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June 21, 2012

Tech men's track and field team finishes fifth at NCAA Championships

By: Jimmy Robertson

The Virginia Tech men’s track and field team is a top-10 program. The numbers simply don’t lie.

Bolstered by a national championship in the hammer throw by Alexander Ziegler, the Hokies finished in fifth place at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa. The finish matched the Hokies’ finish from last year’s NCAA outdoor meet, and at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, Tech finished in eighth place.

Florida won the men's team title at the outdoor meet with 50 points, followed by LSU (48). Texas A&M (40), Florida State (38) and Tech (33) rounded out the top five.

"It was a tremendous team effort by the men to place fifth in the nation,” Tech Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Dave Cianelli said. "I'm so proud of our coaches, staff and our student-athletes who competed extremely well."

Ziegler, who won the hammer throw at last year’s NCAA outdoor meet, dominated this time around, winning with a personal-record toss of 248 feet, 7 inches (75.78 meters), which came on his fifth throw. Every one of Ziegler's throws would have won him the national title, as he was the only man to throw over 70 meters in the competition.

"I felt really good at the meet," Ziegler said. "On all my throws, I felt the turns were really good, and my technique was solid. The break [in between flights] didn't really interrupt me, and actually, I got the time to refocus a little bit and do what Coach [Greg] Jack [Tech’s throws coach] asked me to do, which was to finally finish one throw. The fifth one was probably the closest to actually finishing it. I really had a good feeling with that one."

The Hokies, though, got more than just Ziegler’s performance. Sprinter Darrell Wesh, jumper Hasheem Halim, pole vaulter Joe Davis, thrower Matthias Treff, and runner Michael Hammond also performed magnificently.

Wesh, a sophomore, finished fourth in the 100-meter dash, running it in a time of 10.30 seconds. He was just two one-thousandths of a second from winning the competition. Nevertheless, he became the first Tech sprinter ever to earn a podium finish in the 100.

Halim, a senior, notched a school-record and personal-best 54 feet, 1.25-inch (16.49 meters) jump to place fourth and earn his third top-four finish at nationals in the triple jump. He beat the previous school record of 53 feet, 4.5 inches (16.27 meters) set by Phil Saunders in 1986. Halim now holds the indoor and outdoor school records in the triple jump.

Davis, a redshirt senior, cleared a personal record of 17 feet, 8.5 inches (5.40 meters) to place seventh and earn a podium finish. That mark puts Davis into a tie for fourth in Tech history. A year ago at the outdoor meet, Davis finished eighth.

Treff, a redshirt junior, finished third in the javelin throw. He posted a season-best mark of 248 feet, 9 inches (75.83 meters) on his first attempt and led the competition after completion of the first flight. But Illinois State’s Tim Glover overtook him, and Treff ultimately finished third. He has now finished in the top three in the javelin at the NCAA Championships in each of the past two years, as he was runner-up last year in the event.

Hammond, a senior, finished fourth in the 1,500-meter run, clocking a time of 3:44.47. He garnered his third career All-America honor.

Ronnie Black (jumper), Keith Ricks (sprinter), Jeff Artis-Gray (jumper), Jonathan McCants (4x100 relay), Hunter Hall (pole vaulter), Will Mulherin (runner) and Denis Mahmic (thrower) also qualified for the NCAA meet, but failed to place in their respective events.

On the women’s side, three Tech athletes qualified – Martina Schultze, Valentina Muzaric (shot put) and Sammy Dow (steeplechase). Schultze’s tied-for-13th finish in the pole vault led the way among the women.