Five Virginia track and field athletes traveled to Birmingham, Ala. this weekend to compete in three events at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. While not as strong in numbers as several other schools at the event, the Cavaliers returned to Charlottesville with a successful showing.
Freshman distance runner Mia Barnett kicked things off for Virginia on Friday night, having qualified for the preliminary competition of the women’s one mile event. Barnett, being in her first year both academically and athletically, was the lone true freshman in the event and was therefore the youngest participant in the entire field.
Despite entering the competition as the 15th seed out of 16 and with a significant age disadvantage, Barnett set the Virginia women’s indoor mile record with a rapid time of 4:33.54. She finished just 0.41 seconds behind first place, which was held by Sintayehu Vissa, Ole Miss junior distance runner. With her personal best and record-setting time, Barnett easily qualified for the finals on Saturday night.
Later on Friday, Barnett was in action again. This time she took the track for the distance medley relay finals with teammates, including junior middle distance runner Alahna Sabbakhan, junior sprinter Jada Seaman and freshman distance runner Margot Appleton.
The Cavaliers entered as the fourth seed out of 12 for the event, having qualified by finishing second at the ACC Indoor Championships Feb. 24-26 with a school record time of 10:56.84.
In a tough race that featured season-best performances from four separate teams, Virginia came up short in their quest for gold. The Cavaliers ran a serviceable 11:04.88 that earned them seventh in the competition, just 0.02 seconds back of sixth place Ole Miss.
Virginia’s quartet earned first team All-American honors in the women’s medley relay for their performance.
After an efficient first two events on Friday, the Cavaliers returned for two more events on Saturday.
To begin the day, senior Owayne Owens laced up his cleats as the fourth seed out of 16 for the triple jump finals. Owens has caught the eye of many this season, having emerged from the ACC Indoor Championships with his second consecutive gold in the triple jump. He also set a personal-best triple jump of 16.60m just four weeks prior at the Tiger Paw Invitational this past February.
After the first three rounds of jumps on Saturday night, Owens sat tied for seventh place with his longest jump being 15.92m. With the top eight finishers advancing to the next round, Owens’ performance earned him three more jumps and a chance to move up the leaderboard.
Despite improving on his previous high with jumps of 16.04m on his fifth attempt and 16.13m on his sixth, Owens moved down a spot and finished the competition in eighth place.
Owens had no room for disappointment, however, having received first team All-American honors in the triple jump for the second consecutive indoor season.
Hours after Owens left the track, Barnett returned for the women’s one mile finals. Once again the only freshman in the event, she faced another tough test.
When the race concluded, Barnett garnered a 10th place finish with a time of 4:42.91. The race as a whole was run at a relatively slow pace, as Barnett’s record-breaking time of 4:33.54 from the preliminary event Friday night was faster than any other participant’s time in the finals on Saturday. Barnett collected a spot as a second team All-American in the one mile for her display.
Virginia is back in action this Saturday at the Virginia Open in Charlottesville, to begin their outdoor track and field season.