Apr 27, 2010

Track and field makes strides at Penn Relays

by Ryan Walter


Liberty University’s track and field program performed in front of the 54,000 people that packed Franklin Field Saturday in Philadelphia for the prestigious Penn Relays. The 116-year-old event broke its attendance record as more than 117,346 fans cheered the participants during the three-day competition. 

More than 300 universities met at Franklin Field in Philadelphia to fight for the highly esteemed title as the Penn Relay Champion.  Liberty got to battle with some of the best programs in the nation.  Though the Big South Champions competed hard, they were not able to break any school records.

“It was great competition. We had everything we needed,” Coach Brant Tolsma said. “It’s hard to come back from conference and do just as well the next week. We should have got a couple school records but we let them slip away.”

The three-day competition, starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday, featured the Liberty Flames in multiple events.

On Saturday, Liberty’s men failed to place in both 4 x 200 and the 4 x 800 championships, however, they were able to stand out in the 4 x 100 relay. 

The Flames, who qualified for men’s 4 x 100 IC4A Finals on Friday at the preliminaries, finished in the top ten of Saturday’s competitors. Roderick Spruel, Andre Washington, Oronde Vassell and Jacey Bailey ran for a time of 42.28 to secure seventh place.

 Though the men did not finish as high as they hoped, they tried to pick it up in the field events.

Both Ryan Bell and Elliot Galeone competed in the javelin on Saturday in two separate events. It was not Galeone’s best, but he was able to finish 10th in the championship with a throw of 58.70 meters. Bell finished ninth in the javelin throw with a toss of 60.61 meters. 

The most impressive finish on Saturday came from the women’s team. Liberty’s women’s squad finished 12th in the women’s 4 x 800 Championship of America at the Penn Relays.  The four participants for the Flames, Jamie Watson, Meghan Burggrat, Hailey Neal and Rebekah Ricksecker, finished with a time of 8:59.79, which came close to a Liberty record of 8:59.48 set in 1988.

 “It’s disappointing not to (get the record) because we have the team to do it,” Tolsma said. “We came close.”  

The day before was the closest Liberty came to a first place finish. 

Galeone placed second in the men’s discus throw on Friday with a toss of 52.73 meters, runner up only to Duke’s Austin Gamble.  

“The best thing on the men’s side was Elliot’s discus throw,” Tolsma said. 

Big South shot put champion Ryan Smith also finished in the top-10, throwing 16.11 meters.  The throw was good enough for seventh.

Friday featured a Lady Flames woman’s squad that was expected to break multiple school records.  However, they would have to settle for only a few top 10 finishes.

In the women’s 4 x 100 relay, Melanie Sims, Chenoa Freeman, Olivia Charnuski and Alyssa Pegues, finished 42nd out of 95 competitors.  The 4 x 200 did not go much better. The same team except for the swap of Watson with Sims finished 31st with a time of 1:39.86.

“Our most solid runner was Jamie,” Tolsma said. 

The Flames also finished fifth in the distance medley with a time of 11:32.55. The time was just short of Liberty’s record and was the second fastest time in program history.  

They would bounce back with a top-10 finish in the shuttle hurdles championship.  The team of Charnuski, Krystle Matthews, Rachel Houseknecht and Christina Mitchell ran for a time of 59.61 good for a placement of tenth.

 Neal, who contributed to the 4 x 800 win, placed ninth in a solo effort in the College Woman’s 3,000m Steeplechase, with a time of 10:58.31.

“It’s hard to come back from conference when you have a big emotional push like that and do well the next week,” Tolsma said. “Last week we had over 15 lifetime bests on the team. It’s a good year we had.” 


Contact Ryan Walter 

at rmwalter@liberty.edu. 

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