A controversial disqualification cost the men’s track and field team an Atlantic Coast Conference title this past weekend at home in the Rector Fieldhouse.
The call was made in the men’s 3,000-meter event Saturday, where sophomore Will Mulherin initially won the event before officials determined that he pushed a Florida State runner, thus disqualifying the Virginia Tech sophomore.
According to Tech track and field head coach Dave Cianelli, the call was questionable at best and could have gone either way.
“Whether I or anybody else thinks it was a good call is something we’re going to have to live with,” Cianelli said. “It’s a judgment call on the part of the official. What I saw was the Florida State runner tried to cut in without enough room, and Will put his hand out to try to keep from falling. I didn’t agree with the call but I’m not going to dwell on it and say that it cost us the meet.”
Running referee Richard Messenger explained the call in a statement after the meet.
“The Virginia Tech athlete pushed another athlete as they were entering the bell lap, causing him to break stride. This is a violation of Rule 5-5-3a. The resulting action was a disqualification of the Virginia Tech athlete,” Messenger said.
The disqualification cost the Hokies 10 points and awarded Florida State two extra points when its runner received credit for a second place finish, rather than a third.
The point swing left the Hokies with 97 instead of 107 total points at the end of the meet, while the Seminoles finished with 107 total points, instead of the 105 they would have finished with had Mulherin not been disqualified.
The University of North Carolina finished in second place with a score of 103.5.
Despite a controversial end to the men’s events, a women’s third-place finish and several record-breaking performances on both ends left Cianelli with a lot to be pleased about when the weekend was over.
“I’m really happy with how our athletes performed,” Cianelli said.
The men’s team was actually in first place following the competition Friday, credited mostly to the strong competition of the weight throwers.
Freshman thrower Alexander Ziegler won the ACC title while also setting a personal best of 73-10.25. He’ll move on in two weeks to compete in the NCAA championship.
“I’m pretty happy that I won my first ACC meet,” Ziegler said. “I have to fix some things. I lost a little technique a little bit, to get ready for NCAA meet in two weeks and I should be fine. I had three throws over my old (personal record). That is an awesome
Friday’s meet also brought a minor scare to the men’s team, however. Sophomore standout sprinter Keith Ricks was injured during the preliminary race of the 200-meter event after he felt his hamstring “twinge.”
“About halfway into the race, he pulled up and the doctors checked him out and everything,” Cianelli said. “He’s pretty healthy since it wasn’t a strain or a pull, which obviously would have been a longer rehab. It was smart that he stopped because if he hadn’t it may have been much worse than it was.”
Ricks did not compete in Saturday’s meet and will begin rehabbing his injury this week. Cianelli is hopeful Ricks can compete in the NCAA meet.
“He did the right thing,” Cianelli said. “Thankfully it wasn’t anything serious that’s going to keep him out for a long period of time.”
On the women’s side, senior Queen Harrison continued her dominant season by winning the 60-meter hurdles while also setting another ACC record in the event.
Harrison set a new conference meet record with a time of 7.99 seconds Friday during the preliminary round and lowered the mark to 7.94 seconds later on. Harrison set the Tech school record with her new time, beating the previous time of 7.96 seconds.