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Zach Vrhovac is a freshman on Virginia’s track and field team this year. A graduate of Albemarle High School, Vrhovac came to the Cavaliers following a stellar career that saw him break both the indoor and outdoor national high school records in the 4x800m relay. For the Cavaliers, he finished fourth in the mile at this year’s ACC Indoor Championships and competed in the mile run at the annual Lou Onesty Invitational at home this past weekend. Vrhovac finished third in the event with a personal-best time of 4:07.18.

This weekend, Vrhovac will head to Clemson to help the Cavaliers try to defend their ACC title from last season – where Virginia’s men tied Florida State to earn the program its first-ever conference championship outdoors. Events are scheduled to run Thursday-Saturday.

Question: What was it like being a part of the mile run this past weekend?
Vrhovac: This past weekend was very special getting to run in such a prestigious race with my team in front of our home crowd. It was great knowing that all my friends, family and high school coaches were there to cheer me on while I was running. The whole adrenaline rush that ran through my body as we got up to the track and saw all the support was unreal. And the fact that they were on the track cheering us on made the race that much more fun and unique.

Question: What was it like to step on the track and run through a tunnel of people just to get back to the start line?
Vrhovac: During our warm-up, everybody was really quiet thinking about their own race plans and what they were going to do. For me, I like to take a real slow warm up and just think about the race mentally and really try to play out each situation in my head so when I get in the race, I already know what I’m going to do before things even happen. As I ran through the tunnel of people, I got so many chills up and down my arms and legs. It was a good feeling though, because in a mile it’s tough running four fast laps. And to know that there is a lot of fan support, especially since they were basically right in our face, made the race seem less intense and I just let the crowd pull me through the last 800 meters.

It was also very special experience because as I was striding, I saw my grandma and grandpa cheering me on. Knowing that my family was there in support made me want to run that much faster. This was definitely an experience that I will not forget and hopefully this will continue throughout my career here at UVa.

Question: Did you enjoy having people on the track during the race?
Vrhovac: After the race I kept on telling everybody that that race was probably the fastest race that I have ever run in. Usually when you run a mile and get to about 800 meters left, you think the third lap takes forever. But on Friday, before I knew it, I was coming down the home stretch. I really think that since all the fans were right there in lane three cheering all of us on really made this happen, because it was almost as if they were literally pulling me through the entire race. I wish that every race was like this. It was by far the most fun race I have ever been a part of.

Question: Being from Charlottesville, did you have a lot of people there to cheer you on?
Vrhovac: Ever since I found out that I was going to run the mile at the invite, I knew a lot of my high school friends and family were going to come out and support me. Again, this was so special to me knowing that I have a lot of support from the community because it makes me want to run that much faster for them.

Question: What made you decide to come to UVa? Being from the area, had you always wanted to come here?
Vrhovac: Actually, no. When I was younger I always wanted to play football at either NC State or Tennessee because of my family ties to these schools. But when I knew that my ticket to college was through running, I was really interested in UNC and UVa. I took visits to both schools, but it was obvious that UVa was the place for me. I really liked the balance of academics and the track and field program offered here at UVa. I knew if I came here with our coaching staff and my teammates, we would have a great chance at a successful career. It’s also nice to know that my family is here in town and when Sunday rolls around every week they pick me up for church and do my laundry, which is real beneficial. I have been blessed by a lot of people and am very happy that I am now a part of the Wahoo nation.

Question: How do you feel your transition to collegiate racing has gone? What has been the biggest difference from high school?
Vrhovac: The transition from high school racing to collegiate racing is going a lot smoother than I expected. Coming from a high school program where we had a lot of success, especially at the national level, made it a lot easier because I was already experienced with competing against the best runners in the country. Training on the other hand was the biggest surprise to me. In high school, my training was very relaxed, not even getting up to 35 miles a week. Now in college, during cross country, I got up to 60 miles a week which was definitely something my legs weren’t used to. It took a while to get used to, but my training is going better than ever right now heading into championship week.

Question: You had a strong performance at indoor ACCs. What are your goals or expectations for this week’s outdoor championship?
Vrhovac: During ACCs indoors, I was really nervous about making it into the finals of the mile. Even in the finals, I just thought that everybody was so much better than me. Finishing fourth in that race really opened my eyes and gave me the confidence that I can run with anybody in the league. With that said, going into ACCs this week, my confidence and training is on a high, so I hope I can run fast.

More importantly is how I am able to help our team win a championship. I believe that winning a team championship and celebrating with your teammates is much more exciting then celebrating by yourself. So I know our team is really fixed on winning the outdoor title.

Question: What are some of your goals or expectations for the rest of the season?
Vrhovac: As far as the rest of the season, we would like to win a couple Penn Relays titles and have as many people as possible qualify for the NCAA championship and go have fun and run fast there.

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