Motor Mile Speedway changes course, looks to future

Fairlawn, Va., March 14 – Motor Mile Speedway – The inside wall on the front stretch is emblazoned with the logo of Shelor Motor Mile, whose owner is a part owner of the track. Photo: Ryan Dye


by Ryan Dye–

Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. knew something had to change. With attendance down – a trend that currently plagues more than just the small-town short track racing scene – ownership decided to try something new.

The track announced in November their plans to cut their ties with NASCAR, choosing not to renew their NASCAR sanction for the 2018 season. A NASCAR sanction means the track was on the schedule for a NASCAR sanctioned event. Without renewing the sanction, the track will no longer have weekly points-paying oval races.

“Track ownership made the decision,” said Public Relations Manager JW Martin. “A lot went into it…and it was ultimately decided that the racing aspect of our program was unsustainable moving forward.”

In its place, the track released a seven-event schedule running from April through September consisting of special one-off events. Of those events, the annual monster truck show – which according to Martin sold nearly 7,500 tickets alone last year – will make its return along with two demolition derbies.

While the cost of the sanction itself played a role, the speedway also didn’t want to raise their prices to the fans of the track.

“In a way, the tracks and the race teams, they cannibalize one another (for sponsorship money) or you pass that along to your race fans,” Martin said. “You begin to up-charge them for concessions and tickets, and we did not do that.”

In 2017, the track announced that they would discontinue bracket racing at the drag strip situated just behind the backstretch in favor of more emphasis on the Friday Night Fury drag racing that allows amateurs to race their street vehicles.

A controversial decision at first, Martin noted that attendance actually increased last season, which led to the track choosing to bring back standard bracket racing for the 2018 season.

While Martin doesn’t know if that success will be replaced on the oval track, it was still something ownership had to try.

“The track ownership, their position on it is every year is a new year. They are always revisiting the business model and I think anything is possible for 2019.”



Digital News Delivery: App tournament challenge

Photo credit: GoonSquadSarah on / CC BY-ND

by Jake Thompson, Regan Magarity–

The second week in March signifies the unofficial start of a month-long college basketball holiday known as “March Madness.” Beginning with Selection Sunday, sports fans from across the globe will spend days crunching numbers, studying analytics, and performing nonsensical acts in order to construct the perfect bracket.

In years past, fans were forced to print countless paper copies of their masterpiece which not only hurt the environment, but also became a mess when the bracket was inevitably busted.

ESPN, often regarded as the worldwide leader in sports, intervened with a user-friendly online interface called ESPN Tournament Challenge. The challenge can be accessed online via or can be downloaded for free on the App Store.

ESPN TC allows fans to build more than 20 different brackets, create and join groups with friends and celebrities, and offers luxury programs such as winning a free car to those who reign supreme and pick the perfect bracket.

ESPN offers fans data from each team’s season to date and how teams compare before an impending match up. Stats range from points per game and rebounds to conference record and Rating Power Index.

In this week’s vodcast, we take a look at the ESPN Tournament Challenge and how you can take advantage of its features to create the perfect March Madness bracket.



Stagg Bowl Says Goodbye to Salem

Salem, Va., Dec. 13—Stagg Bowl XLV: Mary-Hardin Baylor will take on Mount Union in the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship. This season marks Mount Union’s 20th appearance in the game, while it will be Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 3rd. Photo: Brady Hess

by Drew Davis, Brady Hess–

A tradition is finally coming to an end.

The NCAA Football Division III Championship is preparing for its final game in Salem, Virginia on December 15, 2017 after 25 years.

The “Stagg Bowl” was listed with the Division II softball championship and Division III men’s basketball final four as other marquee events leaving the area back in April 2017.

Mike Stevens says he can still remember the “slick” video that the City of Salem pitched to the NCAA in an attempt to host the game.

“I remember 25 years ago when this thing was brought up as an idea and I thought it was absolutely crazy,” said Mike Stevens, the Communications Director for the City of Salem. “They’re never going to get this thing here.”

Against all odds, in 1993, Salem became just the fourth city to host the Stagg Bowl, joining Phenix City, Ala., Kings Island, Ohio and Bradenton, Fla. on the list of hosts.

The game in Salem will be remembered for its high scoring contests, an appearance by nearby Bridgewater College in 2001 and the 2009 Snow Bowl.

Stevens noted that in 2009 the entire Commonwealth of Virginia was covered in snow but the only sight of green was the Salem Football Stadium.

While the NCAA has had a lot of success in Salem, they look to build in larger places.

The Division III football title game will call two new places home over the next four years. The game will be in Shenandoah, Texas for 2018 and 2019, before traveling to Canton, Ohio for 2020-2021.

The void left in Salem will not go unnoticed.

The football game leaving Salem will help contribute to a financial hole in the Roanoke Valley. The three events combined led to a $3 million to $5 million impact, according to The Roanoke Times.

However, with these losses, Salem can also count their gains. The city will host Division III women’s basketball tournament games in 2019 and 2021, Division II women’s lacrosse matchups in 2021, and Division III women’s lacrosse and Division III softball contests both in 2021 and 2022.

The final game will feature some familiar foes to the Roanoke Valley. Mount Union will make its 20th appearance in Salem, having won their last title in 2015. Mary Hardin-Baylor will make their 3rd appearance, while trying to defend their national title from 2016.

As the Stagg Bowl moves on, it will be interesting to see if another city builds a connection to the game like Salem.

“It has meant a great deal to the whole Roanoke Valley and especially the folks of Salem,” said Stevens, who was the sports director for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke for 23 years. “I think for a city the size of Salem to host an event of this magnitude that’s on ESPN for 25 straight years, it really is one of the greatest success stories in sports marketing in the Commonwealth ever. It’s unheard of.”

Hokies go bowling…once again

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 8.32.42 PM.png
Blacksburg, Va. – Dec. 11, 2017: The Camping World Bowl, previously referred to as the Russell Athletic Bowl, takes place on Dec. 28, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. The Hokies hold the trophy in their bowl memorabilia museum in Merryman Athletic Center on the Virginia Tech campus. Photo Credit: Mary Desmond 


by Mary Desmond, Freddy Mesmer–

The Virginia Tech football team is preparing for a trip to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Camping World Bowl game. This is familiar territory for the Hokies.

“For us, it was really nice to be playing in the Camping World Bowl, which is where we played last year for the ACC Championship, so it was nice to kind of remember being there and doing this and that,” Danielle Bartelstein, senior director of Football Operations, said.

The Hokies also have been in Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl back in 2012 against Rutgers. The Hokies won this matchup 13-10 in overtime.

The Hokies have a significant history in Bowl games. They currently lead the NCAA with twenty-five consecutive bowl games. According to the Hokiesports website, the Hokies are one of only six programs in college football history to go to a bowl in at least 20 straight years (Nebraska, Michigan, Florida State, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Florida). 

It started back in 1993 when the Hokies traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana where they took on the Hoosiers of Indiana. Virginia Tech downed the Hoosiers 43 to 20 at Independence Stadium. They have played at Independence stadium three times over the years. Once in 1984 and again most recently in 2015 for a matchup with Tulsa where the Hokies came out on top in a high scoring affair, 55-52.

During former head coach Frank Beamer’s time in Blacksburg, he led the Hokies to twenty-three straight bowl games. His overall bowl game record was 11-12. Beamer brought the Hokies to a total of five BCS Bowl games.

These games are the most highly rated of the bowl games and are typically played on New Year’s Day. This exposure helped shape Virginia Tech football into the program it is today. Retiring in 2015, he ended his coaching career in Shreveport with the win over Tulsa.

With the end of an era with Coach Beamer, the athletics department hired current head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente has led the Hokies to consecutive bowl games in his first two years at the helm. In his first season in 2016, Fuente found himself coaching a ten win team.

The Hokies capped off the 2016 regular season by winning the ACC Coastal division and playing Clemson for a shot at the ACC championship. The Hokies fell short of this goal but ended up pulling off a miraculous comeback in the 2016 Belk Bowl.    

The Hokies go into the final game of the season hoping to finish strong. The team will play Oklahoma State on Dec. 28, 2017 on ESPN.

Changes in high school athletics

by Brady Hess–

Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 3—Have a Ball: Football, basketball and baseball are a few of the many sports that student-athletes across the country have an opportunity to participate in during their high school glory days. Photo: Brady Hess

Southwest Virginia is just one of the many places this time of year where student-athletes are beginning to make the shift from football to basketball. The shift is not an uncommon one to make and is one that athletes embrace with pride. The shift has its challenges but overall the multisport athletes will tell you it is worth it.

“Some advantages are playing with my good friends. The quick turn is nice because I’m already in shape,” said Blacksburg High School junior Drew Babcock. “The transition can also be a little difficult.”

The transition from a physical game like football to the finesse game of basketball is a difficult one. The conditioning for both sports is different, presenting a challenge that Blacksburg junior Cole Epperley said is the most difficult in the transition.

“Basketball is muscle memory and football does a lot of wearing and tearing on the body,” said Richlands basketball assistant Patrick Wade. “Most times when we get players they have some nagging injuries and are a bit overweight because they have been lifting weights and aren’t as mobile.”

Based on the success of your football program, basketball season can become delayed. This can set you back on the hardwood in regards to team chemistry and planning for a big district game. However, while to some, it appears that there are many drawbacks to participating in a handful of sports, the good can outweigh the bad.

In recent years, the debate over which is more beneficial, being a one-sport athlete or a multisport athlete has became popular. In a March 2017 USA Today article, the NCAA collected information from 21,233 student-athletes on this topic. The results show that 71 percent of Division I football players were multisport athletes.

In 2015, pictures hit the web in regards to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is more likely to recruit athletes who played numerous sports than to seek after a one-sport athlete.

Athletes can be met with disapproval by coaches who frown upon athletes who seek to be apart of multiple teams.

“Not all coaches are this way but there are some out there that do not want athletes to play other sports and to only focus on theirs,” said Christiansburg Director of Parks and Recreation, Brad Epperley. “This, unfortunately, is a total disrespect to the student-athlete.”

Recently, the Virginia High School League changed the way high school sports are handled. Instead of having “seasonal” practice where there were a couple weeks off between each sport, coaches, players and administrators are now met with the option for “year-round practice.” The elder Epperley disapproves of this, saying that this can limit the number of sports that athletes can commit themselves to.

With implementations of year-round practice and play, the landscape of high school athletics has changed completely. With this change, expect there to be a lot of conversation on whether or not playing numerous sports is a good or bad in the near future.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 1.10.46 AM

Full view of infographic

Beamer still with the Hokies

25 Display
Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 9—25’s On Display. In the second year of the Beamer jersey tradition, the Merryman Athletic Facility puts Beamer’s number on the new Nike jersey designs. The exhibit shows both the 2017 home and away uniforms. Photo: Drew Davis.

by Drew Davis–

When head football coach Frank Beamer retired in 2015, Virginia Tech had to brace for change—change it had not had combatted for over 29 years. Yet out of this adjustment, under new head coach Justin Fuente, came a new tradition that kept a bit of the past.

The former Memphis football leader decided to reward a player each week with the retired No. 25 Beamer jersey to wear for excellent special teams play.

Now almost two seasons in, the tradition is still alive and well, and Blacksburg has seen a variety of players sporting the 25.

There’s been the fast.

Greg Stroman arguably had the greatest performance donning the two numbers, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch recaps.

For the homecoming game in 2016, the cornerback/return man scored on an 87-yard punt return touchdown and notched 155 All-Purpose yards against North Carolina.

There’s been the big.

 Ricky Walker became the largest to wear Beamer’s former numbers.

Hokiesports broke the news, as the three hundred pound defensive tackle would go on to have four tackles, three solo, one tackle for loss, and one pass batted down in a win against Duke.

 There’ve been the freshmen.

True freshmen wide receiver Divine Deablo and Australian-born punter Oscar Bradburn in 2016 and 2017 respectively wore the 25, as the newcomers too joined the newer tradition.

Of note, Deablo forced a fumble and the Bradburn had a 53-yard punt, both in victories.

Overall, Fuente says, “Thanks to Coach Beamer, his assistants and many talented student-athletes, Virginia Tech has become synonymous with special teams success.”

Now with Beamer gone, he remains with the team through the tradition and the special teams continue to succeed with great plays like Stroman’s and Deablo’s in the 25.

Beamer thinks this gesture shows the Hokies continue to be good hands.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative of the way Coach Fuente and everyone at [Virginia] Tech has handled the coaching transition. I think we have a great head coach who is going to continue to make Virginia Tech even better.”

Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds became the latest to wear the jersey numbers in Virginia Tech’s 28-22 defeat to Georgia Tech Saturday.


Career options for student athletes


Blacksburg, Va,. Oct. 16–Students gather in the presidential suite in Lane Stadium for Career Jumpstart. Athletes had the opportunity to meet with workers from across the New River Valley to learn about life in the “real world.” Photo: Brady Hess

by Brady Hess–

Scott Morgan writes that in every sport other than baseball, less than two percent of collegiate athletes turn pro. At Virginia Tech, the Office of Student-Athlete Development within the Athletic Department has started Career Jumpstart to show student-athletes their options after their playing days are over.

According to, the “Career Jumpstart provides opportunities for Hokie student-athletes to enhance career development skills, while interacting with alumni and professionals to make connections, learning about specific career fields, and enhancing their networking skills.”

Whether it is getting a feel for what the path is to become a medical professional or learning to change four tires on a racecar, a wide variety of work was on display in Lane Stadium.

Billy Hardee, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at the Community Health Center of the New River Valley, said it was encouraging to see young athletes seeking out their options in the workforce.
The admiration also came from the student-athletes for their new colleagues.

“Tonight was really awesome,” said Mandy Powers, a senior on the Virginia Tech volleyball team. “We just had a great time meeting so many people from so many different companies.”

Like Hardee, other employers sang high praises of Virginia Tech for hosting an event of this nature for its athletes, but they also sang high praises for the student-athletes inquiring about their futures.

Kim Adams, the director of SOX and accounting policy at Union Bank & Trust, is also an alumnus of Virginia Tech. Adams said that she has always tried to give back to the school in which she attended and that Career Jumpstart provided another way for her to do just that.

“I never had the opportunity to do something like this when I was a student-athlete here,” said Dr. Billy Hardee, a former Virginia Tech student-athlete. “It’s great that this is very much a part of Virginia Tech and their athletic department.”

Hardee discusses his experiences with the event in the audio slideshow below.

Southwest Virginia’s most wanted

coleton beck
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 21, 2016 – Speed Demon: Blacksburg High School running back Coleton Beck rushing down the field to score a touchdown against Heritage. Blacksburg won the game 24-17.  Photo: Courtesy of Coleton Beck

by Chase Parker–

Some say that speed kills. Others say that it is a way of life. For Blacksburg High School’s star running back Coleton Beck, it is the latter.

At the start of the 2016 football season, Beck was a fairly unknown athlete. Outside of local fans, virtually nobody knew his name. But by the season’s end, he had become the most highly-recruited player out of Southwest Virginia, gaining scholarship offers from big-time programs such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, according to

Why? Because of how fast he can run.VISUAL CONTENTMARKETING

The local star boasts a 100-meter dash time so fast (10.41 seconds) that he is nearly within qualifying range for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, which requires a time of 10.16 seconds, according to That type of quickness isn’t something that comes natural, either.

“I wasn’t always the fastest kid around,” Beck said. “I started strength, speed and agility training with former NFL linebacker Dennis Haley along with running track in the seventh grade. I’ve been fortunate to have great coaching ever since, including my current high school sprint coach Steve Schmitt.”

The speed that the local football star has gained over the years has helped evolve him into not only a highly-touted athlete, but a coach’s best friend as well.

Thad Wells, the head honcho of the Blacksburg High School football team, says that Beck is the fastest player he’s ever coached. Furthermore, he claims that having a player with speed like Beck’s makes his job much easier.

“Coaching a player like Beck reminds you that the game is simple,” Wells explained. “It comes down to the players. I just don’t want to over-complicate things.”

Despite Beck’s production, Wells still says that there is room to grow for the senior running back, and that Beck won’t reach his full potential until he gets into a collegiate lifting program.

Beck posted a list of his top three college choices to his personal Twitter page on Sept. 14, 2017. The finalists include UNC, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Even though anticipation is building, Beck says that he has no timeline regarding when he will announce his commitment.

The speedster hopes that his athleticism will give him the ability to make his dreams in collegiate and professional sports come true.

“My career goals are to be successful at the division one level, maybe the NFL and to make the U.S. Olympic Team as a sprinter,” Beck said.



VT Kicker competes to bring attention to a personal cause

Blacksburg, Va., April 24- KICKING IT: Junior Joey Slye (center) poses with participants at his Help Joey Kick Cancer event. Photo: Blayne Fink

by Blayne Fink–

Joey Slye is no stranger to being nominated for and winning awards. The Virginia Tech football team’s junior kicker was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2016, awarded to the nation’s top placekicker, while also earning a spot on’s all-bowl team in 2015 and being named one of the team’s two Hard Hat Champions for 2017. However, no award may mean more to Slye than that of being named the 2017 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year for Virginia, an award that will be presented this May.

Slye, who lost his brother to Leukemia in February of 2014, was approached in December about running for the Virginia Chapter Man of the Year. According to the Virginia Man and Woman of the Year website, earning the title is based on dynamic and passionate individuals raising funds for blood cancer research.

Slye explains that being named this year’s LLS Man of the Year would have an even deeper meaning, as much of LLS’ research is being aimed at Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the cancer that claimed his brother’s life.

“Honestly, it’s crazy that I’m running this year when LLS’ main focus is going straight to AML,” said Slye. “He’s gone, but it’s kind of cool to know that every cent I make right now would have gone directly to him or someone else’s A.J.”

In order to claim rights to the title of Man of the Year, a candidate must out-fundraise the competing candidates. In an attempt to raise money for his campaign, Slye hosted the fundraiser “Help Joey Kick Cancer” on Sunday, April 23in the Indoor Practice Facility. The event, which also played host to the Be The Match campaign, an initiative that swabs potential donors and places them on the bone marrow registry, was successful in raising over $6,000 and swabbed over 350 participants.

While Slye’s competitive spirit most certainly applies to the Man of the Year competition, he ultimately just wants to continue to bring attention to a personal cause.

“It’s fundraising money and spreading awareness in good competition with other people,” said Slye. “I mean yes, we want to win, but at the same time, we know as a collective group we are fundraising money that is going directly towards cancer research.”

Virginia Tech’s healing through sports

Image #3
BLACKBURG, Va. Apr. 11 – Head Coach Charles “Chugger” Adair talks to his team during practice held inside Virginia Tech’s Indoor Practice Facility. The team wore black arm-bands to honor those lost on April 16th. Photo: Conor Doherty

by Conor Doherty–

In the hours and days following April 16, many weren’t certain how Virginia Tech and the community could begin down the long road of healing and regain some semblance of normalcy. When tragedy strikes, people turn to the things they are familiar with and for the members of Hokie Nation, sports was that familiarity.

The baseball team hosted the Miami Hurricanes and while the Hokies lost, the healing process had begun. Now ten years later, the team gets to show their respects again this upcoming Saturday against the University of Virginia. On First Responder Appreciation Day, the Hokies will take the field with special decals on their uniforms and helmets to honor the ten year anniversary.

However, the baseball team isn’t the only sports team at this school that will continue to honor the memories of those lost on April 16.

When playing in-season and during practice, the women’s soccer team wear black armbands as a symbol of the losses suffered that day. All of the players weren’t even in high school when the shooting occurred but they know that it is important to never forget about the past. Although the players were not even in high school yet, they know that it is important to never forget about the past.

“They’ve worn it [arm bands] for years, and its something that they have passed from team to team and its part of our culture that they kind of do it as they go,” head coach Charles “Chugger,” Adair explained. “I think for the players, it’s subtle, but yet, empowering that they have that and they can remember, kind of what Virginia Tech is about and about the previous people that have been here and been a part of the university and part of the culture. It’s empowering to them to see that and understand that it’s more than just them as a soccer team and more than a student body.”

While wearing arm-bands and decals show how impactful April 16 was on the campus, it also shows the resilient spirit of this community and university. The school and its sports teams won’t ever be able to fully get out from under the shadow April 16 casts upon this campus, but these teams can lessen that shadow. Through their hard work, dedication and love for their teammates, their school and all of Hokie Nation, they can ensure that Hokie Spirit will continue to live on.