Apr 13, 2010

Track steals show at Classic

by Chris McNair

The Liberty Flames track and field team and the sun had one thing in common this past Saturday afternoon — they both shone bright. On a beautifully sunny day in Lynchburg, Va., both the men’s and women’s teams performed in blazing fashion, breaking records and earning first-place honors in numerous events at the Merrill Lynch Track and Field Classic held at Shellenberger Field on the campus of Lynchburg College.

On the women’s side, senior Jamie Watson did something no one has been able to do in almost two decades. She broke the 18-year-old record in the 400-meter dash, formerly held by Gina Turner who clocked a 54.68 back on April 11, 1992.

The Michigan native broke the record in easy fashion, clocking a 54.12 to break the record. Her time now ranks No. 1 in the Big South and 28th in the nation.

Watson was not the only Lady Flame to excel in Saturday’s competition. The Lady Flames won first place in several other events including the women’s hammer competition, hurdles, 4 x 100 relay, 800-meter race, and three of the four jumping events.

Junior Melinda Bendik improved on her own record with a mark of 179-2 in the women’s hammer competition, which was nearly four feet better than her previously set record of 175-4. She went even further and captured the discus title with an impressive 133-2 toss.

Sophomores Olivia Charnuski and Christina Mitchell led the way for the Lady Flames in hurdles, finishing first in both events.

In her season debut, sophomore Hailey Neal won the 800-meter race with an impressive time 2:18.79 — not bad for a season debut.

Things went Liberty’s way on the men’s side of things as well on Saturday afternoon, as four different Liberty men finished in first place, including two runners and two field event athletes.

Freshmen are not typically known for outrunning season sprinters, but Liberty’s Andre Washington did just that Saturday afternoon, taking first place in both the 200 and 400-meter dash events, posting season-best times in both races.

Junior Clarence Powell boosted himself on the national scale, winning the triple jump with a season-best 50-1.75, which puts him at No. 28 in the nation. Powell also earned second-place honors in the high jump with 6-10.75.

The hurdles belonged to Liberty as well Saturday afternoon and junior Chris Herbst led the way in both races. He notched a 14.77 in the 110 hurdles prelims and won in the final with a solid 14.94.

The Flames deadly quartet of Chris Johnson, Chris Best, Isaac Wendland and Jordan Bright made its triumphant return to the track Saturday, winning the final event, the 4 x 400 relay, with an impressive winning time of 3:21.37.

After shining in this competition, the Flames and Lady Flames will now gear up for the 2010 Big South Track & Field Championships in Charleston, S.C. The three-day meet begins Thursday at 10 a.m. The men will be seeking their fourth straight outdoor title, while the women will look to win their first outdoor championship since the 2007 season.

Contact Chris McNair at cjmcnair@liberty.edu.

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