For the first time since 2008, Virginia Tech won the ACC Women’s Indoor Championship in Track and Field. The team traveled to Notre Dame from February 27-29 and earned a huge comeback victory to take home the conference crown.
“We’ve been close a couple of times at indoors in the past, and to finally put it together this year and win that championship on the women’s side was very satisfying,” said Dave Cianelli, director of the track and field and cross country. “Those seniors had won an outdoor title as freshmen, so they knew what it took and how the conference meet really is a different animal, so I think having those seniors helped with the leadership quite a bit.”
The women’s team started the final day of competition in fifth place with just 25.5 total team points. However, on Saturday, the Hokies dominated and put up 80 points to grab the landslide victory.
“If you have a strong Friday in the qualifying races and you qualify the people that you expect and maybe some that you didn’t, you don’t necessarily have to be in the lead after the second day,” Cianelli said. “The majority of the scoring happens on Saturday, and we were able to take advantage.”
The Hokies’ main contributor on the women’s side was junior Caitlan Tate. Early on Saturday, Tate was able to earn a victory in the 400 meters with a time of 52.42. Then, she followed that up with a second-place finish in the 200 meters, finishing in 23.38 seconds.
“[Tate] had an outstanding meet and has had an outstanding season so far; she had been running like this during the season because she’s been healthy and has committed herself to being a 200 and 400 runner,” Cianelli said. “Going back to the fall, we really saw a different mindset with her, and we saw from day one, she was putting down times, and we knew she was capable of doing this.”
Although the women’s team stole the show in South Bend with their victory, the men’s team was successful as well. The Hokies fell just short of back-to-back indoor ACC titles. After sharing the championship with Florida State in 2019, Tech finished second to the Seminoles in the 2020 competition.
“We knew going in that Florida State would be the team to beat, it’s usually us and them,” Cianelli said. “We also knew that we would need to have virtually a perfect meet to have a shot at winning, and we did that last year at outdoors. We knew we were capable of doing that, but we didn’t due to a couple of injuries and a few people not placing as high as we thought they would.”
The Hokies have relied on the contributions of sophomore Jacory Patterson since he arrived on campus last fall. His accomplishments have been nothing short of spectacular during his first two seasons. The sprinter broke the U-20 World Record in the 300 meters during his first collegiate meet.
Patterson won gold at the ACC Indoor Championships last year in the 400 meters and defended his title this year. He has now won gold at both indoor ACC meets he has participated in, as well as the 2019 outdoor meet.
“[Patterson] is an extremely talented young man, and we’ve seen that since the day that he got here,” Cianelli said. “We enjoy seeing him compete; he’s very gifted, but along with that he also works extremely hard. He wants to be world class, and I believe he will be as long as he stays healthy; he’s kind of knocking on that door right now.”
A familiar name to most Hokie fans is sophomore Cole Beck. The Blacksburg native is also a member of the football team and has balanced both sports throughout his two years on campus. He broke out at Notre Dame as well, finishing fourth in both the 60-meter dash and the 200 meters.
“[Beck] has done a great job balancing out football responsibilities, and we have a great relationship with the football staff,” Cianelli said. “During this part of the season before they start spring ball, we’re getting him quite a bit, which is great, but he’s still a part-time track athlete. What he’s been able to accomplish while not being full-time is really remarkable.”
Now, both teams turn their attention to the NCAA Championships this week in Albuquerque, NM. The Hokies will compete from March 13-14 against the best of the best in the nation. It will be a tough challenge for the Hokies, but an opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage.
“We want them to go out and compete like they did at conference,” Cianelli said. “It’s exciting to be at a national meet, and the quality of the meet continues to get better and better, but what I’d like to see is that they go and are able to block out the distractions and focus on what they’re doing.”