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Virginia cross country heads to ACC Championships

Cavaliers to compete close to home for ACC title

<p>Junior Hannah Moran has finished first among Cavalier women in every meet this season.</p>

Junior Hannah Moran has finished first among Cavalier women in every meet this season.

The Virginia men’s and women’s cross country teams will not travel far for the 2019 ACC Championships, to be held at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Friday.

The teams most recently competed just under two weeks ago with the men’s team finishing 18th at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational and the women’s team finishing 29th at the Under Armour Pre-National Invitational.

Meet information

This event marks the second time the ACC Championships have been held in Blacksburg, with Virginia Tech taking home the men’s title last time in 2012. The men’s 8K will be the first race of the competition. Viriginia faces one of its toughest races of the season as the No. 23 Cavalier men will face five other nationally ranked squads including their fellow No. 23-ranked N.C. State, No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 21 Florida State, No. 26 Virginia Tech and No. 28 Syracuse.

The women’s 6K race will start directly after the men’s 8K in the same location. The Cavalier women will also run against talented competition with two ACC squads ranked in the top 10 — North Carolina State and Florida State — ranked at No. 6 and No. 10, respectively. They’ll also face No. 17 Notre Dame, No. 22 Virginia Tech and No. 27 Boston College at the meet.

Runners to watch

Senior AJ Ernst

Ernst has had a strong senior season, finishing 4th at the Cavalier Classic and 7th in the Panorama Farms Invitational earlier this season. At Virginia’s first national meet of the season — the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational — he finished 47th out of 252 runners and set a personal record of 24:15.7 in the 8K. His contribution will be crucial to the Cavaliers’ success this Friday.

Junior Hannah Moran and sophomore Abbey Green

Moran has finished first among the Cavalier women in every meet this season. She has to continue her stellar performance in order for Virginia to have a good race Friday. Green — last year’s top runner — has yet to compete this season. However, that may change as Vin Lananna, director of track and field and cross country, has hinted that the team “may get a big surprise as they head into the ACC,” when discussing her potential return, and her availability would be a huge boost for the women’s team.

Keys to the meet

Hold a consistent pace

The Virginia Tech cross country course is located on relatively flat terrain, going through fields and meadows. This means increasing pace and passing other runners requires more effort — in contrast to downhill courses, which are ideal for passing opponents. If the Cavaliers get out in front early and manage to maintain a steady pace, it will be difficult for opponents to overtake them.

The schedule:

The men will race in the 8K final at Virginia Tech’s Buford Meredith Cross Country Course at 10:01 a.m., and the women will race in the 6K final at the same location at 11:01 a.m.