By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — As part of the traveling party from UVa, Dallas Rose and Ryan Satchell flew this week to Eugene, Ore., where the NCAA outdoor track and field championships began Wednesday at historic Hayward Field.
Figuratively speaking, though, the reigning ACC triple jump champions took different routes to the city that calls itself Track Town USA.
At the NCAA East Preliminaries late last month in Jacksonville, Fla., the top 12 finishers in each event advanced to Eugene. Satchell placed ninth on the men’s side and Rose fifth on the women’s to assure themselves seats on the Cavaliers’ plane to Oregon.
Satchell, who recently completed his third year at the University, eliminated suspense on his first attempt at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville. He jumped 51 feet, 11.75 inches: the fourth-best mark in school history and more than 5 inches longer than his previous personal record.
“I was really nervous going into it,” Satchell recalled recently at Lannigan Field. “After I got out of the pit and they measured it and I saw where the jump was, I was able to relax and go on with the competition.”
Rose, who’s competing as a graduate student, had to endure more anxious moments in Jacksonville. Heading into her final jump, she was in 14th place and in peril of ending her college career without competing at the NCAA outdoor championships.
“I tried not to think like that,” Rose said. “I had a few goals going into this season. One of them was making it to Eugene. But I have been so blessed this season and have accomplished some of the other goals that I had. I jumped 13 meters prior to that, which was a goal of mine. I had won an ACC championship, which was a goal of mine. So I tried to go into it like, `Whatever happens, you’ve already been vastly more successful [this spring] than you have the last four years.’ ”
Her thoughts before her final jump?
“A lot of praying at that point,” Rose recalled, “and just being like, `Keep calm,’ because you don’t want to push it too much, because then your mark gets off. You’re thinking you’ve prepared so much for this moment right here and you’ve done this before, so kind of go out there and jump like you know how to.”
She did that and more. On her final jump, Rose recorded a PR of 43-3.75, only a half-inch short of the UVa record (43-4.25) set by Tomika Ferguson in 2007. That put Rose temporarily in first place and allowed her to easily qualify for Eugene, which like Satchell she had never visited before this week.
Satchell, in fact, had never been west of Austin, Texas. But he was well-versed in Eugene’s reputation as a track and field mecca and eager to see the town for himself.
“Obviously it’s the home of Steve Prefontaine, American track legend,” Satchell said. “So just the history behind it, and the fact that I’ve never been on the West Coast, all of that, does add to the excitement.”
The NCAA championships, which began Wednesday, run through Saturday in Eugene. The women’s triple jump is Friday and the men’s Saturday. Also competing from Virginia will be freshman Filip Mihaljevic, in the men’s shot put and the discus; freshman Jen Flack in the women’s 10,000 meters; senior Thomas Porter and redshirt freshman Adam Visokay in the men’s 10,000 meters; and sophomore Kyle King in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Mihaljevic will be the first UVa male athlete to compete in the two individual events at the NCAA meet in the same year.
Of the seven Cavaliers, only Porter has competed at the NCAA championships.
“Hopefully in the future our whole team will be competing at NCAAs,” said Bryan Fetzer, UVa’s director of track & field/cross country. “I think we’re kind of headed in that direction.”
Rose and Satchell were already at UVa when Fetzer arrived in December 2011. Assistant coach Mario Wilson, who works with the jumpers, joined the program in July 2012.
“He’s awesome,” Satchell said of Wilson “At first he’s tough. He breaks you in a little bit, makes you work hard, makes you get everything you need, that strong base. And then he chills back a little bit and gets really technical and he’s really helpful. He’s really been helping me along this way. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Satchell, who’s majoring in computer science, is a native Virginian. He was born in Nassawadox, a tiny town on the state’s Eastern Shore. When he was around 9, his family moved to Long Island, N.Y., and he grew up in Central Islip, where he played football and basketball as well as competing in track and field.
At UVa, Satchell’s teammates his first year included Marcus Robinson, who holds the school record in the triple jump.
“I learned a heck of a lot from Marcus,” Satchell said, “just watching him every practice, going after it. I was able to set some of my goals. I had something to look forward to, to try to achieve with each practice, each competition, because he was there for me.”
Fetzer called Rose and Satchell “two of the most clutch performers I’ve seen in a long time.”
Satchell’s poise under pressure was never more evident than in February 2013 at Penn State’s indoor Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup. “That was probably the most exciting meet,” he recalled. “I had never seen anything like it.”
The triple jump was the final event that day, Fetzer said, and “it was coming down to Ryan and the kid from Penn State, going back and forth. One would take the lead, and then the other would take the lead.
“Our entire team and all Penn State’s team literally lined the triple jump runway and were going crazy. And on his last jump he beat the kid in his own building to win. That’s Ryan. He likes competition. He’s who you want to compete with.”
Rose is from Pearland, Texas, not far from Houston. Which is an interesting place for someone named Dallas to grow up.
“My dad always used to joke and say that it was because he loved the Dallas Cowboys,” Rose said, smiling. “I hope that that’s not why, because we’re not looking too hot these days.”
Pearland is about 1,300 miles from Charlottesville. Even so, Rose said, she immediately felt at home at UVa.
“I came and I just loved it when I got here,” she said. “And really the thing that drew me in the most was the team dynamic and how close everyone was with each other, and that’s what I really wanted. And then obviously the great academics. You can’t really say no to that.”
Rose, who plans to eventually attend business school, received a bachelor’s degree from UVa in statistics last year. But a stress fracture in her back had forced her to redshirt last spring, which meant she still had a season of outdoor eligibility after graduating.
So, after an internship with Athletes in Action in the fall, Rose took graduate classes in the Curry School of Education this spring. At the track, she took on a leadership role.
“Obviously it helped our team out from a maturity standpoint,” Fetzer said. “We were going to be really young. It allowed her to instill some wisdom in some younger athletes and kind of help bring this team into the future.”
The same is true for Satchell.
“Ryan is a very lead-by-example kind of person,” Fetzer said. “Dallas is a little more vocal. But again she’s the same thing, a lead-by-example kind of person.
“Those are the kind of leaders you want. Somebody that gives lip service and really doesn’t do a whole lot, those leaders somebody else can have. I’d rather have somebody that backs up what they say and gets after it when they’re supposed to.”
Satchell, looking ahead to his fourth year at UVa, sees many areas in which he can improve. For Rose, college track and field ends this weekend.
“I guess I’m kind of thinking the same way [as in Jacksonville]: to just leave it all out there on the track,” Rose said. “This is something that you have wanted since you stepped onto UVa’s Grounds. So just try to stay focused and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself.
“And that’s really been my thing this year. I got to come back here for another after a major back injury. So I was just like, `Dallas, have fun with it and just really, really enjoy these last moments.’ ”