Football isn't the only sport skyrocketing to prominence at Virginia Tech. Save a headline or two for the Hokies' Olympic sports teams.
In the three years since most Tech sports (except football) joined the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Hokies' less-publicized teams have swept a total of 14 A-10 championships.
Tech coaches and players say the best is yet to come.
"It's a whole new ball game with so many new athletic facilities on the Tech campus," says Russ Whitenack, veteran men's track coach. "I think Tech has the potential now to become a national contender."
Whitenack is all smiles because Tech has added new indoor and outdoor tracks, giving the university one of the best complexes in the country.
Other coaches are just as proud of their new facilities. There's a new soccer field inside the Johnson-Miller Outdoor Track. Next door is a streamlined softball field. The Burrows-Burleson Tennis complex, completed in 1992, is one of the best in college athletics.
It probably is no coincidence that teams with new facilities have posted recent championships. In the 1996-97 academic year, Tech swept nine championships in A-10 play. Men's teams won in indoor and outdoor track, tennis, cross country, golf, and baseball. Women captured crowns in indoor and outdoor track and tennis.
This school year, Tech has won three Atlantic 10 titles. The men won in cross country and indoor track while the women's basketball team surprisingly swept the A-10 championship in Bonnie Henrickson's first year as coach. Keith Mourlam's wrestling team also swept the championship in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Atlantic 10 awards the Commissioners' Cup each year to the teams that post the best overall record in all sports. The Tech men have won the cup both of the past two years while the women finished fourth two years ago and were third last year in a field of 12.
While Tech has stressed the team concept in compiling great records, some individuals also have gained national prominence. One of the most inspiring performances has come from track star Katie Ollendick, a champion in the pentathlon and high jump who has become the second Tech athlete in history to win All-American honors in a sport and also make academic All-American. The other was the late, great Frank Loria of football fame.
Even relatively new Tech teams have their sights on championships. Brooke Martin, interim coach of the surprising Tech women's lacrosse team, says, "Our sport will be sanctioned by the Atlantic 10 for the first time next school year. We should be one of the two best teams in the conference with a chance to win a title."
At Virginia Tech, winning is the name of the game. This is a new and exciting day in Hokie athletics.
by Gary Wheat
What a grand turnaround for the women's basketball team. After a 10-21 mark in 1996-97, the Hokies delivered the school's fourth 20-win season in six years. Not bad for a coach in her first year on the job.
Coach Bonnie Henrickson and the Hokies also registered the school's 300th win, with their 84-60 victory over Rhode Island. And they delivered the program's first Atlantic 10 championship, with a 66-64 overtime win over the top-seeded Minutewomen of UMass.
Freshman Tere Williams became one of the Hokies' most honored newcomers. Not only named A-10 rookie of the year, the Chapel Hill, N.C., native was named Freshman All-American by the Women's Basketball News Service. Another Hokie who claimed All-American status was Maria Albertsson, a native of Sweden.
The Hokies never found themselves short of stars during the season. Henrickson masterfully used 14 different starting lineups, with each contest highlighting a different Hokie. Eight different players led Tech in scoring in the Hokies' 30 games.
Gary Wheat is assistant sports information director.