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Feb. 22, 2006

The University of Virginia indoor track and field teams will compete this weekend at the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships in Blacksburg, Va. Leading the way for the Cavaliers are NCAA provisional qualifiers Tomika Ferguson and Emily Harrison for the women and David Sullivan for the men. In addition, the men’s distance medley team, which set the school record last year, is the top seed going into the championships while Kellen Blassingame (400m), Andrew Jesien (mile), Sullivan (pole vault) and Alex Tatu (800m) are all ranked third in the conference. The meet starts on Thursday with the first day of the multi events and concludes on Saturday evening.

School-record holder Sullivan, who currently ranks third in the conference in the pole vault, finished tied for second in that event last year. Sullivan also finished second in the pole vault at the outdoor championships at both the 2004 and 2005 meets. He versatile fourth-year will also compete in the high jump, where he is ranked ninth in the conference and leads the Cavaliers. Joining Sullivan in the pole vault is David Lewis, who is ranked eighth in the conference, and first-years Jeff McClurg and Stephen Thompson. Lewis will also compete in the heptathlon where he is seeded ninth.

Blassingame also holds a pair of school records and will compete in his specialty this weekend. The fourth-year was fourth last year at the indoor meet but took second outdoors; he also finished as the runner-up in the 200m outdoors as well. Blassingame was also a member of the record-setting DMR along with Jordan Orr and Alex Tatu, both of whom will compete this weekend. Both Tatu and Orr will run in the 800, where they are ranked third and fifth, respectively, heading into the meet. Orr took fourth in the 800 in 2005. Tatu will also run the mile after finishing seventh in that event in 2005. Danny Howick and Sam Fletcher will also run the mile, and Michael Hagos will join Tatu and Orr in the 800m.

First-year Andrew Jesien leads the Cavaliers in the mile, just ahead of teammate Kevin McHale, and they enter the meet ranked third and fourth in the conference. McHale qualified for the finals in the mile in 2005. Soeren Linder leads the Cavaliers in the 3000m and is seeded fourth at the meet, while teammate Jan Foerster, who led the Cavalier men’s cross country team to the ACC title, is seeded tenth. Lindner ranks second all-time at Virginia in the indoor 3K, running an 8:07.17 last year; he also finished fourth in the mile at last year’s championships. Joining them in the 3K are Andrew Dumm, Ryan Foster, and Will Christian. Christian, Dumm and Foster will also run the 5K along with Taylor Smith and Matt Gutridge. Christian was fourth in the 5K two years ago at the indoor meet, while Foster scored in both events last year, finishing fourth in the 5K and eighth at the shorter distance. Foster also ranks fifth all-time at Virginia in the indoor 5K. Christian is seeded fifth in the 5K, just ahead of Dumm.

Isi Azeke leads a talented hurdles and jumps corps to the meet, as he is ranked ninth in the conference in the 60m hurdles and tenth in the long jump. Joining him in the long jump are Robert Assibey and Shadion Buckley. Buckley is seeded ninth in the triple jump and both he and Assibey will compete in that event as well. Devin Canaday will also hurdle for the Cavaliers as well as long jump.

Reuben Jones, who ranks fourth all-time at Virginia in the 60m dash, will run that event where he is seeded ninth entering the meet. Also competing in the short sprints is Tyler Hendry; both Hendry and Jones will double in the 60m and the 200m. First-year throwers Rob Rankin and Yemi Ayeni will also compete at the meet; Rankin is ranked ninth in the shot put, just ahead of teammate Ayeni.

Billie Jo Grant will also compete in the shot put, representing the Virginia women. Grant, who was an All-American in the discus in 2005, is seeded fourth in the conference in the shot put. Grant now ranks third all-time at Virginia in the shot put. She will also throw the weight; first-years Amy Bilmanis, Mallory Denniston and Alexa Manning will also throw the weight. Manning leads the team in that event and she will compete in the shot put as well with Grant.

The Virginia women’s high jumpers are also well-represented in the ACC ranks, as Meggie Schuelke is seeded fourth and Rachel Marks is seeded fifth. Schuelke finished seventh in the meet last year while Marks was the runner-up in 2004. Marks, who ranks fifth all-time at Virginia in the high jump indoors, will start the meet competing in the pentathlon, where she finished seventh in the 2005 meet. The versatile Marks will also compete in the long jump, where she is seeded tenth going into the meet. Joining Marks and Scheulke in the vertical jumps are Kathryn Pettine and Alicia LaRoche, who will vault in the pole vault. Pettine ranks second all-time at Virginia in that event, and she finished sixth at last year’s ACC meet.

Tomika Ferguson, who leads the team in both horizontal jumps, is also seeded in both events. She hit an NCAA Provisional mark in the triple jump, moving her up to the number two spot all-time at Virginia. She is seeded fourth in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump. Katie Tershel will join Ferguson in both horizontal jumps at the meet.

Janne’a Bridgeford is also seeded at the meet, where she ranks ninth in the conference in the 60m dash. She is the number three all-time performer in that event in Virginia, just .01 ahead of first-year Talia Wise, who is ranked tenth in the ACC. Wise will double in the 60m and the 200m, as will Tiffany Roberts. Ashley Gore is seeded eighth in the open quarter and will run that event this weekend along with Erin Crawford, who holds the school record in the 400m hurdles. Some of these athletes will run in the 4x400m relay, where the Cavaliers are seeded fourth in the ACC.

Joining Crawford in the longer sprints will be a trio of 800m runners, led by Danielle Light, who ranks ninth in the conference in the event. She will be joined by Sara Casscells and Eryn Correa. Lauretta Dezubay ranks third on the team in the mile and is the Cavaliers’ top miler entered; Shannon Hawrylo will also run the mile. Dezubay will double back in the 3K; Emily Harrison and Laura Hodges will also both run the 3K. Harrison, who leads the team in the mile, 3K and 5K, is entered in both of the longer distances this weekend. Harrison ran an NCAA Provisional time in New York earlier this season and is ranked fifth entering the weekend; her time moved her into the number five position all-time at Virginia in the indoor 5K. Hodges is ranked seventh in the conference at 5K. Joining both of them is Kara Scanlin

First-year Lauren Echko leads a talented hurdle group; she is ranked tenth in the conference as a true freshman and already ranks as the number-three performer all-time in Virginia history in the short hurdles. Joining Echko are Keshia Ashe, who ranks fifth all-time at UVa, and Jackie Bailey.

The Cavaliers will compete this weekend at Rector Field House on the campus of Virginia Tech. The meet is also an opportunity for the Cavaliers to earn a point in the Commonwealth Challenge, presented by Adelphia. The Cavaliers currently lead the Challenge 11-4 and with one more half-point will clinch the title for 2005-2006. Each team, men’s and women’s can earn half a point by defeating Virginia Tech in the ACC Championships this weekend.

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