Jan 27, 2009

Liberty Track & Field

by Jonathon Thompson, Sports Reporter

 After seven weeks of inactivity, Liberty officially opened the 2009 track and field season, hosting 22 schools at the Tolsma Indoor Track over the weekend.

Liberty started the first day of competition by placing three in the top ten in ladies pentathlon, redshirt senior Marie Williams (2nd) and sophomores Krystle Matthews (5th) and Jen Healey (7th).

Senior Daniel Newell ended the first day of the men’s’ heptathlon with a sizeable 406-point lead after winning three of the first four events.
Newell opened up the second day of competition with a third place and two second place finishes in the final three events to finish the heptathlon with 5,346 points, setting a personal record and obtaining a provisional qualifying NCAA score.

“I’m glad I got the national provisional mark. That was my main goal coming in,” Newell said. “God really blessed me by letting me clear some hurdles and hit some jumps in pole vault, and I just feel so blessed to be here.”

Other Liberty standouts on the second day of action were senior Andrea Beckles, who placed second in the 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash, and senior Ashley Teer who took first in the 800-meter.

Freshman Olivia Charnuski placed first in the 60-meter hurdles, followed closely by redshirt freshman Rachel Houseknecht who took third. Houseknecht also placed seventh in the pole vault, marking the highest placement on the ladies’ side of the field events.

Liberty’s men were a different story. The Flames swept the high jump with a trio of nearly 7-foot jumps by freshman Anthony Bryant, senior Matt Parker and sophomore Clarence Powell, while sophomore Kolby Shepherd claimed victory on the pole vault.

Bryant emerged again as part of a strong showing in the triple jump for the Flames, claiming second behind sophomore Clarence Powell and ahead of teammate Chris Johnson, who took fifth.

Freshman John Talbert placed third in the weight throw and landed fifth in the shot put, and was joined in the top five by senior Andrew Bartles, who placed second.

On the track side, Liberty’s men had almost as much success. Senior Phil Leineweber led the way with a victory in the 500-meter and a runner-up finish in the 200-meter.

Redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga followed up a dominating fall season on the cross country circuit with a blowout in the 3,000 meter, beating his nearest competitor by over 25 seconds. Sophomore Mark Hopely finished almost a full minute behind Chelanga in eighth place.

Parker was able to notch another victory for the Flames in the 60-meter hurdles. Freshman Spencer Jackson finished fifth in the 800-meter, followed by teammate Jordan Bright.

The real story of the track meet, however, came from an unlikely source — the Flames 4x400 relay team and freshman James Hatch. Liberty’s heat against Winston Salem State and Campbell University started out ordinary enough, but for Hatch the race would prove to be quite extraordinary.

Hatch was running the second leg of the relay for the Flames, who had initially fallen behind Winston Salem State. Unexpectedly, a spectator wandered onto the track and right into the path of Winston Salem’s runner.

The two collided, and both were thrown to the ground while trying to avoid the collision, with the runner dropping his baton to the ground in the process.

Hatch immediately turned around and made his way to the Winston Salem State runner, retrieved his baton and encouraged the young man to get back up and finish the race. Hatch did not begin running again until his counterpart was up and ready.

In a move that ultimately cost the Flames the chance for a victory in their heat, Hatch exemplified the goal of Liberty athletics and of Liberty University, not only to compete in athletics, but to use that as a platform for sharing faith with others.

“I think he was trying to get the sportsmanship award,” said Coach Tolsma. “He could have just kept on going.”

Contact Jonathon Thompson at



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