Coming off of a solid performance at the ACC Championships, in which the men’s team placed seventh and the women’s team took eighth, the Virginia Tech cross country teams are gearing up for the NCAA Southeast Region Championships
Despite the youth on both teams, they hope to place in the top seven or eight at this weekend’s Regionals. Although this finish would not give Tech an NCAA Championships berth, it would provide experience for the underclassmen on both teams, and would prepare them for next year.
“We redshirted our top five men this year, so we have been racing a lot of young guys on the men’s side,” said Ben Thomas, head coach. “It just fits what they are doing academically and it gives us a chance to have them all together for the next two years. It gives us a chance to win some ACC Championships down the road.”
According to senior Eddie Judge, redshirting these top players was a strategic move that will allow the men’s team to be very successful in the next few years.
“I like the decision because I think it’s going to make the team so much better in the future,” Judge said. “We could win multiple ACC Championships.”
On the women’s side, Thomas is also excited about upcoming years. There are a total of 16 freshmen on the women’s team, and freshmen runners Paige Kvartunas, Madalyn Nuckols and Courtney Dobbs are promising for the team. According to Dobbs, the freshman class can have a significant impact on the future of the women’s team as long as everyone stays committed.
“Four years of not getting hurt and consistently running, keeping up with all the workouts will make you, in this program, one of the best runners in the ACC and maybe in the nation,” Dobbs said.
Sammy Dow, a junior and the top runner on the women’s team, also recognizes the newcomers’ potential.
“This year they are just getting the hang of it. They are doing great this year, but in the future, next year, they’ll have a season of cross and track under their belt,” Dow said. “They’ll have more mileage and better training once they get through this year.”
Looking forward to this weekend, Thomas does not expect a top-2 finish at regionals, which is needed for a team to continue on to the NCAA Championships. However, there is still an opportunity for individuals to advance. The top 4 finishers not on a qualifying team continue on to nationals, which according to Thomas is a challenge in such a competitive region.
“On the women’s side I think our best hopes would be Paige or Sammy. It’s going to take a tremendous race by either of them. It’s very difficult to make it as an individual,” Thomas said.
“Individually, I’d like to get all-region which would be top-25,” Dow said. “As a team, ideally, nationals, but it would be nice to get fifth considering the number of ranked teams in our region.”
Thomas is continuing to focus on this weekend, despite the excitement surrounding the future of the program. In preparation, both teams will be working to fine tune, eat healthy and get lots of rest.
“It’s been a long season, but I think they are ready to have their best race yet,” Thomas said.