Runners, throwers and jumpers enjoy banner day in renovated complex
Liberty’s men’s and women’s track and field teams picked up 18 event victories in the Liberty Collegiate Invitational, the inaugural meet of Liberty’s newly renovated Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex, April 5
“It was really nice to have a beautiful day out here on our new track,” Head Coach Brant Tolsma said. “(It was) exciting for everybody to get to compete at home. It’s a little bit more fun to be here and to have such a first-class facility.”
In two days of competition at the new complex, the Liberty men contributed eight of the 18 event titles,
including four on the track.
On the second day of competition, distance runners Caleb Edmonds and Isaac Wendland set the pace for the Flames. Edmonds finished the 3000-meter run in first place with a time of 8:23.83.
The redshirt sophomore’s time was the fastest in program and facility history. Wendland’s time of 8:36.64 was good for second place in the event. The redshirt senior also broke the previous facility record of 8:40.3.
Wendland also captured an 800-meter victory, finishing the race in 1:52.43. Wendland won the Liberty Collegiate Invitational event title for the third time in his career.
Wendland later combined with Kyle Gill, Tyler Weigandt and Paul Arslain to notch a second-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay. The relay team finished in 3:19.71.
The Flames captured a victory in the 4×100-meter relay as well. The quartet of Roderick Spruel, Andre Washington, Tarell Williams and Leonard Robbins combined to finish the race with a season-best time of 40.99 seconds.
Washington also notched an individual event victory in the 400-meter dash. The senior edged out teammate Leonard Robbins, crossing the finish line at 48.65 seconds.
“I knew some of my biggest competitors in the conference were there,” Washington said. “I knew if I could get in front of them, I could them hold off at the finish line.”
Washington added a second-place finish to his accolades, setting a new personal best of 53.34 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles.
In the field, Liberty added four more event victories. In addition to his relay victory, Williams added a win in the long jump. The junior sailed to 23-5.25 in the horizontal jump.
Sophomore Kyle Wheeler added a victory to the Flames tally in the vertical jump. Wheeler cleared 6-8.25 to win the high jump.
The Flames were led by redshirt senior Ryan Smith in the throws. In the hammer throw, Smith threw 195-3 and outdistanced the second-place throw by 30 feet to win. The redshirt senior added a second victory in the shot put with a throw of 56-10.25. Smith won the Liberty Collegiate Invitational shot put title for the fifth straight year. Smith also finished the competition with a third-place finish in the discus, throwing for 155-9.
The Lady Flames contributed 10 event titles to Liberty’s total.
On the track, the Liberty women were led by sophomore Abigail Flower. The sprinter captured two individual event victories during the meet. Flower dashed to a personal best time of 11.75 seconds in the 100-meter dash to pick up the title. The sophomore’s second individual victory came in the 200-meter dash. Flower crossed the finish line at 24.53 seconds, more than a full second ahead of the second-place finisher.
Flower combined with Sherri Spruel, Brittany Crittenden and Olivia Davis to win the 4×100-meter relay with a season-best time of 47.25 seconds.
Ansley Gebben, Brittney Webley, Janae Jones and Corinn Bedell added a second relay victory for the Lady Flames in the 4×400-meter relay. The quartet finished the race in 3:54.43.
“I was pretty impressed with the 4×4. We really pushed out hard,” Jones said.
The Lady Flames also added two victories in the distance events.
Senior Khristina Kanagy crossed the finish line more than 10 seconds ahead of the field to win the 1500-meter run. Her 4:40.18 race was a personal record.
Jacy Christiansen captured the 5000-meter title with a time of 18:01.78. The sophomore ran the race more than 16 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
In the field, the Lady Flames tallied four individual event wins.
In addition to her 4×400-meter relay victory, Jones recored a 38-10.25 to win the triple jump.
Jennifer Nicholson threw 153-2 for a personal-best in the discus. The sophomore edged out teammate Jocelyn Williams (152-11) for first place.
Mychelle Cumings added a second victory for the Lady Flames in the throws. Her 49-11.75 in the shot put outdistanced the field by more than five feet. The sophomore captured her second straight shot put win at the invitational.
Sophomore Riley Brandon led the way for the Lady Flames in the heptathlon. Brandon posted 4,446 total points, a personal best, to win the multi-event. Teammate Audrey Bamford (4,343) placed third, and Erika Jackson (4,011) finished in the fourth position.
“We had some season-best performances, which is what you’re hoping for as you’re coming into conference,” Tolsma said. “I think for the most part, though, the team is coming into (its) own.”
The men’s and women’s teams will have a weekend off from competition as they prepare for the Big South Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
“The athletes know what they’re supposed to do,” Tolsma said. “We’re just trying to get the minds ready at this point.”
The championship meet will be held at Liberty’s Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex April 18-20.