The Virginia track and field team competed at the 2019 Division I Outdoor NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, from June 5-8. With nine Cavaliers competing — six men and three women — the Virginia men placed 18th, marking their fourth top-20 finish in five years, while the women finished 30th overall and clinched their best team finish since 2011.
The male contingent consisted of senior Oghenakpobo Efekoro, senior Hilmar Jonsson, junior Jordan Scott, freshman Ethan Dabbs, junior Brenton Foster and graduate student Brent Demarest.
The women’s squad comprised of senior Bridget Guy, senior Kelly McKee and junior Andrenette Knight. The performances of the meet for the men and the women came from two seniors — Jonsson in the hammer throw and McKee in the triple jump.
Setting the tone for a successful championship, Jonsson began the competition for the men’s team on opening day in the hammer throw. Jonsson had a rough start, fouling his opening throw, but stepped up with a second throw of 70.87 meters to move into fourth place followed by a fourth throw of 73.19 meters to secure his spot in the finals. In the finals, Jonsson improved to 73.31 meters, moving into third place overall and earning first-team All-America honors. His third place finish is the best in program history.
"Hilmar [Jonsson] took another trophy home, finishing his college career as one of the best UVA athletes this program has ever had,” assistant coach Martin Maric said. “We are very fortunate to have had him on our team for the past four years. He has done so much for this program."
Three more Cavaliers — Dabbs, Efekoro and Demarest — competed on opening day. Dabbs, who was making his first trip to collegiate nationals, earned a seventh place finish in the javelin, claiming first-team All-America honors.
Efekoro, a senior on his last attempt at nationals, placed 12th in the shot put competition and earned All-America honors in the outdoor shot put for the fourth time.
Demarest made the most of his first and final outdoor nationals appearance with an All-American finish in 14th place in the 10,000 meter run. Despite a recent bout with illness, Demarest ran tough and left it all out on the track.
The final two male athletes, Scott and Foster, hit the field on the third day of competition.
After winning the indoor triple jump championship, Scott just missed first place to claim the silver medal position at outdoor nationals. Scott took the lead with a jump of 17.01 meters in the fifth round after a four conservative preliminary jumps. Unfortunately, the final jumper of the finals — TCU sophomore Chengetayi Mapaya — recorded 17.13 meters on his last attempt to steal the national title.
"For Jordan [Scott], he should hold his head high,” said assistant coach Mario Wilson. “This is now his third time jumping 17 meters over the course of the season, legally. He has shown consistency at a world class distance. Even though it was not a perfect day, he still jumped 17 [meters]. To come in second at the NCAA Championships, this is his first time scoring, first podium, hopefully he is happy with that."
Foster closed out the meet for the Virginia men with a 16th place performance in the high jump competition, enough for second-team All-America honors.
Moving over to the women’s side, Guy and Knight competed in their respective events on the second day of the meet. Guy, for the second straight year, recorded a fourth place finish in the pole vault competition. With a season-best jump of 4.45 meters, Guy earned her third All-America honors and cemented her legacy as the best pole vaulter in program history.
Knight followed Guy’s elite performance with a 12th place finish in the 400m hurdles. This was Knight’s third All-American accomplishment.
With one competitor to go, McKee capped off the meet with the women’s best triple jump finish in program history. McKee improved each round before finally posting an elite mark of 13.51 meters to secure her fifth place going into the finals. McKee held on to her position throughout the final.
"What a perfect way to end a collegiate career," Wilson said. "Kelly [McKee] came into the competition with so much confidence. The game plan was to get a good mark early in order to take the pressure off and she executed perfectly. [Mckee]'s path to this moment is what I will remember most."
Track and field was a significant contributor to one of the most successful years in Virginia athletics history. The team will be returning many athletes next fall who will hope to build on the success of this year.