Track takes two titles

Women return to 2010 form, men take seventh consecutive triple crown

A Cut above — Freshman Ken Ritchey finished fourth in the men’s pole vault. Photo credit: Kyle Milligan

The Liberty University men’s and women’s track and field teams swept the Big South Outdoor Track and Field Championships after three days of competition, April 18-20.

The Flames captured their seventh consecutive and 18th overall conference title. Having won the cross country and indoor conference meets earlier in the year, the men’s outdoor victory secured the Flames seventh straight
“triple crown.”

The Lady Flames title avenged a 2013 indoor season loss to Coastal Carolina, winning the outdoor championship for the first time since 2010.

On the men’s side, Liberty posted eight individual event victories en route to an 82-point triumph over Coastal Carolina.

Redshirt senior Ryan Smith made conference history in the meet, becoming the only Big South athlete ever to sweep an event’s indoor and outdoor titles in four straight years. Smith won the shot put with a throw of 60-6. The throw was a new personal record for Smith and also set new meet and facility records.

“(The Big South record) was important to me, but I wasn’t focused on it,” Smith said. “I was focused on doing my best and praising the Lord with my abilities and enjoying my last time around. I was very happy to do my best, and, fortunately, my best was a new record.”

The redshirt senior added a second-place finish in the hammer throw with a 194-7 toss. He finished the meet with a second-place, 161-foot throw in the discus. Smith’s three All-Big South finishes notched 26 points for the Flames in the team-scored meet.

Smith’s performances propelled him to a second consecutive Big South Men’s Outstanding Field Performer award.

Liberty swept first through fourth places in the pole vault and contributed 29 points to the team score.
Redshirt freshman Cody Bingham finished in the top spot, vaulting 16-0.75.

Redshirt senior Chris Johnson secured 10 more points for the Flames, winning the triple jump with a distance of 48-4.75.

On the track, Isaac Wendland captured his first Big South individual titles, taking first place in both the 800-meter and 1500-meter runs and adding 20 points to the Flames tally. Wendland finished the 800 with a time of 1:51.37 and clocked 3:56.78 in the 1500.

In the 5,000-meter run, Caleb Edmonds, Josh MacDonald, Jeremie Bourget and David Ricksecker took first, second, third and fifth place, respectively, adding 28 points for the Flames. Edmonds finished the race in 14:26.14.

Reaching new heights — Senior Cody Fridgen pole vaulted his way into second place at the Big South Championship. Photo credit: Kyle Milligan

In the 10,000-meter run, the 5K quartet swept the top four spots and contributed 29 additional points. Ricksecker crossed the finish line first, clocking 31:22.29, followed by Edmonds, MacDonald and Bourget.
Andre Washington posted 10 tallies for Liberty, claiming a victory in the 400-meter hurdles.

“I tried to stay pretty conservative throughout the race, but, once I hit that last stretch, I felt myself speeding up, and I saw myself passing people,” Washington said. “I thought, ‘I got this, I really actually have it this time,’ and that thought, that idea, just carried me throughout the rest of the race.”

The senior finished with a personal-best time of 51.95 seconds.

“I expected to run around a mid-52-ish, but when I saw 51 (on the board), I mean, the first thought was, ‘Thank you, God,’ that came through my head, and I don’t really remember much after that. I was too excited,” Washington said.

He also posted a fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.17 seconds. The senior ran in both relays as well, helping Liberty to third place in the 4×100-meter relay (41.11 seconds) and fourth in the 4×400-meter relay (3:15.24). Washington was joined by Roderick Spruel, Tarell Williams and ConRoy Smith in the 4×100 and by Kyle Kill, Isaac Wendland and Paul Arslain in the 4×400.
The Flames finished with 213 points, defeating Coastal Carolina (131) in the championship.

“I figured we should’ve had about a 30-point win, and the team really rallied together and competed well, and 82 points is, like, dominant,” Head Coach Brant Tolsma, who took home both the Men’s and Women’s, Big South Coach of the Year awards, said.

After being ahead for most of the competition, the Lady Flames relinquished their lead to Coastal Carolina in the final events of the meet. The teams exchanged the lead several times before Liberty guaranteed its victory in the 5,000-meter run, the second-to-last event.

Senior Khristina Kanagy finished the 5K in second place with a time of 17:14.83. Sophomore Jacy Christiansen then sprinted past two runners in the home stretch, crossing the finish line third in 17:26.2.
“I just kept working up and trying to get a better and better place, because I knew the team needed points,” Christiansen said.

Leap — Sophomore Kyle Wheeler finished third in the long jump. Photo credit: Kyle Milligan

The two All-Big South finishes allowed the Lady Flames to put 14 points on the board, giving them a 10.75-point margin. With the new cushion, Liberty secured the team victory, since Coastal Carolina could not have scored enough points to surpass the Lady Flames in the last event.

“I’m just glad that our team was able to pull together and find team unity and get that first place,” Kanagy said.

In the final event, the team of Ansley Gebben, Abigail Flower, Brittney Webley and Corinn Bedell scored six more team points in the 4×400, stretching the final margin to 6.75 points (210-203.25). The team earned third place with a time of 3:51.26.

“Everybody, all through the day, competed really hard,” Tolsma said. “I kept telling them how close it was and that every point counted, and I was really proud of how they laid it on
the line.”

The Lady Flames also notched four event victories in the
team win.

Redshirt senior Christina Mitchell earned two individual titles in her last conference championship. Mitchell scored 4,743 points in the heptathlon for the win. She also added a gold-medal performance in the javelin, throwing 152-9 for new program and meet records.

Sophomore Mychelle Cumings won the Women’s Big South Outstanding Field Performer award after securing victories in the shot put
and discus.

Cumings recorded the five longest throws of the competition in the shot put and threw 50-6.75 for the victory. She has brought home shot put titles in all four indoor and outdoor championships in her two years.

The sophomore also added a win in the discus with a 166-11 throw and a new meet record. Additionally, she has won the Big South discus championship in both of her years at Liberty.

The Flames and Lady Flames will travel to Radford University to compete in the Highlander Invitational April 26 and 27.

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