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November 14, 2011

Mulherin, Hammond pace Tech in fourth-place finish at ACCs

By: Marc Mullen

At the 2011 ACC Cross Country Championships in late October, the Virginia Tech men placed tied for fourth with Duke, their second-highest finish since joining the ACC in 2004. Only the 2008 squad recorded a better finish, coming in third that year.

Common threads between the two results are Will Mulherin and Michael Hammond. Both were freshmen on that 2008 team, and each, now redshirt juniors, earned ACC all-conference honors for their efforts, as they paced the Hokies to strong showing.

Mulherin finished seventh overall out of 110 runners, running the 8K course at Musser Fruit Research Center in Clemson, S.C., in a time of 23:19.3. Hammond was 10th. With the honor, Mulherin became just the second Hokie male – Devin Cornwall (2008 and 2009) – to be a two-time ACC all-conference selection, as he also came in seventh as a sophomore in the 2009 ACC race.

“It seems like a cool thing to get, but I definitely won’t be the last,” Mulherin said of the accomplishment. “We are still pretty new in the ACC, so being in that group is an honor. Devin was a great runner, and so I’m proud to be compared to him.

“But hopefully, down the line, we have more people that will get that, and hopefully, I can get it a third time next year.”

Describing the Hokies’ morning race, Mulherin said that the pregame plan was for he and Hammond to stay up in the lead and the rest of the team to run as a pack not too much further back. But plans don’t always work out.

“At the start, I was able to get out, but some of the guys said they literally looked around, 100 meters in, and realized they were in last place,” he said. “Somehow, they all got pushed to the back.

“So at that point, we had to make up our own plans. I got out, and Michael was around me, but the rest of the pack, they just moved up as the race went on. And they did a really great job of that. There were splits between 3K and the end of the race, and it was interesting to see how much our guys changed positions.”

The men’s team is young. Not one of the top seven Hokies who ran in the race was in his final ACC meet, meaning the entire squad will be back for 2012 – a result of some forethought by head cross country coach Ben Thomas.

“It started last year when Michael and I decided to redshirt, which really set up for this year and next year for all of us to be together,” Mulherin said. “We really saw this group coming together and thought we really needed to take advantage of that. We’ve got a good group, and it’s really exciting to see everybody coming together.

“We discussed it in his office. I had recently decided to stay for a fifth year because of my major [engineering]. So I wanted to do the five years, and we decided together.”

Rounding out Tech’s top five were freshman Thomas Curtin (30th, 24:20.3), junior Jason Cusack (34th, 24:23.8) and sophomore Leoule Degfae (35th, 24:24.3).

On the women’s side, the Hokies finished eighth as a team, with sophomore Taylor Crosson taking the top spot for the Hokies with a 26th overall finish out of 104 runners. She finished the 6K course in 21:20.5, while senior Sammy Dow finished 34th.