TOBIN: Building off the big meet
Perhaps one of my favorite experiences of my first year at the University was covering the men’s and women’s track and field teams’ first home meet of the season.
Dubbed the “U.Va. Quad,” the event featured Columbia, Pennsylvania and Maryland coming to Lannigan Field on a mid-April Friday afternoon. The most defining characteristic of the day was the wind. Not only did the wind make it almost impossible to hear others without shouting, but it also gave me windburn — which I didn’t even know was possible.
Despite the difficult weather, Coach Bryan Fetzer remained in a good mood throughout the meet. Sporting bright Cavalier orange pants and a warm smile, Fetzer consistently cheered on his squad and joked with players and coaches throughout the day.
Fetzer’s positive attitude seemed to positively affect his team. In the meet, Cavaliers put on a clinic, with the then-No. 3 men winning seven events and the women winning eight events. Both teams ultimately ended up sweeping the competition and winning the meet.
“Everybody is starting to click,” Fetzer said following last year’s meet. “We had some great positions. It’s all building to the championship time.”
Roughly a year later, Virginia once again hosted the U.Va. Quad this past weekend. Just like last year, the teams did not fail to meet expectations.
Just as he had throughout the indoor season, sophomore Oghenakpobo Efekoro stole the show at this year’s meet for the No. 5 men’s teams. With a personal best throw of 20.39 meters in shot put, Efekoro not only won the event, but he also put up the best throw in the nation for this season. Additionally, Efekoro broke the Lannigan Field record in the event set by junior Filip Mihaljevic two years prior, with the throw placing him second in Cavalier history.
Redshirt freshman Matthew Novak, sophomore Charles Bowman, junior Jeff Jernigan and senior Henry Wynne all picked up wins in their individuals events. Additionally, a team of Bowman, sophomore Jake Dixon, junior Logan Carrington and senior Nathan Kiley rounded out the meet with a win in the 4x400 relay. Like last year, the Cavalier men swept the meet.
“It was great to get some wins in front of our home fans, friends and families," Fetzer said. “[The team knows] it can be a special season but we need to stay focused on the task at hand, realizing it is a long process with ups and downs. We still have some work to do between the ears."
The women’s teams also repeated their solid performance from last year. Although the Cavaliers lost to Penn this year, they picked up solid victories over Maryland and Columbia with scores of 75-63 and 104-25, respectively. Led by an impressive personal best time from Ciara Leonard in the 100-meter hurdles, Virginia won a total of five events.
"We continue to have improvement each week with different event groups," Fetzer said. “Individually, everyone needs to figure out what they need to focus on in the coming weeks to give themselves [the] best opportunity for success. It's about getting better every day in every way."
Despite slight variations in results from last year’s meet to this meet, the men’s and women’s track and field teams are very similar. Just like last season, the men’s team is one of the nation’s best, and the women’s teams shows a lot of promise. Again, the men have one of the best throwers in the nation — Efekoro is this season’s Mihaljevic. And once again, the men are knocking on the door to contend for an ACC Championship.
Last season, the men slowed down after a promising U.Va. Quad — finishing third in the ACC Championships and eighth in the NCAA Championships. This season, both the men and the women — who finished fourth in the ACC Championships — will look to build on the success from the U.Va. Quad. While these years may appear to mirror one another at the moment, look for Fetzer’s squad of hungry athletes to push themselves to even better results this season.
Ben Tobin is an Assistant Managing Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TobinBen.