Saturday, April 19, 2014

Track at top of the heap

Liberty University’s men’s and women’s track and field squads notched two team titles and 16 individual event victories as they competed against in-state foes at the Virginia Cup, March 23.

The Flames faced Radford University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia and James Madison University in its third meet of the outdoor season.

Not a chance — With its showing at the Virginia Cup, Liberty established itself as the team to beat. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

The one-day event, which was scored as a series of dual meets, was a chance for the track and field athletes to focus on the success of the team, according to Head Coach Brant Tolsma.

“I mean, this was kind of a fun meet where we were just competing as a team, and we don’t get to do that very often,” Tolsma said. “We weren’t as much chasing times or distances. We were just trying to compete.”

The Liberty men finished the day undefeated and picked up three victories over Radford (104-69), Virginia Commonwealth (109-64) and Virginia (99-62.5) to secure the team title.

Despite having a different focus during the meet, the Flames still brought home nine individual event victories on the day. The men dominated in the field, securing six of the eight available wins.

Redshirt senior Ryan Smith threw for a pair of event victories in the shot put and hammer throw. Smith’s throw in the shot put sailed 57-6.5 — nearly seven feet farther than the second-place distance. In the hammer throw, Smith recorded a distance of 179-7. The redshirt senior also notched a third-place finish in the discus.

Sophomore Daniel Klase placed first in the javelin with a distance of 180-3.

The Flames also secured three wins in the vertical and horizontal jumps.

Cody Bingham cleared a height of 16-0.75 for first place in the pole vault. The height was also a new personal best for the redshirt freshman.

In the long jump, Aaron Johnson secured a victory for the Flames with a distance of 23-2, while his brother Chris Johnson claimed the win in triple jump with a distance of 47-10.

On the track, Roderick Spruel, Andre Washington, Tarell Williams and Leonard Robbins combined to win the 4×100-meter relay with a time of 41.12 seconds. Washington and Robbins, along with Kyle Gill and Paul Arslain, also teamed up for the 4×400-meter relay and finished the race in second place, crossing the finish line at 3:20.18.

In addition to their relay win, Spruel and Washington each notched individual first place finishes. Spruel ran the 100-meter dash in 10.89 seconds to secure the victory. Washington finished the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 53.95 seconds for a new personal record.

On the women’s side, the Lady Flames also focused on the team, wrapping up competition with a 4-0 record on the day and a team title. The Liberty women beat their competition by an average of about 48 points.

“To be able to come out on the top in that situation is encouraging,” Tolsma said. “We definitely
like that.”

Seven individual event victories aided the Lady Flames on the road to a team title.

In the field, the Lady Flames secured two event victories in the throws and two in jumps.

Redshirt senior Christina Mitchell won the javelin with a throw of 140-3. The reigning Big South Women’s Field athlete of the week remains undefeated in the event and now owns a perfect 3-0 record on the season after three
outdoor meets.

Sophomore Jennifer Nicholson became the third different Lady Flame to claim first place in discus on the season. Nicholson’s winning throw sailed 151-4.

Shelley Parker added an event victory for the women in the pole vault. The senior cleared a season-best height of 11-5.75.

Rookie Janae Jones rounded out the women’s field victories with a first-place finish in the triple jump. Jones jumped to 38-5.5 for the win.

On the track, freshman Brittney Webley won two events. Webley crossed the finish line first in both the 100-meter hurdles (14.56 seconds) and 400-meter hurdles (1:06.55).

Senior Betel Yosef added a victory in a distance event for the Liberty women. Yosef posted a season-best time of 11:15.39 in the 3000-meter steeplechase to win the Lady Flames’ seventh individual event.

“I think in general I was pleased with the way (they) competed,” Tolsma said. “They kind of rallied to compete as a team, and I think it was motivational to everyone.”

Liberty’s track and field athletes will be spread across the country to compete in three different meets beginning March 27. Four distance runners will travel to the West Coast to compete in the Stanford Invitational, while the remaining athletes will represent Liberty at the Texas Relays and Raleigh Relays.

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