April 18, 2007
The men's and women's track and field teams open competition at the 2007 Outdoor Atlantic Coast Conference Championships on Thursday at Kehoe Track Complex located on the campus of the University of Maryland. The Cavaliers already boast an impressive 12 qualifiers for the NCAA East Regional meet and look to add to that total this weekend.
"We gave our teams goals," said Virginia head coach Randy Bungard, "and one team goal for each squad is to score 70 points. In the past, that score puts us in the top half of the conference, and that is a very attainable and realistic goal for us. Certainly, we will have to have some performers do their part, but these teams are very capable of achieving these goals. We as a staff are charging each group to score a certain number of points. It's a team competition, and one for which this team is ready."
The men's team looks to claim a place on the podium this year after a fourth place finish in 2006. The Cavalier distance squad scored 78 points from the 800 meters up to the 10,000 meter run last year, with fourth-years Andrew Dumm (5,000 meters) and Ryan Foster (10,000 meters) both claiming ACC Championships. The women finished sixth last year, and look to continue their climb back to the top of the ACC.
On the men's side, third-year Reuben Jones (Charlottesville, Va.) is Virginia's top short sprinter as he has already qualified for the IC4A Championships in both the 100 meters and the 200 meters. In the 1,500 meter run, Cavaliers occupy four of the top six spots in the ACC. Fourth-year Jan Foerster (Hamburg, GER), fifth-year Kevin McHale (Fairfax, Va.), second-year Andrew Jesien (Bethesda, Md.), and second-year Kevin Tschirhart (Northport, N.Y.) all will compete in the 1,500 meters at ACCs. Foerster, McHale, and Jesien all have qualified for the NCAA regional meet, while Tschirhart looks to shave .21 off of his fastest time to qualify. Foerster also has the second fastest time in the steeplechase, an event in which he qualified for the NCAA meet a year ago.
In the 5,000 meters, fourth-years Taylor Smith (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) and Ryan Foster (Stephens City, Va.) both are ranked in the top ten in the ACC along with first-year Trey Miller (Winston-Salem, N.C.). Virginia also returns the reigning ACC Champion in fourth-year Andrew Dumm (Fairfax, Va.) and last-year's third place finisher in second-year Andy Biladeau (Lutz, Fla.). Dumm, Biladeau, Foster, and Smith are all candidates to double in the 10,000 meters and the 5,000 meters this weekend. Dumm and Biladeau have the second and third fastest times in the 10,000 meters this season, while Smith and fourth year Matt Gambale (Alexandria, Va.) are both ranked in the top ten as well.
In the field events, first-year Arthur Gennari (Housatonic, Mass.) is ranked sixth in the high jump and looks to improve upon his best jump of 6' 6.75". In the throwing events, second-year standout and NCAA regional qualifier Yemi Ayeni (Kendall Park, N.J.) boasts the longest discus throw in the ACC by an incredible fifteen feet. Ayeni smashed the school record earlier this season with his throw of 198' 3" and looks to break the 200 feet mark this weekend. Joining him in the discus will be first-year Eric Pickle (Knoxville, Tenn.), who tossed a 150 foot throw to rank ninth coming into this weekend. Ayeni also comes in with the sixth best shot put this season in the ACC. Also competing in the field events will be third-year David Lewis (Centreville, Va.). Lewis comes into the meet ranked in the top ten in the pole vault and is also ranked third in the decathlon.
"We will expect our middle distance and distance men to score for us," said Bungard, "and they showed last year they could do that. The rest of our team will be able to rally around these men and build off their performances; certainly Yemi Ayeni has shown that he can be a leader for the throws group. For our men, 70 points is very attainable."
On the women's side, third-year Janne'a Bridgeford (Upper Darby, Pa.) will compete in the 100 meters, an event in which she has already qualified for the ECAC meet. Second-year Sara Casscells (Wilmington, Del.) is ranked in the top ten in both the 800 and 1,500 meters. Casscells and fourth-year Janine Ricci (Maple Glen, Pa.) have both run ECAC qualifiers in the 1,500 meters. Ricci will compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, an event in which she held the top time in the country for a period earlier this season. She will be joined by NCAA East Regional qualifier Stephanie Garcia (South Riding, Va.), who ranks sixth overall coming into this weekend. Cross Country All-American Kara Scanlin (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) will compete in the 5,000 meter run, an event in which she has already regional qualified. In the 10,000 meters, third-years Emily Harrison (Front Royal, Va.) and Katie Read (Arlington, Va.) have both provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships and come into this weekend with the fourth and fifth fastest times in the ACC.
In the hurdles, the Cavaliers have two ECAC qualifiers in Keshia Ashe (Hampton, Va.) in the 100 meter high hurdles and Ayla Smith (Winchester, Va.) in the 400 meter intermediate hurdles. Leading the hurdling corps is fourth-year All-American Erin Crawford. Crawford has already qualified for the regional meet in the 400 intermediate hurdles and has the second fastest time in the ACC this season.
Both the 4x100 meter relay and the 4x400 meter relay have also qualified for the ECAC championships and both are ranked in the top seven in the ACC this season.
In the field events, fourth-year Tomika Ferguson (Evergreen, Va.) has the sixth best long jump and the third best triple jump in the ACC. She will be joined in the jumps by ECAC qualifier Katie Tershel (Canonsburg, Pa.). In the throwing events, first-year Meghan Briggs (Palmyra, Pa.), an NCAA regional qualifier in the javelin, will look to improve upon her third place ranking coming into this weekend. Second-years Alexa Manning (Coram, N.Y.) and Amy Bilmanis (Hughesville, Md.) will be looked upon to provide scoring in the shot put and discus throws respectively. Both have qualified for ECACs in their respective events. The women will be without the services of two-time All-American Billie-Jo Grant, who is redshirting the 2007 outdoor season.
"Obviously, not having an athlete like Billie-Jo is tough," said Bungard. "We will miss her ability, to be sure, but just as importantly we will miss her leadership. However, 70 points is still very attainable for this group. We have a number of ranked athletes across disciplines, including All-Americans in the hurdles, jumps, and distances."
Exclusive three-day coverage of the ACC Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be available for fans to watch at 8 p.m. ET nightly from Thurs., April 19 through Sat., April 21 and on an on-demand basis. Thursday and Friday's coverage will consist of recaps of 30 minutes or more showcasing the highlights and triumphs from the majority of the day's competition, with events that begin later in the evening being part of the following day's show. Saturday's show will feature a recap of all of the day's events, including the awards presentation.
Viewers can watch the same-day recap shows with an All Event Pass ($9.99 per month) or on a per-event basis ($3.99 per event).
ACC Select is a new broadband network that gives fans exclusive video access to the sports they love, the teams they care about and the games not available anywhere else. With full-screen video delivered right to the computer, ACC Select provides front row access to events whenever fans want--live or on-demand replay. Fans can go to www.accselect.com for complete details and see their sports in a whole new way.
Live results can be accessed via flashresults.com. Virginiasports.com will also have live commentary on races and events.