London was calling to several Hokie athletes this past weekend as they competed in trials to qualify for this year’s summer Olympic games.
Virginia Tech sent five student-athletes each to the track and field trials in Eugene, Ore. and the diving trials in Federal Way, Wash. Tech’s swimmers are poised to compete for a spot on the team over this coming week as well.
“Since these athletes are collegians, they’re mostly focused on the college season, so going out and competing with the best athletes in the country is icing on the cake for them,” said Dave Cianelli, head track coach.
Although several members of the track team came close to advancing, none were able to break through. Queen Harrison and Kristi Castlin both made it to the semi-finals of the women’s 100-meter hurdles, but they just missed qualifying for the final.
The men had similarly excruciating finishes, as Keith Ricks missed advancing beyond the preliminaries by just one spot with a 22nd place finish, while Darrell Wesh finished 31st.
“There’s nothing bigger than the Olympics,” Ricks said. “It only comes around once every four years, so just the opportunity to compete in the trials is amazing.”
The trials were a familiar stage for a graduate like Ricks, but for Wesh, a rising junior, the experience was more daunting.
“I had to tell (Wesh) that he was exposed to all the same things the professionals were,” said Charles Foster, sprints, hurdles, and jumps coach. “He handled it well for a youngster, but it was definitely still intimidating.”
The presence of some of the sport’s elite athletes was especially overwhelming.
“I saw Justin Gatlin in our hotel, and I was in awe,” Wesh said. “It’s funny to think that we were competing with those guys.”
While these track stars may be threatening to the younger players, they also represent inspiration for these athletes at the beginning of their careers.
“They really show you where things can head to,” Ricks said. “They were in my shoes just a few years ago, and I think that motivates us all.”
Although none of the athletes were able to advance, coaches were still pleased with their effort.
“The coaching staff is all really proud of these guys,” Foster said. “They re-wrote the record books here at Tech and this was a good experience for them.”
The diving team experienced similar bittersweet success at their trials.
Kaylea Arnett, Ryan Hawkins, Logan Kline, Logan Shinholser and Kelli Stockton all competed for Tech, while Hawkins, Kline and Shinholser recorded top ten finishes in their events. However, none were able to qualify for the team.
Hawkins and Shinholser were able to place fourth in the men’s synchronized platform event to highlight the week, while Shinholser was also able to place fifth in the senior men’s platform event.
“The United States is known as one of the best teams in the world at swimming and diving, so the competition is really strong and deep at these trials,” said Ned Skinner, head swimming coach.