May 8, 2007

Track shines at Twilight Qualifier

by Josh Brown, Contributing Reporter
The Liberty Flames track team enjoyed their home field advantage last Thursday and Friday at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier despite the adverse weather conditions. Other teams that braved the elements to complete the guest list included Virginia Tech, Washington & Lee, Gardner-Webb, Virginia Military Institute, Bridgewater College, Lynchburg College and Roanoke College.

In the days leading up to the Twilight Qualifier, Big South commissioner Kyle B. Kallander announced that both the men’s and women’s teams were awarded with the Big South Conference Sportsmanship Award. The men’s team shares the award with Charleston-Southern, while the women’s team edged last year’s winner Coastal Carolina. It marks the fifth time this year that Liberty has been honored with the sportsmanship award, with previous winners being volleyball and the men’s and women’s cross country teams.

On this day, it seemed at first that the chilling rain would take honors in many of the events, canceling the women’s shot put, the women’s 400-meter dash and the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase as well as sending all jumping events away from the slippery outdoor surface to the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.

However, the competition continued, testing the resolve and grit of all participants. The Flames’ throwing corps threw their way to success, winning an outstanding six of the seven throwing events contested.

Junior Clendon Henderson’s performance turned the most heads as he took first place in the discus throw, setting a new facility record of 181-11. His performance in the hammer throw was also exceptional as he set a new personal best distance of 188-8 that would place second only to his teammate, junior Jon Hart.

Henderson said, “I think the weather being so bad helped me to relax and just try and crush some throws. I have been feeling really good lately and God definitely has been blessing me and my teammates with records and great performances.”

Hart would take the prize in both the hammer throw and the shot put with distances of 197-11 and 55-0. respectively. Freshman Elliot Galeone also contributed to Liberty’s domination of the throwing events by taking first place in the javelin event with a distance of 172-6 and taking second place in the discus with a fling of 142-7.

Senior Caitlyn Sutterfield ensured the ladies’ addition to Flames’ success in the throwing events by overpowering the field in both the hammer throw and discus, launching throws of 129-9 and 145-9. Sutterfield, who will graduate the field in both the hammer throw and discus, launching throws of 129-9 and 145-9.

Sutterfield, who will graduate this spring, said, “Last Thursday was somewhat sad because it was my last home track meet. Over the last few years I have learned that track is just a platform to lift up and glorify the name of God. In 10 years it isn’t going to matter how far I threw or what place I came in, but it will matter if I planted a seed in a teammate or fellow competitor. On Thursday my goal was to go out there give it my all, and have fun. That is what I did and I am very pleased with the results!”

Liberty also took first in a total of six other events including the men’s and women’s 200-meter dash (won by sophomore Phil Leineweber and Andrea Beckles) and the men’s and women’s 400-meter hurdles (won by sophomore Ben Handon and junior Jennifer Ward), events that were all impacted greatly by the poor weather conditions.

The Flames only indoor first place finish was earned on the high jump by sophomore Matt Parker, who cleared 6-8 3/4. Sophomore Jo Welch took the day’s final contest, the women’s 5000-meter final, posting a personal-best 18 minutes, 1.63 seconds to top off a solid performance by the Flames.

Other headlines from Thursday’s action included two additional facility records including a 13.72 in the men’s 110-meter hurdles by unattached athlete Enrique Llanos and Virginia Tech’s Billy Berlin victory in the men’s 1500-meter run, clocking in at 3:48.63.

Berlin’s effort was just barely enough to sneak ahead of Liberty’s Stephen Githuka’s record at 3:49.02, which had stood for over nine years. Friday saw the conclusion of the last three events of the women’s heptathlon as well as a slight improvement in the weather conditions.

Ward, who started the day in fourth place after Thursday’s competition, failed at hopes of a come-from-behind performance but had nothing to hang her head about after a finishing with a season-best 2:24.54 in the 800 meters. Her point total in the event tallied to 4,251 points, only 16 points shy of her best mark of 4,267 points, which was good for second at the Big South Championships a few weeks ago.

Liberty will now prepare for the upcoming IC4A/ECAC Outdoor Track Championships, which will be held on May 11-13 in Princeton, N.J.

Contact Josh Brown at
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