Virginia Track and Field/Cross Country - A Year In Review

 
 
 

 
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Cross Country Star Looks to Peak in Sixth Year

Virginia Cross Country Squads Ranked Nationally In Preseason Poll

Emily Harrison and Andy Biladeau Named ACC Cross Country Performers of the Week

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July 1, 2007

BY THE NUMBERS

1 - USA Junior National Champion
2- NCAA 14th Place Cross Country Teams
2 - ACC Individual Champions
3 - All-Academic Teams (Men's & Women's Cross Country, Women's Track & Field)
6  - All NCAA Southeast Region Cross Country Honorees
7-  All-USTFCCCA All-Academic Honorees
7 - Virginia School Records Established
10 - NCAA All-Americans
14 - NCAA Track & Field Qualifiers
16 - All-ACC Academic Honorees
19 - All-ACC Honorees
21 - NCAA Regional Qualifying Performances

When Stephanie Garcia broke the tape at the US Junior Championships in June, winning the national title, it put the finishing touches on a phenomenal school year for the Virginia Track & Field and Cross Country program. The outstanding year, which produced 10 All-Americans, saw Virginia representation by both the men's and women's squads at the NCAA championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track. Seven school records were established this season, and both the men's and women's cross country teams advanced to the NCAA Championships in the same season for only the second time in school history.

CROSS COUNTRY

History was established in 2005 as both of the Virginia cross country teams advanced to the NCAA meet, and with 13 of the 14 competitors back for the 2006 campaign, the stage was set for a repeat performance. On the women's side, All-Region honorees Emily Harrison and Kara Scanlin were back, and Katie Read burst onto the scene to give Virginia a powerful 1-2-3 punch. The men featured All-Regional performers Jan Foerster and Andrew Dumm and NCAA track qualifier Andy Biladeau to give them a strong combination up front as well. The two squads continued to mirror each other and feed off that camaraderie all season, starting with phenomenal runs at the Roy Griak Invitational. At the Pre-National meet, the women finished 11th and the men finished 12th, providing a prelude to the remarkable run that would come five weeks later. At the ACC Championships in Charlottesville, the men and the women both finished third behind five All-Conference performances between the two teams. Two weeks later at the Southeast Regional meet, both the men and the women finished fourth, earning at-large bids to the NCAA Championships as Harrison, Scanlin, Read and Laura Hodges all earned All-Region honors for the women while Foerster recorded his third consecutive top-five finish, earning him All-Region honors for the second consecutive year. Dumm also earned All-Region honors, while Biladeau just missed with his 26th place finish.

At the NCAA Championships, Harrison and Scanlin finished two seconds apart and turned in All-America performances to lead the Virginia women to a remarkable 14th-place finish, upsetting 14 teams along the way. Read, with another strong run, finished third for the Cavaliers, who were the second ACC team to finish as they upset ACC Champion N. C. State and also defeated in-state rival Virginia Tech, who had edged them at the Regional meet two weeks prior. The Virginia men also upset 14 ranked teams en route to a 14th place finish, the highest for the UVa men since 1984. Virginia was the highest placing ACC school at the meet and Foerster was the first ACC athlete across the line, narrowly missing All-America honors by a mere 1.5 seconds.

INDOOR TRACK

The indoor season saw the start of an assault on a number of school records, as over the course of the next six months, seven records would fall, and numerous others would be threatened. The records began to tumble with the Women's shot put as Billie-Jo Grant established a new standard with her toss of 52'71/2", a mark that was also an NCAA Provisional qualifying performance. The attack indoors came to a head on March 3 as the Cavaliers split their squad, sending a contingent to compete in the prestigious Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Indiana while others traveled down the road to compete in the Virginia Tech Last Chance meet. In Blacksburg, All-American and former walk-on Tomika Ferguson blew March wide open with a 44-foot triple jump, the first one in Virginia history. That mark stood as the second-longest jump by a collegiate athlete in the 2007 season. Hundreds of miles away in South Bend, the men's distance medley relay team smashed the school record with a 9:35.16. Both performances earned automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.

Virginia sent five student-athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships held in Arkansas, and all five returned to Charlottesville with All-America honors in hand. By virtue of her 8th place finish in the triple jump, Ferguson earned her second All-American citation in as many years. The men's DMR team also earned All-American honors, with Kevin McHale, Brian Lee, Jordan Orr, and Alex Tatu becoming the first male track athletes at Virginia to acheive that distinction during the indoor season since 1994.

OUTDOOR TRACK

While the indoor season closed in March, the assault on school records did not. Yemi Ayeni opened up the outdoor season with a school-record toss in the discus at the Wake Forest Open, starting a string of three consecutive meets in which Ayeni's toss was farther than the school record heading into the year. In seven of the eight meets in which he competed, Ayeni's mark bettered the previous school best. Ironically, the only meet in which he failed to supass that standard was the ACC Championships - a meet he won handily to capture his first individual ACC Championship.

A week after the Wake Forest Open, a group of Cavaliers took the journey west to Stanford where the distance records would be put to the test. Read and Harrison both ran NCAA qualifying times that placed them in the top-five all-time in Virginia history, while Dumm became just the second person at Virginia to run a sub-29-minute 10K with his 28:59.25, a mark that was a less than four seconds off the school record.

Virginia again split the squad the following week, with a group traveling to Texas and another contingent headed to Duke. In Durham, Stephanie Garcia gave the Wahoo faithful a glimpse of the future as she qualified for the NCAA Regional in the steeplechase-in the first race in that event she had ever run. Teammate Jan Foerster also qualified for the NCAA Regionals with the first of his four sub-nine minute performance over the course of the season. Meanwhile, a time zone away in Texas, All-American Billie-Jo Grant hit qualifying marks in both the shot and the discus, further cementing her place in Virginia history. Ayeni continued to dominate in the discus as he became the first Cavalier to hit the 60-meter mark.

The Cavaliers hosted the Lou Onesty/Milton G. Abramson meet two weeks later as Virginia used the meet to prepare for the ACC Championships, which took place a week later. The Hoos easily won the meet on both the women's and the men's side as a number of Cavaliers qualified for the NCAA Regionals, including a trio of 1500m runners as Foerster, McHale and Andrew Jesien not only hit the standard but also placed themselves on the top-10 charts in Virginia history for the event.

At the ACC meet, Ayeni continued his season-long domination of the discus by winning the event. In addition, for a second consecutive year, the Virginia men's distance corps was a dominating force at the meet. After just missing All-America honors in cross country, Foerster put on a daunting performance at ACC's, leading a strong contingent of Cavalier harriers with a first-place finish in the 5K-Virginia's second consecutive 5K title-and a second-place finish in the steeplechase, scoring 18 points by himself. Altogether, four Virginia men-Foerster, McHale, Ryan Foster and Andrew Dumm-scored in two events. The Cavalier men scored 51 points in the four distance events, 32.7% of the possible total and 10 more than the next closest school, N. C. State. On the women's side, five athletes earned All-ACC honors, including Scanlin who finished third in both the 5K and the 10K. Read continued her breakout season by also scoring in both long distance events. Meghan Briggs was the runner-up in the javelin in her first ACC meet, carrying on the tradition of a strong javelin program at Virginia. Erin Crawford and Amy Bimanis also picked up All-ACC honors with 3rd place finishes in the the 400m Hurdles and discus throw respectively.

At the ECAC/IC4A Championships in Princeton two weeks later, both teams finished second in the prestigious meet thanks to a number of season-best performances that indicated the Cavaliers were far from being done with their season. On the men's side, Reuben Jones exploded, winning both the 100m and the 200m as well as helping the men's 4x100 team take the title. Jones qualified for the NCAA East Regional meet with both runs, and the relay team was less than half-a-second off the school record. Ayeni won the discus for the second consecutive season, and it was at this meet that he unleashed a personal best in the shot put to wrest away that school record as well. He broke the twenty-two-year-old record by over eight inches and in doing so qualified for the NCAA East Regional.

On the women's side, school record holder and All-Americans Crawford (400IH) and Ferguson (triple jump) won their respective events, and Read continued her strong season with a title in the 5K. Ferguson's jump of 43' 4.25" was the first time that a Virginia jumper had sailed past 43 feet outdoors, but her jump was wind-aided and would not stand as a record. Crawford helped the 4x400m team qualify for the NCAA Regional with a season-best time, setting the stage for 18 participants to compete in the meet that would determine berths to the national championships.

At the East Regional, Garcia showed the nation she was anything but a rookie, running a phenomenal 10:15.83 in the steeple, which was the third-fastest time in the nation for a true first-year. Her fellow steepler on the men's side, Foerster, took home runner-up honors with a personal-best 8:44.74, just .3 off the no. 2 time in school history. Both qualified easily for the NCAA Championships with their performances. Ayeni also finished second with the farthest throw of his career, a whopping 200' 6" that not only set the school record but also marked the first time that a Cavalier had surpassed the 200-foot mark.

These three would be joined by All-Americans Crawford and Ferguson as well as four 10K runners at the NCAA Championships as Virginia sent three men and six women to Sacramento for the national meet.

Read, who started out the academic year by being a major factor in the Cavaliers' return to the NCAA cross country championships, showed how far she had come with a tenth-place finish at nationals, earning her her first All-America citation. Ayeni also put a nice cap on his season with his first All-America honor with a seventh-place finish in the discus in just his second year as a collegiate athlete. Foerster, who was just 1.5 seconds away from an All-America honor in cross country, made sure of it this time around as he blew away the school record with a 8:34.78 in the steeplechase, bettering the old record by over four seconds while taking sixth nationally. Foerster's time marked the seventh event of the year in which a school record fell, the most since 2001.

The Virginia steeplers were not done, however. Two weeks later Garcia stepped back onto the track to compete in the US Junior National Championships. Racing against the top young steeplers in the nation, the first-year blew away her competition, leading from the start and dominating the race en route to winning the national championship-in her first year running the event. Garcia became Virginia's seventh national champion and first since 2001 when Kiamesha Otey won the long jump. She will represent Virginia and the USA at the Junior Pan Am Games in Brazil in July.

The three All-Americans in the outdoor season gave the Virginia track and field/cross country program ten for the 2006-07 academic year, the most since 1982. The Cavaliers earned All-America recognition in five of the six seasons, missing out only in men's cross country-and even there Virginia was less than two seconds away from such an honor. Hoos earned All-America honors on the track and on the field, in jumps and distance events, in relays and throws. The foundation is solid for the Cavalier track and field/cross country programs for years to come.

ACADEMICS

The Cavaliers also achieved success in the classroom, as three teams (men's cross country, women's cross country, and women's track and field) earned All-Academic honors from the USTFCCCA. Individual honors were highlighted by Andrew Dumm, who was named a Fulbright Scholar, the first one in the history of the Virginia track and field/cross country program. Dumm was also honored as a third-team National Academic All-American and a first-team All-State Academic honoree. He also earned National Academic Honors from the USTFCCCA in both cross country and track and field. Katie Read also earned national honors in both disciplines, and Janine Ricci and Katie Tershel also earned the recognition. The Cavaliers were also recognized with 16 ACC All-Academic honorees, including three--Dumm, Jan Foerster and Katie Read--who earned the honor in both cross country and track and field. Amy Bilmanis, Kellen Blassingame, Ryan Foster, Stephanie Garcia, Billie-Jo Grant, Andrew Jesien, Kara Scanlin, Ayla Smith, and Taylor Smith were also honored.