Men’s track and field claims 17th straight title
After two days of competition, the Liberty men’s track and field team brought home a 17th straight Big South Indoor Track and Field Championship, while the women’s team secured second place in the meet Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 1.
The Flames held off the second-place Campbell Fighting Camels, 161.5-137, in the smallest margin of victory in history. The streak is the longest active conference championship streak in NCAA Division I (DI) history. The team has also won every Big South indoor championship ever contested.
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers beat out the Lady Flames in the women’s meet, 203-148.
On the men’s side, distance runners sealed the win for Liberty in the 5,000-meter run. Senior Josh MacDonald, redshirt junior Caleb Edmonds and sophomore Jeremie Bourget all finished in the top six in the second-to-last event of the weekend and combined for 15 crucial points for the Flames.
In the field, the Flames captured two individual titles and brought home several more All-Big South honors.
Despite being sidelined by a knee injury for most of the season, junior Kyle Wheeler secured first place in the high jump after clearing 6-7.5 in only his second meet of the year. Wheeler leaped to his third straight indoor conference victory and became the only Flame to win three consecutive high jump titles
“(I) haven’t been over many bars this year, and it was a fun environment to get the job done,” Wheeler said. “… I was in a zone of jumping until the competition was over. I did my best to block out all of the factors. … While my body was not anywhere near peak performance, the Lord really gave me a boost and confidence to get over.”
Junior thrower Fred Fulton immediately made an impact in his first season with the Flames since transferring. Fulton won the shot put with a 57-5.5 throw and captured Liberty’s eighth consecutive Big South indoor victory in the event.
“It was really cool to get the eight straight title since I was coached by both Andy Bartels and Clendon Henderson, who both won the title themselves,” Fulton said. “… I felt like I was surrounded by the tradition, and it was an honor to continue that tradition myself.”
Redshirt senior Jacob DeValve and redshirt sophomore David Scouten completed the podium sweep in the event after taking second and third place, respectively. DeValve’s longest throw landed at 52-8.25 and was a new personal best. Scouten threw the shot put to 52-2.75.
Fulton and Scouten also earned top-three honors in the weight throw, earning second and third, respectively, with 63-10.5 and 61-9.75 throws.
On the women’s side, several athletes brought home top finishes.
Freshman Oasis Hernandez brought home a win in the 60-meter dash and third place in the 200-meter dash.
In the 60, the freshman finished in 7.45 seconds for a new Liberty record, becoming the Lady Flames first Big South champion in the event. In the 200-meter dash, Hernandez also set a new program record with a time of 24.37 seconds.
Liberty redshirt senior Meghan Burggraf captured a win in the 800-meter run. Burggraf set a new meet record with her time of 2:09.26, which was more than three and a half seconds faster than her closest competitor.
Burggraf also joined the distance medley and 4×400-meter relay teams, which took first and second place, respectively.
In the distance medley, Burggraf teamed up with freshmen Hannah Scherlacher and Mary Witmer and redshirt junior Katie Russo to win the event. The quartet earned a new meet record with their time of 12:04.07.
Burggraf and redshirt sophomore Ansley Gebben, freshman Mary Witmer and sophomore Corinn Bedell combined for a new program record and take second place in the 4×400-meter relay with a time of 3:46.28.
In the field, the Lady Flames captured wins in the pentathlon and both throwing events.
Junior Riley Brandon captured the pentathlon crown with her 3,484-point effort.
Lady Flames throwers senior Jocelyn Williams and junior Mychelle Cumings headlined the Lady Flames field competition, as they brought home the top spots in the weight throw and shot put, respectively.
In the weight throw, Williams’ fifth of sixth throws went the farthest and broke the Liberty record. Williams added nearly a foot to her previous personal best with her 67-5.5 heave. She became the only Lady Flame to win the conference title.
“I got off to a slower start than normal, but I was able to … secure the win,” Williams said. “Having the win and another program record really just shows me how blessed I am and how trusting God and working hard come together to produce great results.”
Cumings also broke conference, meet and Liberty records with her 53-3.5 throw. Her heave beat out the competition by six feet and gave Cumings her second consecutive Big South indoor win in the event. She has also won the Big South shot put outdoor title in each of her two previous seasons, making her undefeated in the event in her years at Liberty.
“I felt really good going into (the shot put competition) and was just hoping that feeling manifested into a big throw,” Cumings said. “I feel I (displayed) much more technique than normal, but also in throwing, there’s always something you can do better. … (These records) and win means that there is definitely hope to getting better and throwing better with time and (rehabbing my back injury).”
Both Cumings and Williams’ best throws of the season ranked within the top 25 throws in the nation among NCAA DI women’s track and field teams.
The Flames and Lady Flames will now send more than 35 athletes to Boston to compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference/Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Indoor Track Championships Friday-Sunday, March 7-9.