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Liberty Men, Women Lead After Big South Day 1

February 28, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Kyle Wheeler captured his third consecutive Big South indoor men's high jump title on Friday, clearing a season-best 6-7.5.

Day 1 Blog

Aided by a quartet of event titles, both the Liberty men's and women's squads own the lead after a busy opening day of the 2014 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, Friday at Rector Field House.

Riley Brandon (pentathlon), Jocelyn Williams (weight throw) and the Lady Flames' distance medley relay quartet were all victorious, helping Liberty rack up 62 points during Friday's half-dozen event finals. That puts the Lady Flames nine points in front of defending champion Coastal Carolina's score of 53.

On the men's side, Kyle Wheeler won the high jump for the third straight year as part of a 74.5-point Friday for the 16-time defending champion Flames. That score has Liberty 37.5 points ahead of High Point through six events.

Women's Day One Recap
Williams made history on Friday, becoming the Lady Flames' first-ever Big South women's weight throw champion. Five of the redshirt junior's six throws would have won the competition, highlighted by her record-breaking fifth attempt, which landed at 67-5.5.

It was the third straight meet that Williams broke her own program record in the women's weight throw. This time, she added 11 inches to her previous mark and won the event title by four feet over Winthrop freshman Marthaline Cooper. Williams now ranks No. 21 nationally this season and second in Big South Conference history for the women's weight throw.

Liberty's other two first-place finishes came in more dramatic fashion, beginning with Brandon's first Big South pentathlon crown. She needed to win the final event, the 800-meter run, in a personal-best time of 2:20.56 to overtake teammate Erika Jackson. Brandon's winning score of 3,484 points fell just 13 tallies shy of the meet record, as she was also aided by personal-best efforts in the 60 hurdles (9.43), shot put (35-7.25) and long jump (16-10).

Jackson held on for second place with a score of 3,457 which added 194 points to her previous personal best and qualified the sophomore for the ECAC meet. Her performance featured personal-best marks in the 60 hurdles (9.28), high jump (5-1.75), shot put (36-2.75) and 800 (2:30.08). Jackson now ranks No. 8 in program history for the pentathlon.

Liberty ended up outscoring Coastal Carolina by a 23-6 count in the pentathlon, as sophomore Jessica Harrison came in fourth with 3,202 points.

The Lady Flames' distance medley quartet of Hannah Scherlacher, Mary Witmer, Meghan Burggraf and Katie Russo emerged victorious in a stirring head-to-head battle during the evening's final race. Their meet-record time of 12:04.07 was an ECAC qualifier and ranks fourth in program history.

Burggraf and Russo, who were both part of Liberty's last Big South-winning distance medley relay grouping in 2011, each enjoyed noteworthy efforts. Burggraf gave the Lady Flames a sizeable lead with an impressive 800-meter carry on the next-to-last leg. Fellow senior Russo then passed High Point in the final strides of the 1,600-meter anchor leg, getting the last laugh in a back-and-forth duel with the Panthers.

Junior Jacy Christiansen earned All-Big South honors in the women's 3K for the third consecutive year, finishing third in arguably the day's most competitive race. Her 9:46.90 clocking made her one of five runners to better the meet record of 9:55.11 which had stood since 1998.

All four of the Lady Flames' women's long jumpers scored points, paced by sophomore Janae Jones. She landed at an indoor personal-best 17-11.75 for third place, garnering her fourth career All-Big South honor.

Audrey Bamford followed in fifth place (17-10.75), with Melissa Rohwer coming in seventh (17-9.5) and Oasis Hernandez taking eighth (17-8), giving the Lady Flames 13 points in the event.

Liberty failed to score points in the women's pole vault, but redshirt freshman Kellie Glynn cleared 10-11.75 for 10th place in the event and a share of eighth place with sister Jessie on Liberty's all-time list.

The Lady Flames qualified two athletes to Saturday's finals in both the 60 (Hernandez-7.67 and Abigail Flower-7.69) and 400 (Ansley Gebben-56.19 and Corinn Bedell-57.34) dashes. Both Gebben and Bedell's efforts were new personal bests, and Gebben climbed to third place on Liberty's all-time performance list in the process.

Hernandez sped to a season-best 200 dash time of 25.18 seconds to win her heat, qualify for the final and grab the No. 8 position in program history. Meanwhile, Burggraf warmed up for her distance medley relay performance by qualifying for the 800 final in 2:16.62.

Men's Day One Recap
Despite being sidelined by injury for most of his junior season to date, Wheeler was able to claim his third straight Big South indoor high jump crown Friday evening. His season-best 6-7.5 effort matched that of Campbell's Davian Rhodes, but Wheeler made it on his first attempt to secure the victory. Wheeler is Liberty's first athlete to win three consecutive Big South indoor high jump titles since James Johnson did so at the first three editions of the meet (1998-2000).

Teammate Zach Davis tied for fifth at 6-4.25, while Patrick Donigan's 6-2.25 leap earned a seventh-place finish.

Several hours earlier, Davis, Tevan McIntire and Zach Gilroy put on an impressive high jumping display to close out day one of the heptathlon.

Davis leapt a personal-best 6-11 to wrap up a 2,981-point opening day. That puts the freshman 86 points ahead of second-place Quincy Murphy of VMI. Davis also moved into a tie for sixth place on Liberty's indoor men's high jump list in the process.

Prior to his high jump effort, Davis recorded the top long jump (22-0.75) and shot put (41-0.25) among the 14 heptathletes.

McIntire and Gilroy were both successful at 6-5, which represented a new high jump personal best for each. That helped McIntire close out the day in fourth place with 2,793 points. Gilroy is currently in eighth with 2,535 points, thanks to season-best performances in all four disciplines thus far.

Liberty saw three long jumpers place inside the top five, and each of the trio notched an IC4A qualifier on Friday. Kenny Scott, who also plays defensive back for the Liberty football team, earned All-Big South honors with his 23-4 leap that netted third place.

Freshman Aklesso Agama followed in fourth place at 23-2, with Tarell Williams landing at 23-0.75 for the fifth position.

Sophomore Ken Ritchey also punched his IC4A ticket, thanks to a personal-best 15-11 pole vault clearance. That was good for the runner-up position in the event and a tie for eighth place in program history.

Teammate Alex Geniesse got over a collegiate-best 14-5.25 to share sixth place, while Harrison Allen's 14-5.25 put him in a tie for eighth place on misses.

Fred Fulton and David Scouten placed 2-3 in the men's weight throw, with both Flames achieving personal-best marks. Fulton's 63-10.5 throw on his sixth and final attempt was more than six feet longer than his season best entering the weekend. It moved Fulton past his coach, Clendon Henderson, and into third place in Liberty annals.

Scouten's top mark of the day, which also happened during round six, measured 61-9.75.

Caleb Edmonds stood on the podium for the third straight year in the men's 3K, placing third in 8:18.43. Early leader Josh MacDonald followed in fourth place in 8:22.26, while Sam Hibbs qualified for the ECAC meet with his seventh-place time of 8:25.62.

Liberty led for much of the men's distance medley relay, before the team of Jarred Cornfield, John Sherret, Trevor Hope and Zach Barker ended up third overall. The Flames qualified for the IC4A meet with their time of 10:10.60, which puts them ninth in program history.

Freshman Stephen Racanelli highlighted the Flames' efforts in Friday's running event preliminaries, qualifying for the finals in both the 60 (6.92) and 200 (21.72). His 60 time tied a personal best, while his personal-best 200 effort was the top time during any of Friday's heats.

Racanelli will be joined on the 60 dash starting line by teammate ConRoy Smith, who posted a time of 6.93 in his first 60-meter race since Dec. 5.

Caleb Fraley made a successful debut in a Liberty uniform, clocking a 60 hurdles time of 8.61 seconds to advance to the final. Meanwhile, Tyler Weigandt will race in his first Big South 400 final after posting an indoor-best time of 50.27 seconds.

The 2014 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships will conclude with an action-packed Saturday which will see 22 event finals contested inside Rector Field House. The day's first event will be the heptathlon 60-meter hurdles at 10 a.m.