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Cavs journey to ACC Track and Field Indoors

Lavender, team try to carry momentum into conference championships

The Virginia indoor track and field team will compete at the ACC Championship this weekend in Clemson, S.C., where three days’ worth of events between the conference’s best will culminate in the crowning of champions on March 1.

The Cavaliers are riding a surge of momentum into Clemson, building off six freshmen records, four indoor school records and countless personal bests set by Virginia athletes this season. In January, the men’s distance medley relay team recorded what was, at the time, the best mark in the nation.

“All the individuals have bought into what we’re trying to do,” coach Bryan Fetzer said. “This year, we’ve focused on the process. It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers and stop competing. If you focus on the process, everything else will fall into place.”

Junior Jordan Lavender owns three of the program records set this indoor season — the 200 meter dash, the 400 meter and the 4×400 meter relay. The vast array of events in which Lavender can compete and excel gives her the ability to contribute a high tally of points for the Cavalier women.

“I would accredit a lot of the success to the coaching staff,” Lavender said. “They always talk to the team about getting better every day in every way, and it really seems to be a motto that has stuck this year.”

In a narrative which parallels the men’s and women’s cross country teams in the fall, Virginia indoor track and field will be relying heavily on talented but inexperienced freshmen. Familiar freshmen Maria Hauger, Adam Visokay and Sarah Fakler have continued a year of success, while other freshmen, including Tori McKenzie and Henry Wynne, have made splashes in their inaugural indoor season.

“Between the men and the women, we have 12 athletes who have ever competed in a conference championship,” Fetzer said. “The young athletes don’t worry — they just compete. They were some of the best in the country in high school, and they think that they are still the best.”

The ACC championship will be a foreign beast for the newcomers, making the onus of giving support and advice fall largely on these 12 upperclassmen.

“Underclassmen usually look like deer in headlights,” Lavender said. “We have to make sure they stay calm and assure them that everything will be okay.

A daunting field of ACC foes awaits the Cavaliers. The Florida State men are ranked sixth nationally, while newcomer Pittsburgh sits at No. 19 in the polls. Two Tobacco Road programs can be found in the women’s top-25, with North Carolina and Duke ranked at 13 and 24, respectively. Additionally, the Virginia Tech men, winners of two of the last three Championships, and the four-time defending champions Clemson women will have a strong impact in determining final outcomes.

“I think, as a whole, the ACC has definitely gotten better with the addition of these new schools,” Lavender said. “It’s exciting to know there will be new faces, but at the same time a little nerve racking.”

The races to the conference titles should be about as close as the races on the track, with a good chance the winning team may not emerge until the weekend’s final events.

“The ACC has established itself as one of the premier conferences in the country,” Fetzer said. “No one is going to run away with 160 points. Everything is going to come down to the final hours on Saturday.”

Competition begins this Thursday and runs through Saturday. ACC athletes who qualify will then head to the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. in two weeks.