The Spiders raced on the Hokies’ track at the Virginia Tech Invitational this weekend, finishing with a four by four women’s relay best time in the A-10 and marking the beginning of the men’s team’s last competitive season at the University of Richmond.
“For all of us, this is the most important indoor season of our lives because what we do here and now is how the team will be remembered,” sophomore Matthew Groff said.
Most of the members of the men’s and women’s track and field teams run cross-country in the fall, Groff said. During cross-country, Groff said, runners race with their heads, but this changes when the distance is considerably shortened.
“When you move into indoor track, it’s very much a tactical race,” Groff said. “I compare it to NASCAR sometimes—you adjust to where to be at what time in the race.”
Groff, sophomore Justin Keefe and senior Jason Skipper placed first, second and third in their 800-meter heat, which led them to fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes overall. Groff ran a 1:57.7, Keefe ran a 1:59.69 and Skipper ran a 1:59.72.
Other notable performers included junior Ryan Lee, who ran a 14:51.83 in his 5,000-meter heat, freshman Matthew Baruin, who ran an 8:56.50 in his 3,000-meter heat, Groff, who ran a 2:29.45 in his 1,000-meter heat and junior Patrick Love, who ran a 4:30.66 in his mile heat.
“The highlight for the women was our sprinters coming out and breaking two school records in the four by four relay and in the 300-meter,” junior Alyson McGonigle said. “They had been going through a lot with coaching changes and had just started with their new coach in the beginning of last week.”
The four by 400-meter relay team, which includes freshman Mary Allen, freshman Jade Gregory, sophomore Amber Young and sophomore Deborah Fajuyigbe, placed sixth, having beaten two teams from Charlotte. Charlotte also competes in the Atlantic 10 conference, McGonigle said, so the team’s time of 3:52.06 is currently the fastest in that relay in the A-10.
Other notable women’s performances included Allen, who placed fifth with a time of 40.01 in the 300-meter and sophomore Taylor Clevinger, who ran a 2:54.94 in her 1000-meter heat.
“We have a bunch of freshman sprinters that came in, and they bring a whole other aspect to our team,” McGonigle said. “We have really strong distance runners, and now we’re adding the sprinting and the jumping.”
This coming weekend, both the men’s and women’s teams will compete at George Mason University. Usually, the women’s team heads to Navy to compete, McGonigle said, but because this is the men’s last season, they’re trying to stick together as a team.
“It’s always in the back of our minds that this is the guy’s last season,” McGonigle said. “When we travel with them or have the opportunity to compete with them and know that they’re cheering us on, it’s always in the back of our minds that it’s the last time.”
A big goal for the women’s team, McGonigle said, was to do better at the indoor conferences this year than last year. Senior Kyle Ragan said the men’s team had similar goals, the biggest of which was to make the most of their last indoor season.
“Overall, this weekend was everyone getting back into the racing mentality,” Ragan said. “We’re adjusting from the longer cross-country distances to the speed and shorter distances of track and field. We felt some of that this weekend—a lot of the other schools had been on the track for three weeks, and this was our first week back.”
The meet was held in Virginia Tech’s Rector Field House. The Spiders competed against a host of southern schools, including Virginia Tech and Duke, among others.
“At this point, we aren’t running for the administration; we aren’t running because we are getting scholarships to do so and we aren’t running because we have no other option,” Groff said. “We are running for each other, our classmates, our alumni, our professors, our coaches and because we made the choice to stay at this university.”
Contact reporter Anika Kempe at firstname.lastname@example.org