2019 was another banner year for the Virginia Tech track and field program and there are several reasons to be just as excited for the 2020 indoor and outdoor seasons.
The Hokies earned two ACC titles, set numerous school records and return all but a handful of student-athletes.
The men’s side will return 18 student-athletes, with the key returners being Bashir Mosavel-Lo, Peter Seufer, Fitsum Seyoum and Diego Zarate. Mosavel-Lo (outdoor 800 meters), Seyoum (outdoor 3,000 steeplechase) and Seufer (indoor 3,000 meters) all won their respective events at the ACC championships this past season.
The women’s side will return 10 student-athletes with the key runners being Lauren Berman, Ellie Brush, Sarah Edawrds, Sara Freix, Kayla Richardson and Catherine Stone. Freix broke the indoor school record in the 5,000-meter run last year, while Edwards returns as the ACC indoor champion in the mile.
The distance group welcomes 10 newcomers to the women’s program (Eva Arnade, Hannah Ballowe, Grace Boone, Lindsey Butler, Ava Hassebrock, Chase Kappeler, Kyra Lopez, Nicole Re, Ann Marie Schaefer and Sloan Walter) and five (Omar Aougab, Paul Cerne, Sammy Fellah, Max Greczyn, Ethan Mills) to the men’s squad.
Assistant coach Eric Johannigmeier, the head of the track and field distance running programs and the head men’s and women’s cross-country coach, took some time to talk about his group of runners and the upcoming season.
Q: Last year this was a very young group. How do you think they have matured?
JOHANNIGMEIER: “I think the group has done a very good job of maturing in their preparation, their approach to the training and just day-to-day everything it takes to be an elite-level athlete, which is what you have to be at the ACC and NCAA level. I think we made a lot of great strides in the fall with maturity, continuing to get older and striving to be faster over the fall, which really helps set us up for a good track season. It’s great that we had a lot of youth last year, and now that youth is a little bit older and more experienced. I think they’re hungry, too, which is really exciting and encouraging.”
Q: What is it like to have a young group that will only get better with experience?
JOHANNIGMEIER: “It’s very exciting. I think they push themselves every day as a group. Just feeding off each other and really wanting to fight for each other in races and see what they can do as individuals, but also collectively as a team. Not just within the distance group, but I think they’re all really excited now to add all of the event areas into a combined effort. It’s very exciting. I think they are ready to take on the season, see how fast they can run and what we can do as a team.”
Q: With the team being so young, what is it like to get leadership from your upperclassmen?
JOHANNIGMEIER: “It’s great to have senior leadership and upper-class leadership. They have been where a lot of the freshmen and sophomores have been in terms of struggles, learning new things, adapting to training and how to approach themselves outside of practice. We have a group, especially among the senior class, that has achieved a lot in this program both individually and as a part of some very good teams. It’s great to have that leadership. I think it’s something that we’ve always had. Recently and in the past, the distance group has done a good job of preparing that next class to be the leaders whenever they leave. I’m really excited about this group. It’s a special group and I think they have done a good job of helping the team see how good they can be this year. It will be a fun year for those seniors.”
Q: Is there anyone that has stood out during the fall cross-country season?
JOHANNIGMEIER: “I think collectively as a whole, the top seven in both men’s and women’s cross-country teams was really impressive. Just the way they approached the fall, finished strong and competed really tough. That group on the men’s and women’s sides, I think has really stood out and has put themselves in a good position to be ready for the track season. Collectively, they’ve been really impressive. Our ACC winners — Peter Seufer, Fitsum Seyoum and Diego Zarate — what they did is quite an accomplishment over 10k cross country. On the women’s side, having four females finish there in Sara Freix, Sarah Edwards, Kyra Lopez and Ellie Brush was also a big deal. They’ve all trained really hard, and I think they really put in the work during the fall, which in the past has always paid off during the track season.”