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Virginia track and field delivers strong performances at Virginia Challenge

The weekend saw Virginia records fall and personal bests improve

<p>Junior Nathan Mountain set a Virginia record with a time of 8:20.68 in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase invitational last weekend.</p>

Junior Nathan Mountain set a Virginia record with a time of 8:20.68 in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase invitational last weekend.

This past weekend saw Virginia track and field stay home in Charlottesville to host the Virginia Challenge Friday and Saturday. The event was filled with Cavaliers making it onto Virginia all-time lists and recording personal bests and was highlighted by junior Nathan Mountain toppling the Virginia steeplechase record and running the “A” cut for the upcoming Olympic Trials. The weekend was wrapped up with a Senior Day celebration Saturday that honored the team’s graduating athletes.

Day One 

The first day of competition was kicked off in impressive fashion as Mountain took the victory amongst collegians and second overall in the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase invitational, running a 12-second personal best to break the Virginia record with a time of 8:20.68. This blazing time ranks No. 1 in the NCAA this season and meets the “A” standard for the 2024 Olympic Trials. Senior Yasin Sado rounded out the top-10 overall finishers with a run of 8:34.08 to finish ninth overall and fourth amongst collegians. 

Sophomore Gary Martin posted a huge 1:47.46 in the men’s 800-meter invitational to record a personal-best and finish second by a thousandth of a second. Senior Shane Cohen was right behind to finish in third place with a personal best time as well, putting in a fantastic 1:47.54 to claim the tenth fastest time in program history. Senior Conor Murphy also ran well, placing 13th in a time of 1:48.79. 

Sophomore Will Anthony kept the Cavaliers’ winning ways going with a victory in the men’s 5000-meter event by a huge 15-second margin — his winning time of 13:35.50 brings him to the third-best in Virginia program history. Junior Justin Wachtel also delivered, running 13:53.28 to finish fourth, while senior Jack Eliason ran a time of 13:59.52 to take ninth place. 

The Cavaliers continued to impress as they moved up in distance, with junior Andrew Jones running a time of 29:05.56 to record a personal-best time and the seventh-fastest time in Virginia history in the men’s 10,000-meter invitational, finishing in sixth place.

The women put down some impressive performances as well, which began with graduate student Esther Seeland’s third place finish in the women’s 800-meter invitational in a time of 2:03.72 and senior Alahna Sabbakhan’s fourth place finish with a personal-best time of 2:05.45. With this time, Sabbakhan moves up to sixth in Virginia program history. She was closely followed by senior Keara Seasholtz, who ran 2:06.63 to finish sixth in the event.

Junior Camryn Menninger ran a blazing personal-best time of 16:17.30 in the women’s 5000-meter invitational to finish fifth amongst collegians and 12th overall, while freshman Gillian Bushee crossed the line in 16:22.66 for ninth place amongst collegians and 16th overall, also recording a huge personal best. 

The Cavaliers also dominated in the sprint events — sophomore Sarah Akpan took first place in the women’s 100-meter event in 11.58 seconds, and sophomore Evans White IV finished fifth in the men’s 400-meter event in a time of 47.69.

The field events saw a similar amount of success — junior Janae Profit placed second amongst collegians and third overall in the women’s discus with a mark of 50.81 meters, and senior Jacob Lemmon won the men’s discus with a throw of 57.81 meters.

Day one was wrapped up with strong performances in the pole vault, as sophomore Justin Rogers moved up from eighth all-time to fifth all-time in Virginia history with a personal-best clearance of 5.10 meters in the men’s pole vault invitational, winning the event while he was at it. The women’s pole vault was similarly successful, as sophomore Samantha Romano won the invitational section with a personal-best clearance of 4.34 meters. Senior Gabriella Recce finished in fifth place with a personal-best height of 3.99 meters, while graduate student Hanne Borstlap placed sixth with a clearance of 3.79 meters.

Day Two 

The second day of competition was a great one for Virginia’s sprinters, as Akpan continued her winning streak with a victory in the women’s 200-meter event in a personal-best time of 23.51 seconds. Freshman Ariel Fletcher impressed with a sixth-place finish in a time of 23.85 seconds, making her the event’s third-fastest freshman in Virginia history. 

The men’s 110-meter hurdles saw freshman Jeremiah Wilson run a personal-best time of 14.01 seconds to place second in the event and move to fourth all-time in Virginia history. Sophomore Peter Djan did much of the same, clocking 14.03 seconds to finish third in the event and move to fifth all-time in Virginia history. Senior Alex Sherman also excelled, running a personal-best time of 50.54 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles to move to third all-time in Virginia history.  

The Cavaliers showed out in the women’s hurdles too, with senior Emily Alexandru finishing in second place with a season’s best time of 59.31 seconds and freshman Brooke’lyn Drakeford placing sixth with a time of 1:01.68. 

The excellent performances in the track events were concluded by the 4x400-meter relays, where both the men’s and women’s teams raced to second place — the men in a season-best time of 3:09.13 and the women in 3:40.89. 

The Cavaliers also saw great amounts of success on the field. In the women’s high jump, freshman Elsa Spoor took the victory after recording a personal-best mark of 1.69 meters, and freshman Grace Flynn tied for second place with a 1.64 meters effort. Junior Carly Tarentino also excelled in the event, recording a massive personal best in the women’s high jump invitational section, jumping 1.77 meters to finish second in the event and move up to seventh all-time in Virginia history. 

Senior Mahkaia Lee leapt 6.21 meters in the women’s long jump to take fourth place, and junior Jordan Hardy recorded 6.14 meters to secure fifth. Junior Heldi Valikaj also excelled on the men’s side, placing fourth with a jump of 7.38 meters.

Junior John Fay finished third in the men’s hammer throw with a mark of 65.44 meters, and Lemmon was not far behind with a throw of 64.58 meters for fourth place. To wrap up a great weekend, Profit finished fourth in the women’s shot put with a mark of 15.21 meters.

The Cavaliers now look ahead to the biggest track meet in the country — the Penn Relays. Virginia track and field will be traveling to compete in Philadelphia, Pa. from Thursday to Saturday before returning to Charlottesville for the Virginia High Performance meet Sunday. 

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