Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Women's, men's swimmers close stellar season

Here's my latest article for The Collegiate Times.

The H2Okies completed its season with a trip to the NCAA Championship meets over the past two weeks.

The women traveled to Indiana to compete from March 18-20, while the men traveled to Ohio to finish their competition this past weekend.

The women came in 24th place with 26 overall points.

“When you’re in the top 25, we like to think that puts us as an elite program,” women’s head coach Ned Skinner said.

Sophomore Erika Hajnal concluded her dominant season with a 30th place finish in the 1650 freestyle with a time of 16:25:00. Hajnal also swam the 400 individual medley, finishing eighth and earning All-American honors.

Skinner believes Hajnal’s contributions to the team have been a blessing.

“Erika Hajnal is a coach’s dream,” Skinner said. “She’s incredibly talented and fast. She scores a lot of points ... and is a lot of fun to work with. When she puts her Virginia Tech stuff on, she’s really there to represent our school.”

Junior Lauren Ritter also competed in the 1650 free, finishing in 35th place with a time of 16:34.29.

While Ritter swam her personal best in the event, she stressed that the ACC championship was more important because it’s a team event, rather then an individual one like the NCAA’s.

“It’s hard to go a best time only a month after conference meet, which is obviously the biggest focus for the team,” Ritter said.

Freshman Katarina Filova competed in the 100 freestyle and finished in 39th place with a time of 49.80.

“I wanted to do better but I’m happy with the way I finished. I was just a little pissed off that I missed the finals by one-tenth of a second.”

Even though Filova may have been a little disappointed with her swim, the time was good enough to set a new school record.

Filova also swam in the 200-meter freestyle, finishing 16th overall.

Hajnal, Ritter and Filova also teamed up with senior Kelly deMarrais in the 800-meter freestyle relay during the championships. The quartet finished tenth, the highest in program history, and earned an honorable mention All-American accolade.

Going into the last turn of the event, the girls were tied with four other teams. That’s where Ritter swam the fastest she ever had, almost a second faster then her best time according to Skinner.

“She could have faded and ended up 15th,” Skinner said. “Instead, she persevered and pushed through and ended up tenth.”

The girls have a method of getting pumped before the race that is rather unorthodox to say the least.

“Every time before a relay we try to get hyper and cheer each other on,” Filova said. “Kelly and I usually slap each other in the face before the race to get hyper. It actually helps a lot.”

Ritter shared more light into their pre-swim ritual.

“We like to do a team scream before the relay to get pumped up,” Ritter said. “It’s fun because we’re the only ones from our team there so right before we get in a huddle and were like, ‘All right scream on three,’ and we just screamed as loud as we could and then everyone just started staring at us.”

“It’s good to see that all four of us were having fun,” Filova said. “The most important thing is to have fun with everything.”

The race earned the women 14 points toward their team total of 26 points.

All of the team’s representatives except for Hajnal experienced their first NCAA championship meet.

On the men’s side, the team sent one swimmer, sophomore Charlie Higgins, and two divers, senior Mikey McDonald and freshman Logan Shinholser to represent the team.

Higgins, McDonald and Shinholser had to wait an extra day for their events. The start of the men’s championships was delayed by one day after multiple members of different teams contracted the norovirus on the flight into Ohio.

“Texas, Stanford and Arizona had the same flight in out of Dallas,” Higgins said.

“I guess someone on their flight had the norovirus; 18 swimmers started out with it. They thought it was just airborne illness that wasn’t really contagious. On Wednesday, we had open pool time to practice and then two coaches and four other swimmers got sick,” he said. “The swimmers ended up going to the hospital to help their recovery time and they weren’t allowed to swim until they got better.”

Skinner believed he and his fellow coaches were more affected than the competitors themselves.

“It probably hurt the coaches more,” Skinner said. “You had the team geared up, ready to go and then they said ‘wait.’ We just woke up on Thursday and did Wednesday all over again.”

“The NCAA decided that the norovirus was too risky for the student athletes so we had to just deal with it,” he said.

When the competition finally got underway, Higgins broke his own school record in the 200-meter backstroke with a time of 1:43.72 during the preliminary round of competition on Friday. Higgins set the previous record in 2009.

“I was definitely happy with that swim after I didn’t do so well at ACC’s,” Higgins said.

Higgins also finished 25th in the 100-meter backstroke.

McDonald and Shinholser finished 24th and 25th, respectively, in the diving events. McDonald ended with 267.60 points while Shinholser completed competition with 245.05 points.

McDonald also finished 18th while Shinholser finished 33rd in the one-meter platform event on Friday.

None of the men made it to the final round of competition. Still, head coach Ned Skinner was still impressed.

“We were disappointed we didn’t score points but were real proud of the way they performed,” Skinner said.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Phil Hughes wins Fifth Starter Role

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees brass has decided that Phil Hughes will in fact be the number five starter rounding out the rotation.  The other members of the rotation include CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez.  It is undetermined the order Joe Girardi will put the rotation in after Sabathia.  He may want to break up the fast ballers in Sabathia and Burnett by putting Pettitte in the middle but then hitters would be facing two back to back left handers.  

Hughes proved his value to the team last season when he emerged as one of the top set up men in the game .  His performance (except for the postseason) was all but dominant and quite frankly amazing.  He showed poise that a 23 year old hardly possesses in just his second full season in the big leagues.  

By moving Joba Chamberlain back to the eighth inning role, the Yankees are showing that they have all but lost hope in him starting.  After having to endure his short and painful five inning stints where he would walk men, give up multiple hits, especially in two out situations and of course throw about 25 pitches per inning every five days, the team figured it wouldn't hurt them to give Hughes another shot.  

The last few times Hughes has been in the rotation was when he was filling in for someone that was on the disabled list.  Hughes himself would often end up getting injured with either hamstring or shoulder injuries.  (Hughes tore his hamstring in the middle of a no-hitter during his debut season of 2007.  Unfortunately the injury had him sidelined until September of that year when the injury occurred in May.)  Hughes proved his value to the organization in 2007 when he relieved an ineffective Roger Clemens, Hughes' idol growing up, and pitched a very effective game, earning his first victory of the postseason and extending the yankees playoff life for one more miserable game.

To me, I'm very pleased with the way the Yankees are heading.  I've always preferred Hughes to Chamberlain for a variety of reasons.  The biggest issues though have to deal with work ethic and accountability.  When Joba has a rough outing he always blames someone or something else but never accepts the responsibility.  Hughes on the other hand will plainly state how much he stunk on a particular night and offers no excuse, similar to what Clemens did.  

I think by spending the majority of last season in the bullpen and having the wise and all powerful Mariano Rivera there for advice really benefitted Hughes last season.  Not surprisingly, Hughes developed confidence to throw his change up and has proved to be effective this spring.  Perhaps Joba's extended time with Mo this season in the bullpen will help him too.

Unfortunately, I feel that Chamberlain is too cocky and that his early success spoiled him.  Hopefully something will make him realize that even if you have talent you still need to work hard to achieve success.  

- Courtney 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jorge & Girardi's (attempt) at new commercial

Joe Giaradi and Jorge Posada recently filmed a commercial for Direct Tv's Extra Inning's baseball package.  Here are some out takes from the shoot.  This was found via Chad Jennings and company of The Journal News .

- Courtney

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yankees Second Annual "Game Break" from Baseball

The Yankees participated in their second annual day away from camp today.  Last Spring Training, in sticking with his promise to loosen up, Joe Girardi made one of the normal training days a team bonding experience and brought all the players to a pool tournament.  This year, to try something different Girardi and the gang headed to a local arcade and participated in different games.  This years tournament included games such as Indy Car Driving, Skeeball and Pop-a-shot.  This years winners included A.J. Burnett, Andrew Brackman and Royce Ring.

When Girardi started this last year I thought it was a phenomenal idea.  It served as a time for the all the players to get to know each other.  This includes both major league and minor league players.  Andy Pettitte last year was paired with Mark Teixeira in the pool tournament.  Pettitte said it was a great way to get to know Teixeira as an individual outside of the field.  Teixiera himself summed up the event the best.

  “It was a great day,” Teixeira said. “The fact that we get three or four hours not to have to worry about baseball and not have to compete on the baseball field, it was fun. Playing video games, we felt like kids again. It promotes a light-hearted atmosphere."

I'll leave you with one more picture with Teixeira playing Skeeball with familiar faces Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera in the background.  


Monday, March 1, 2010

Disqualification pushes track and field from ACC title

Here's my latest article for The Collegiate Times

A controversial disqualification cost the men’s track and field team an Atlantic Coast Conference title this past weekend at home in the Rector Fieldhouse.

The call was made in the men’s 3,000-meter event Saturday, where sophomore Will Mulherin initially won the event before officials determined that he pushed a Florida State runner, thus disqualifying the Virginia Tech sophomore.

According to Tech track and field head coach Dave Cianelli, the call was questionable at best and could have gone either way.

“Whether I or anybody else thinks it was a good call is something we’re going to have to live with,” Cianelli said. “It’s a judgment call on the part of the official. What I saw was the Florida State runner tried to cut in without enough room, and Will put his hand out to try to keep from falling. I didn’t agree with the call but I’m not going to dwell on it and say that it cost us the meet.”

Running referee Richard Messenger explained the call in a statement after the meet.

“The Virginia Tech athlete pushed another athlete as they were entering the bell lap, causing him to break stride. This is a violation of Rule 5-5-3a. The resulting action was a disqualification of the Virginia Tech athlete,” Messenger said.

The disqualification cost the Hokies 10 points and awarded Florida State two extra points when its runner received credit for a second place finish, rather than a third.

The point swing left the Hokies with 97 instead of 107 total points at the end of the meet, while the Seminoles finished with 107 total points, instead of the 105 they would have finished with had Mulherin not been disqualified.

The University of North Carolina finished in second place with a score of 103.5.

Despite a controversial end to the men’s events, a women’s third-place finish and several record-breaking performances on both ends left Cianelli with a lot to be pleased about when the weekend was over.

“I’m really happy with how our athletes performed,” Cianelli said.

The men’s team was actually in first place following the competition Friday, credited mostly to the strong competition of the weight throwers.

Freshman thrower Alexander Ziegler won the ACC title while also setting a personal best of 73-10.25. He’ll move on in two weeks to compete in the NCAA championship.

“I’m pretty happy that I won my first ACC meet,” Ziegler said. “I have to fix some things. I lost a little technique a little bit, to get ready for NCAA meet in two weeks and I should be fine. I had three throws over my old (personal record). That is an awesome

Friday’s meet also brought a minor scare to the men’s team, however. Sophomore standout sprinter Keith Ricks was injured during the preliminary race of the 200-meter event after he felt his hamstring “twinge.”

“About halfway into the race, he pulled up and the doctors checked him out and everything,” Cianelli said. “He’s pretty healthy since it wasn’t a strain or a pull, which obviously would have been a longer rehab. It was smart that he stopped because if he hadn’t it may have been much worse than it was.”

Ricks did not compete in Saturday’s meet and will begin rehabbing his injury this week. Cianelli is hopeful Ricks can compete in the NCAA meet.

“He did the right thing,” Cianelli said. “Thankfully it wasn’t anything serious that’s going to keep him out for a long period of time.”

On the women’s side, senior Queen Harrison continued her dominant season by winning the 60-meter hurdles while also setting another ACC record in the event.

Harrison set a new conference meet record with a time of 7.99 seconds Friday during the preliminary round and lowered the mark to 7.94 seconds later on. Harrison set the Tech school record with her new time, beating the previous time of 7.96 seconds.

“It was good,” Harrison said. “I think with the 7.99 I set myself to run really fast. I felt like I executed the race really, really well. I was surprised by the time but I felt like I’d probably run it faster then (Friday).”

With her new time, Harrison also made herself known as one of the fastest in the world.

“This is really the first year since probably her freshman year that she’s been healthy and been able to train consistently,” Cianelli said. “I feel like this year she’s doing some of the little things to maintain her health and that’s paid off. Running 7.94 is the fifth best time in the world right now.”

Senior Kristi Castlin finished second behind Harrison with a time of 8.11 seconds.

“If Queen’s not on top of her game, Kristi’s right there ready,” Cianelli said. “The nice thing in training (together), they see each other every day and are pushing each other.”

Harrison also won in the 400-meter event, setting another school record with a time of 53.06 seconds.

“She’s in the best shape of her life right now and I think the success she’s had will carry over to the outdoor season,” said Cianelli.

Back on the men’s side, some success came Saturday without controversy.

The men made up for some of the points lost in the 3,000 in the field, with an impressive performance from the team’s pole-vaulters.

The Hokies placed first, second, third and fifth in the event — a remarkable feat in any event.

Junior Hunter Hall won the event, followed by junior Jared Jodon, senior Yavgeniy Olhovsky and junior Joe Davis, respectively.

“To go one, two, three, five is an amazing performance and certainly, I think is a little unexpected,” said Cianelli.

To cap off the meet, the Hokies took second place in the women’s 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3:39:69. The relay included Harrison, freshman Yvonne Amegashie, freshman Funmi Alabi and sophomore Aunye Boone.

“We have a really young team and I felt like everyone did their best especially since we’re such a young team,” Harrison said.

Overall, Cianelli was very pleased with the results from the meet and indoor season.

“It was just an amazing day,” he said. “We put ourselves in position to win the meet, which was the goal, we want to be a contender each time out and that’s what we were.”

Several members of the team will compete in the NCAA meet in two weeks.

After that, the team will shift gears and focus on the spring season, which begins on March 19 in Clemson, 
S.C. at the Clemson Invitational.

“We have a very young team and we’re going to only get better,” Cianelli said.