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May 18, 2012

Tech men's track and field team claim first ACC outdoor crown; women finish tied for fourth

By: Jimmy Robertson

Last year, the Virginia Tech men’s track and field team ended Florida State’s dominance of the league’s indoor meet, capturing the title at the ACC Indoor Championships held in Blacksburg.

This year, the members of that team decided to end the Seminoles’ dominance at the league’s outdoor meet as well.

Behind five individual titles and numerous other point scorers, the Hokies held off seven-time defending champion Florida State, winning the 2012 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Lannigan Field in Charlottesville, Va. The Hokies finished with 153.5 points, just 4.5 points clear of the Seminoles. Virginia finished in third with 113 points, followed by North Carolina (94.5), Clemson (78), Duke (59), NC State (58), Maryland (31), Wake Forest (28), Georgia Tech (26), Miami (22) and Boston College (4).

“This is really special. Florida State has such a great program, great athletes and great coaches, and they set the standard very high for this conference,” Tech director of track & field and cross country Dave Cianelli said. “To be able to win an outdoor conference championship for the first time is definitely special for our program.

“I knew the men had a good opportunity here, but we would really have to come together to win. After we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked at the indoor conference meet in Boston [Tech finished second], I think the guys got together and committed themselves to come here and give a great effort.”

As the scores indicate, the competition came down to the end. Entering the final event of the final day – the 4x400 meter relay – Tech led Florida State by 6.5 points. The Hokies’ relay team of junior Jonathan McCants, junior Jeff Artis-Gray, senior Eric Hoepker and senior All-American Keith Ricks clinched the team title by finishing fifth in 3:12.70.

Five Tech men won individual crowns at the meet, including Will Mulherin, who took home his third ACC outdoor title in the 5,000-meter run. The senior from Yorktown, Va., who finished in a time of 14:03.26, became the first man in ACC history to win the outdoor 5,000 three times.

Junior Alexander Ziegler and redshirt junior Matthias Treff won ACC titles in the hammer throw and the javelin throw, respectively. Ziegler, the defending national champion in the hammer throw, won easily with a throw of 229 feet, 11 inches (70.09 meters) to beat out teammate Denis Mahmic, a junior. The win marked Ziegler’s first ACC crown in the hammer. Treff, the 2011 NCAA runner-up in the javelin, won his second straight and third ACC title with a meet-record throw of 245 feet (74.68 meters).

The other two men’s winners were redshirt senior Hunter Hall (pole vault) and junior Jason Cusack (3,000-meter steeplechase). Hall led a Hokie sweep in the pole vault with a vault of 17 feet, 8.5 inches (5.40 meters). Redshirt senior Joe Davis and senior Mike Miller finished second and third, respectively.

Cusack became the Hokies’ first steeplechase winner – male or female – at the ACC Championships. He finished in a season-best time of 8:55.36.

Other notable performances for the men came from Michael Hammond and Chris Walizer, who finished second and third, respectively, in the 1,500; Darrell Wesh and Ricks, who came in third and fourth, respectively, in the 100; Ricks and Wesh in the 200 (third and sixth, respectively); Artis-Gray, who finished second in the long jump; and Hasheem Halim, who came in fifth in the triple jump.

On the women’s side, the Hokies finished in a tie for fourth with 74 points – their best finish in the league’s outdoor meet since 2009. Clemson won the title with 185 points, followed by Virginia (100), Florida State (75), Tech and Duke.

The women won two individual crowns. Freshman Annjulie Vester claimed the hammer throw title with a personal-best mark of 196 feet, 5 inches (59.87 meters), and freshman Martina Schultze won the pole vault event with a vault of 14 feet, 1.25 inches (4.30 meters). She became the first Tech woman to win the outdoor ACC title in the pole vault since 2008 and the first woman in Tech history to go over 14 feet outdoors. Schultze’s fellow All-American and classmate Victoria von Eynatten was the runner-up at 13 feet, 1.5 inches (4.00m).

Other notable performances for the women came from Yvonne Amegashie, who claimed second in the 400-meter run; Sammy Dow, who was fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase; and Valentina Muzaric, who was third in the women’s shot put. Also, the 4x100 team of Jameice DeCoster, Ciara Simms, Aunye Boone and Ogechi Nwaneri finished third, and the 4x400 team of Amegashie, Boone, DeCoster and Natalie Woodford claimed fourth.

“This meet ranks right at the top, in terms of excitement, that I have experienced in my 30 years of coaching,” Cianelli said. “To put a group of people together – coaches, student-athletes, staff – it takes a lot of people to be able to do something like this and a lot of them don’t get the credit that they deserve.”

Following the meet, Cianelli was named the ACC’s outdoor coach of the year. It marked his seventh conference coach of the year award in 11 years at the school.

The NCAA East Regionals will be held May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla., while the NCAA Championships will be held June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.