VMI Track and Field Preview: Distance
Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com
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Junior Cabell Willis returns to lead this year’s VMI distance runners into the 2012-13 track season. Willis, one of the team captains of this year’s cross country squad, just missed All-Big South honors at the conference championships by finishing 11th. He also comes off a track season in which he finished sixth in the 5K at the Big South Outdoor Championships, clocking in at a personal best of 14:49. Willis was one of three Keydets in that race to go under the 15-minute mark, while prior to the event, only two runners had done so since 2003. The junior also has a Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor under his belt, having accomplished that feat during this past cross country season.

Willis will be joined by a young cast, including sophomore Hartnel Paultre and freshman Sean Helmke. Helmke was impressive during cross country season, including posting a third-place finish at the JMU Open and finishing 25th at the Big South Championships, while Paultre closed the XC year well, finishing as VMI’s #3 runner at the NCAA SE Regionals and doing so with a resounding PR (32:36 for 10K). Paultre’s classmate, Steven Trayer, also could be a factor after coming in as VMI’s #5 at the SE Regionals, while freshman Patrick Spahn had multiple solid runs during the cross country season, including getting into the Keydets’ top five at the Paul Short Run. Several freshmen will provide depth.

Although he is expected to run primarily mid-distance races, veteran Andrey Dmitriev could step up to the 5K-10K events on occasion as needed.

On the women’s side, the Keydets are expected to field a quartet of runners, including sophomore Michelle Church. Church battled illness during the 2011-12 track season, but did return to compete in several events from March onward, including a 10th-place finish in the 5K at the VMI/W&L Carnival and a 12th-place result in the 1,500-meters at the Big South Outdoor Championships. Much as she did last season, Church could step down to a middle distance event as needed.

In the longer races, she will be joined by two of her classmates, Nina Srikongyos and Hannah Dickinson, and senior Lindsey Carty. Carty is a former scorer in the 10K at the conference level, as she finished eighth as a freshman, while Srikongyos was 16th in the 3K at the Big South indoor meet last season. Dickinson, finally, was perhaps VMI’s most versatile runner last year, competing in events ranging from the 400-meters all the way up to the 5K.