Feb 2, 2010

Records shatter as track and field hosts Liberty Open

by Axel Cerny

While a multitude of big white flakes brought the city of Lynchburg to halt on Saturday, inside the Tolsma Indoor Track Center, things were moving at a record-breaking pace. The Liberty Open marked the second of three home indoor meets on Liberty’s 2009-2010 track & field schedule. Due to the open format, the Flames were able to host 16 collegiate teams and multiple post-collegiate athletes, including past Olympians, former NCAA national champions and a candidate for the 2010 Bowerman award given to the NCAA track athlete of the year.

Though just a few events occurred late Friday afternoon, there was some good news coming from the Liberty camp, most notably redshirt junior Geren Woodbridge’s strong start in the heptathlon. Through the first four events that took place on Friday, Woodbridge found himself in second place after posting his best-ever day one score. The defending Big South heptathlon champion moved his way into second place overall through day one, by matching his personal best in the 60-meter dash (7.3 seconds), setting a new personal best in the high jump (6-1.25 feet) and defeating the entire field in the shot put with a personal-best of 41-11.25 feet. One Tolsma Indoor Track Center facility record was set on Friday, when the Appalachian State men’s 4 x 800 meter relay team clocked their winning time at 7 minutes 49.34 seconds, shattering VMI’s record of 7:52.03, set in 2005.

With an immense snowfall in the forecast for Saturday, the schedule of events that was supposed to start at 8 a.m. was already delayed on Friday evening. While everything else on campus was closed, along with most businesses in the city of Lynchburg, some of the best athletes in the area and around the nation were still burning up the track inside the North Campus of Liberty University. Three facility records, along with two new ECAC qualifications and a new IC4A mark for the Flames, highlighted the day.

One of the facility records that was shattered came at the hands of Liberty redshirt senior Jaime Watson in the 500-meter dash. Coming into the contest as the reigning Big South Women’s Track Athlete of the Week, Watson ran a 1:13.98 in the 500, winning the event by more than six seconds and besting one of the older records in the Liberty record book. With the victory, Watson qualifies for the ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships in her fifth different event, after already meeting the 400, 800, 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 meter standards.

The other Lady Flame ECAC qualifier was sophomore Olivia Charnuski. She achieved the feat by timing in at a personal-best 8.84 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles. Charnuski also had a hand in the other Lady Flame first place finish as the 4 x 400 relay team, also featuring Meghan Burggraf, Kaitlyn Johnson and Chenoa Freeman, officially timed in at 4:01.77, more than four seconds ahead of second place Appalachian State.

On the men’s side, the Flames had an outstanding showing in the track and field events. Redshirt freshman Ryan Smith set the pace with his shotput toss of 51-3.5 feet, which not only won the event, but also qualified him for the IC4A. Flame’s jumping standout Clarence Powell placed first in the triple jump with a 46-11.5 mark and second in both the high and long jump. Completing the strong field performance, Kolby Shepherd, Cody Fridgen and Justin Savini swept the top three places in the men’s pole vault, with Shepherd’s winning mark coming at 16-4.75.

On the track, Liberty’s 500-meter runners one-upped the pole vaulters with a 1-2-3-4 finish. Taylor Courtney took first with a 1:07.19 time, followed by teammates Andre Washington, Chris Johnson and Chris Herbst in order. The other Liberty first place finish on the track came again from Courtney, Washington and Herbst, along with junior Jacey Bailey in the 4 x 400 relay. Their winning time of 3:24.30 narrowly defeated Appalachian State.
The final performance of note came from Liberty sophomore Drew Edwards, who finished up fourth in the heptathlon with 4,535 points, becoming the No. 6 performer in Liberty University history.

Next week the Liberty Flames will be in University Park, Pa., to compete in the Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup for the third consecutive season.

Contact Axel Cerny
at acerny@gmail.com.

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