile. Ronnie Black earned bronze in the high jump, while Jeff Artis-Gray and Halim finished third and seventh in the long jump. Nick McLaughlin came in third in the 800-meter run, and Will Mulherin garnered a silver medal in the 3,000.

All of those performances earned valuable points toward the team total.

“The throws and the vault have been strong for us, but now, we’re able to pick up points in other areas, and at a meet like this, that’s what enables you to be successful,” Cianelli said. “We’re balanced, and that made us a better conference team.

“It’s about recruiting better talent and better athletes and kids who fit into our program – and getting more of them. That’s what we’ve been able to do. We’ve been good at the national level for a while, but the conference level is different. You have to have more depth and balance. Winning a conference title … everyone has to contribute. That’s what makes the difference. That’s what will give you success.”

On the women’s side, Tech finished fourth behind Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina, and the Hokies claimed two individual titles. Kelly Phillips won the pole vault at a height of 13 feet, 11.25 inches, and Samira Burkhardt won the shot put with a throw of 52 feet, 1.25 inches. Phillips, already an NCAA qualifier after a school-record vault at the VT Elite Meet, claimed the second ACC crown of her career.