The Virginia Tech men’s track and field team notched a program-best matching fifth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championship on Saturday.
The team has now finished in the top ten in its last three national championship appearances, as it placed eighth in this year’s indoor championship and fifth in last year’s outdoor contest.
“I feel great about the team’s performance,” said senior Michael Hammond. “We came in ranked eighth, so for us to come in and jump up to fifth was just huge.”
The success didn’t end with the team’s honors, however. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named six Hokies first team All-Americans for the 2012 outdoor season.
Hammond, Alexander Ziegler, Matthias Treff, Hasheem Halim, Darrell Welsh and Joe Davis were all recognized for their outstanding efforts during the championship meet.
“This is my second time as an All-American, and it really means a lot,” Treff said. “Results in the javelin (throw) tend to fluctuate a lot, but I think this says something about my consistency.”
Ziegler’s performance at the event was also particularly noteworthy. He earned his second straight NCAA title in the hammer throw and set a personal best in the event.
“Most of the events were really close, but (Ziegler) was just dominating,” said Dave Cianelli, head coach. “The amount he won by was just unheard of, and it definitely showed how hard he’s worked all year.”
While many of the team’s results were certainly impressive, team members felt as if the meet could have gone a little better.
“We definitely didn’t have a perfect meet, it was probably right down the middle for us,” Treff said. “We were still pretty happy about fifth, but we were hoping for fourth.”
Florida took the men’s team title, while LSU, Texas A&M, and Florida State rounded out the top four.
“We were hoping to be in the top four, since those are the trophy winners, but there were definitely some good teams ahead of us,” Hammond said.
Despite this minor disappointment, earning fifth place nationally should help boost the team’s profile.
“I think (this finish) showed that we weren’t one and done after last year,” Cianelli said. “This proved that we can maintain a high level at national meets for years to come and supports the fact that we have some great coaches and student-athletes.”
The team’s performance will also have a positive effect on recruiting.
“It’s big for recruits to be watching on TV and see Virginia Tech up there with the big name programs,” Hammond said. “I think we’ll definitely be on the minds of the track community.”
An infusion of youth will be key for the program’s competitiveness next season, as the team’s roster featured 14 seniors.
“We feel really good about the recruiting class next fall, which is good because we’re graduating so many high quality athletes,” Cianelli said. “We’ll need people to fill the void, whether they’re currently in the program or not.”
Hammond is one of the many seniors departing the team in the near future, and his fourth place finish in the 1,500 meter race was his highest at a national meet.
“This meet was the end of my outdoors career, so it was kind of bittersweet,” Hammond said. “I was really glad to go out on a high note.”
Regardless of the team’s losses, athletes are confident that they can build on this year’s success next season.
“We’re losing a lot of seniors, so it’ll be tough to make another run at the ACC title and a top five finish, but I think we’re up for it,” Treff said.