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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia track and field teams will kick off 2009 at the Virginia Tech Invitational Friday and Saturday at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va. Events will begin on Friday at 5 p.m. and live results can be found on

Women’s Outlook
Distance/Middle Distance
The women’s distance and middle distance group is coming off a cross country season that saw the Cavaliers win the Southeast Region title and make an appearance at the NCAA Championships. All-American Katie Read returns to the track after competing in the 10K at the NCAA Championships the past two seasons. Read will be joined by Stephanie Garcia, the ACC and ECAC Champion and two-time NCAA qualifier in the steeplechase, and Lauretta Dezubay, an NCAA regional qualifier in the 5000m.
Lyndsay Harper, Susan Brooks and Sara Casscells are coming off solid cross country seasons and will look to add depth to the Cavaliers’ middle distance runners, while Jen Hovland, an ECAC qualifier, ran the second fastest 800m time for the Cavaliers last year. First-year Morgane Gay, the Maryland state champion in the 800m and 1600m, proved to be a strong competitor this fall, earning all-region honors, and will be looking to help form a dominant distance and middle distance contingent.

All-American Billie-Jo Grant continues to make an impact in Virginia’s throws. Grant holds three school records and returns after earning her third All-America distinction in the discus last year. All-ACC performer and NCAA regional discus finalist Amy Bilmanis will look to help secure more points in the event, while ACC Champion and NCAA national javelin qualifier Meghan Briggs returns as well. First-years Erin Wykoff and Maureen Laffan will look to add some depth in the shot, discus and hammer, while Tara Karin and redshirt first-year Indira Morton will join the javelin competition. Wykoff, Laffan and Morton are all state champions, while Karin was ranked the second-best javelin thrower on the East Coast.

Nearly the entire group of sprinters and hurdlers return to help anchor Virginia’s short distances. Veterans Talia Wise and Galyn Iloka will lead Virginia’s sprinting unit, while a trio of hurdlers return to the long and short hurdles. Wise returns as the team’s top 200m performer and is among the top-five in the ACC, while Iloka joins Wise and Rashawnda James on the 4x100m team that scored at ACCs and the ECAC Championships. In addition, both Wise and Ayla Smith return to the 4x400m team that scored at the conference meet and will welcome first-years Jennifer Weatherly and Meagan Gillespie to both NCAA regionally qualifying relay squads. Weatherly is a three-time state champion in Virginia, while Gillespie was a member of the 4x200m national championship relay team.
Virginia’s hurdle crew is coming off a successful year that saw Smith win the ECAC Championship in the long hurdles and Lauren Echko smash the short hurdles school record. Smith was ranked 32nd nationally in the long hurdles and is fourth on Virginia’s all-time list, while Kristina Chapman also had a successful first season for the Cavaliers. Although she narrowly missed the regional standard in the 400mH as a first-year, she currently ranks 10th on Virginia’s all-time top-10 list in the long hurdles.

In the jumps, Rashawnda James had a solid first-year for the Cavaliers and returns as the team’s top horizontal jumper. Qualifying regionally in the triple jump, James scored for the Cavaliers in the triple jump at both ACC Championships, while she also scored in the long jump at the indoor championships. Assiatu Williams will join James in the triple jump this year and also heads the high jumpers. An All-ACC performer and runner-up at the ACC Indoor Championships, Katie Darraugh leads Virginia’s pole vaulters.

Men’s Outlook
Distance/Middle Distance
Coming off a third-straight top-15 finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Virginia’s distance and middle distance crew looks to be in good shape. Emil Heineking earned his second-consecutive All-America honor at nationals to become the Cavaliers’ first two-time All-American in cross country and joins with all-region performers Ryan Collins and Graham Tribble to form a dominant distance corps. Collins and Heineking both competed nationally last year, with Collins qualifying for the Junior World Championships by finishing second at the USATF Junior Nationals in the 5000m. Heineking finished 26th at the Junior World Cross Country Championships.
Andrew Jesien, the ACC Champion and NCAA finalist in the 1500m, Andy Biladeau, a six-time all-conference performer who has earned the honor in the 3000m and 5000m, and Andrew Lobb, an All-ACC performer in the 800m, provide a solid middle distance contingent for the Cavaliers. Jesien was also a member of the distance medley relay team that shattered the ACC meet record a year ago.
Sean Keveren, a two-time cross country, 1600m and 3200m high school state champion, Lance Roller, a versatile athlete ranked sixth nationally in the 600m and 800m, and Sintayehu Taye, a two-time Foot Locker National Championship finalist, are three newcomers who will provide much depth for the distance and middle distance corps.

Yemi Ayeni headlines a young corps of returning throwers. A two-time All-American, Ayeni became the highest finisher all-time for a Cavalier male in a field event at the NCAA Championships last spring, earning runner-up honors in the discus. Also leading the team in the shot put, Ayeni is joined by Eric Pickle in the two events. Pickle has scored at the conference meet in the discus both years that he has competed. Kyle Galle, the team’s top returning hammer thrower, was an ACC finalist in 2008, while Andy Fahringer is looking to make an impact in the javelin and first-year Vincenzo Chiariello will look to add depth to the shot put, discus, hammer and weight throws.

A trio of first-years made an immediate impact for the Cavaliers’ long sprints last year. Adams Abdulrazaaq, Greg Nelson and Meikle Paschal formed a 4x400m relay squad that qualified regionally and scored at the ACC and IC4A Championships a year ago, while Abdulrazaaq and Paschal were also members of the 4x100m regional finalist team. Individually, Nelson and Abdulrazaaq qualified for the regional meet in the hurdle events, while Paschal qualified in the 400m. Abdulrazaaq and Paschal also scored at the ACC Championships for Virginia and will look to use their strong regional performances to start preparing for the national level this year.
Joined with All-American Brian Lee, a member of the DMR team that shattered the ACC Championship meet record last winter, Abdulrazaaq, Nelson and Paschal will create a dominant core of sprinters and hurdlers for the Cavaliers.
Kevin Anding and Daniel Plumlee will join the corps this season, looking to help solidify the contingent.

Arthur Gennari and Greg Nelson both scored at the ACC Championships in the high jump for Virginia, along with Marcus Robinson’s dual threat in the horizontal jumps. The trio provides the conference experience necessary to be successful and will pair with one of Virginia’s most versatile athletes, Meikle Paschal, to form a productive unit of jumpers. First-year Matthias Meyer, the Virginia state meet runner-up in the triple jump, adds depth in both the long jump and short sprints.

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