Redshirt junior Steve Finley was a member of Virginia’s 4x800m relay team that earned the program its first Championship of America relay title since 1943 at the Penn Relays this past weekend. Primarily a 3000m steeplechaser, Finley ran a 1:50.75 800m split on the third leg of the relay and moved Virginia into a razor-thin first place heading into the final handoff. The Cavaliers’ quartet of senior Alex Bowman, sophomore Lance Roller, Finley and freshman Robby Andrews combined for a time of 7:15.38 to narrowly edge Oregon (7:15.55) and finish with the carnival’s fastest time in six years.
Their time is also currently ranked as the fastest 4x800m relay time in the world this season.
Virginia will return to action Thursday, heading to Liberty’s Twilight Qualifier, and Saturday, with select Cavaliers going to Stanford to compete.
Question: What does this Penn Relays title mean to you?
Finley: Well, I am able to cross of a goal that I think all college middle distance runners have. Strangely enough, it’s having the ability to raise a meaningless wooden wheel in front of 50,000 people. The title shows the depth of our team and the commitment we have had this whole year. I will be very proud of this achievement, but I also am excited to see Virginia come home with more than one next year.Question: Primarily a steeplechaser, how did you get talked into running an 800?
Finley: Talked into? I was lucky to get a spot on the relay. Our team is becoming one of the best middle distance programs on the east coast, and maybe the country, with top recruits like Robby Andrews, Brett Johnson, Zach Vrhovac, Taylor Gilland, Luke Noble and TJ Hobart. With these guys being only freshmen, and Andrew Lobb an All-ACC 800m runner injured, I was lucky to get the spot.Question: How did you feel after the race?
Finley: Terrible. I made it halfway through our victory lap and then spent some time near a trashcan on the backstretch in front of 25,000 people. It will probably be a good memory in like five years.Question: Talk a little bit about the atmosphere of Penn Relays.
Finley: This year was the 116th running of the Penn Relays and every year it brings athletes from high school, college and professional levels to one place to compete in relay events. The three days of the carnival are a track fan’s dream, with the biggest names in the sport - like Usain Bolt - coming to compete. It is an honor to run on the track there and the history and records of the relays are well recorded. This allows you to compare yourself and your team to teams from 50-100 years ago, which is unique to track and field.Question: Was that the biggest race you’ve ever raced in?
Finley: This was the biggest race I have competed in on a relay. Individually though, I ran the steeplechase at the US Championships in Eugene, Ore., allowing me to line up next to the top-25 runners in the country in my event.Question: When you passed the baton to Robby, you were in the lead – not by much, but still in the lead. Knowing who he was up against, at what point did you realize that Virginia was going to win?
Finley: When I saw Andrew Wheating and Ryan Foster both start to move with over 200m to go, I knew Robby was going to have a great chance to win.Question: What was your reaction when he crossed the finish line?
Finley: Lance and I just looked at each other and couldn’t believe it. With that close of a race it’s hard to come to grips with the result so quickly and we were just stunned.Question: The excitement of big races is over for a couple weeks. What are you focused on now to get ready for the remainder of the season?
Finley: I’m going to relax and get back into training for now. I think I have a fast steeple coming up before Regionals, but I still have to talk to coach Vigilante.Question: In honor of your ability to compete in various events, if you could choose to be anybody on the team, who would you want to be, and why?
Finley: I’d like to a GOOD thrower like Megan Briggs because somehow she’s always done with her event before I even get to the meet and sometimes she gets home before I even leave. I would definitely not want to be someone like Enzo (Chiariello).