Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 3 | January 2019

40 Inside Hokie Sports By most programs’ standards, the 2018 season would have been considered an overwhelming success. After all, the Hokies’ track and field teams each scored more than 100 points at the ACC Outdoor Championships, the Tech men’s team finished fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships, and the women’s squad came in 10th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The men’s distance medley relay team of Vincent Ciattei, Greg Chiles, Patrick Joseph and Neil Gourley won the national championship. Thirteen athletes earned All-America honors during the indoor season and 12 during the outdoor season. But the Tech programs judge success by championships. For the first time since 2014 – and despite the men’s team scoring 100 points at both league meets and the women’s team scoring 100 at the league’s outdoor meet – neither Tech squad won an ACC team title. That only makes both hungrier for the upcoming season. Both want to add to the collection of Tech’s ACC team titles – track and field currently accounts for 12 of them. The Tech men will be relying on youth, as all four members of the DMR team departed. So, too, did All-America pole vaulter Torben Laidig and All-America thrower Marek Barta. The women’s team needs to find replacements as well, with Katie Kennedy graduating and a couple of other athletes transferring. But the returning athletes and the staff feel confident. And with that said, here is a closer look at both squads: DISTANCE MEN TOP RETURNERS Peter Seufer, Diego Zarate, Fitsum Seyoum, Jack Joyce NEWCOMERS Brian Baker, Matthias Cannon, Clint Gault, Matthew Harding, Ryan Hughes, Ben Nibbelink, Eldon Phillips OVERVIEW The Hokies suffered some heavy personnel losses following last season with the departures of Ciattei, Gourley, Joseph and Daniel Jaskowak. Ciattei, Gourley and Joseph teamed with Chiles to win the national championship in the distance medley relay at last year’s NCAA indoor meet. Ciattei, in particular, was fantastic all year, earning a silver medal in the mile at the NCAA indoor meet and a silver medal in the 1,500 at the NCAA outdoor meet. Seuferfigurestobetheleaderofthisyounggroupafterwinningbronze medals in the 3,000 and 5,000 at the ACC Indoor Championships last February and then dominating this fall in cross country. The redshirt junior won the ACC’s individual title in cross country, finished second at the NCAA Southeast Regional, and then earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships. Zarate gives the Hokies plenty of experience as well. A senior, he is a four-time ACC medalist in the middle distances and earned a bid to the NCAA Championships during the outdoor season last June. Seyoum, a redshirt sophomore, won the bronze medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the ACC’s outdoor meet in May and ran well this fall during the cross country season, while Joyce, a redshirt junior, scored in the 3,000 at last year’s ACC indoor meet. Matt Harding, a transfer from UNC Asheville, hopefully can bolster this group, having won the 800 at both Big South Championship meets as a freshman in 2016. Also, Tech will need some big performances from its true sophomores to continue its recent successes in distance running – a group that includes Thierry Siewe Yanga, Bashir Mosavel- Lo, Osman Humeida, Ben Fleming and Dave Whitfield. All gained experience last season at the ACC Championships (both indoor and outdoor), and the staff loves their potential. WOMEN TOP RETURNERS Rachel Pocratsky, Lauren Berman, Ellie Brush, Sarah Edwards, Sara Freix, Shannon Quinn, Kayla Richardson, Cate Stone NEWCOMERS Olivia Duston, Allie Zolkiewicz OVERVIEW Tech lost Kennedy off last season’s squad, but the Hokies return a lot of talent and experience and will be led by senior All-American Rachel Pocratsky. Pocratsky won three gold medals at ACCmeets last season, sweeping the 800 at both and also winning the 1,500 at the outdoor meet. She earned All-America honors in the 800 at both NCAA Championships and goes into this season as a legitimate national title contender. Edwards, a junior, could become as accomplished as Pocratsky. She earned All-America honors as a freshman in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and again last year as a member of that DMR team that finished third. She is a four-time ACC medalist, including a gold that she won in the steeplechase as a freshman. Berman scored in the 5,000 at last year’s ACC outdoor meet and ran well this fall in cross country, while Freix earned both All-ACC and All-Southeast Region honors in cross country this fall – by far the best fall of her career. These two could be on the ACC podium in any long- distance event. The rest of the group could score points at each ACC Championships. If the Hokies want to win an ACC title this year – and they possess a lot of talent – then they need big performances from their distance runners. DISTANCE COACH ERIC JOHANNIGMEIER’S TAKE “Every year, we’re trying to be in the hunt to win that ACC title, and if we’re going to be in the hunt, the distance group is going to have to play a substantial role and contributing to the team’s score. I think really continuing to build and have that success in the distance events and win that ACC team title is going to be the goal both indoors and outdoors … We should have really competitive teams, and I think the goal is looking at the team and what we can do as a team at the ACC Championships. If we have success at the ACC Championships, then that usually leads to success at the NCAA Championships.” IN THE STARTING BLOCKS The Virginia Tech track and field teams always are chasing ACC titles, and both the coaches and the athletes feel confident about their chances of returning to the top of the ACC, as the season gets underway by Jimmy Robertson RACHEL POCRATSKY