track Apr. 2

Freshman pole vaulter Lisa Gunnarsson breaks the outdoor school record and sets the No. 1 mark in the nation at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas.

The Virginia Tech track program was back at it this weekend coming off the opening meets of its 2018 season. The sprinters, jumpers and pole vaulters competed at the Texas Relays, while the throwers headed south to take part in the Florida Relays. Competing for the first time this season, the distance team took part in the Raleigh Relays.

Thursday

Senior Greg Chiles got the action started for the Hokies on Thursday as he placed third overall out of 83 athletes in the 400-meter hurdle prelims. Chiles went on to place third overall again on Friday in the 400-meter hurdle finals with a time of 50.77 seconds.

The only other Hokie who was active on Thursday was sophomore Matthew Reinhart in the javelin throw at the Florida Relays. Reinhart placed ninth overall with a career-best 62.00 meter throw.

Friday

Friday’s action began with disappointment for the Hokies, as the promising 4x100-meter relay team of Kennedy Dennis, Courtney Blanden, Arlicia Bush and Caitlin Tate failed to advance past the prelims. The squad clocked in at 45.75 but were up against four teams ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA team standings.

Things brightened for the Hokies as sophomore Eszter Bajnok tied a school record in the long jump with a 6.13 meter mark at the Texas Relays. Bajnok now owns a piece of the Virginia Tech outdoor track records in the long jump and triple jump.

Rachel Baxter kept things going on the women’s side, as her 4.15 meter score in the pole vault was good for fourth place overall. The freshman from Orange, California, was competing in her first NCAA outdoor event.

The quartet of Blanden, Tate, Dennis and Bush came back strong in the women’s 4x400-meter relay with a third-place finish in prelims. The team clocked in at 3:38.88 and advanced to the final rounds.

On the men’s side, the squad of Chiles, Brandon Thomas, Jared Bane and Michael Davenport placed eighth in the 4x4000-meter prelims. The relay’s time of 3:10.11 was the fifth-fastest of any Tech outdoor team and qualified the team for the final round.

Meanwhile in Florida, the women’s throwers were performing phenomenally in the discus and hammer throw. Coming off a personal best at the Baskin Weems Invitational last weekend, senior Lindsay Herra placed third overall in the discus with a throw of 47.87 meters. Herra’s mark is a new personal best by over three feet.

In the women’s hammer throw, sophomore Emma Thor won the event for the second straight weekend as she came in with a score of 62.86 meters. Pavla Kuklova (62.49 meters) and Kajsa Wennberg (57.23 meters) placed second and eighth in the event, as the Hokies trio continued to perform admirably.

“Just like last week, they were all very focused and put together extremely consistent series,” said throws coach Andrew Dubs to HokieSports. “When you go to these early season meets, the big things you want to accomplish are consistency in the series.”

In Friday’s action at the Texas Relays, Stefanie Aeschlimann recorded a 12.96 meter score in the triple jump to place third overall. The freshman from Germany now ranks second in the Tech record book behind sophomore Bajnok.

“Both opened their outdoor seasons in stellar fashion,” said jumps coach Paul Zalewski to HokieSports. “It really bodes well for what I think these two can accomplish the rest of the season.”

In Raleigh, distance runners Sara Freix (34:36.65) and Kayla Richardson (34.59.15) placed 14th and 23rd in the women’s 10,000-meter event. Freix’s time is the sixth-fastest score in school history. On the men’s side, cross-country standout Peter Seufer ran a time of 29:40.44 in the men’s 10,000 meter event and placed 24th overall. 

Saturday

Senior thrower Marek Barta started off the day with a bang for the Hokies, as the Czech Republic native placed first overall in the men’s discuss with a 61.13 meter throw.

In similar fashion, Lisa Gunnarsson was the top collegiate competitor in the women’s university elite pole vault as she scored a 4.60 meter vault. Gunnarsson’s mark is the new school record and currently ranks first in the NCAA.

The women’s 4x400-meter relay team improved on its prelim time and placed third overall as Blanden, Dennis, Tate and Bush came in with a 3:37.94. The time is the best on the season for the squad and ranks eighth in the Tech record book.

In the final event of the Texas Relays, men’s pole vaulters Deakin Volz (5.50 meters) and Torben Laidig (5.35 meters) placed sixth and 11th. Pole vault will be a strength for the Hokies as the season continues.

Overall, it was a successful weekend for the Hokies in only the second weekend of the season. Several school records were set, and various Hokies placed highly in their events. Emma Thor continued her success by winning the hammer throw for the second straight weekend and Gunnarsson’s incredible performance in the pole vault puts the freshman among the nation’s best. As the distance team progresses and sprinters continue to put up consistent times, the Tech program will look to establish itself alongside the top teams in the NCAA.

“Overall an excellent weekend for our team,” said director of track and field Dave Cianelli to HokieSports. “We have to continue to improve every day as we get prepared for our championship meets.”

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