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Hall of Fame Interviews with Matthes, Quarles and Decker
On Sept. 19, three former members of the Liberty track & field/cross country program were inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame, including program founder Jake Matthes and former student-athletes Delethea Quarles and Mike Decker.
Men's Cross Country/Track & Field Coach: 1976-91
Jake Matthes was the initial architect of one of the most successful athletics programs during the first four decades of Liberty's athletics department.
He started the men's cross country program in 1976 and the men's track & field teams following year. During his tenure as head coach, Liberty won the 1981 NCCAA men's track & field national title, five Mason-Dixon men's cross country championships and eight men's cross country regional titles.
Matthes, who coached Liberty at four different levels of competition (NCCAA, NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division I) helped 18 student-athletes at the NCCAA level earn All-America honors, four at the NAIA level and three more as NCAA Division II competitors.
The native of Mansfield, Ohio, earned numerous coaching awards during his 15 years of coaching, including 1981 National Christian College Coach of the Year for men's track & field and the 1985 NCAA Division II South Regional Coach of the Year for men's cross country.
Matthes, who also started the women's track & field and cross country programs in 1977, had Liberty's home outdoor track facility named after him in 1991. The facility (Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex) pairs his name with Ron Hopkins, who took over the women's programs shortly after Matthes helped get them off the ground.
Women's Track & Field: 1987-89
After transferring to Liberty following her freshman season, Delethea Quarles helped the Lady Flames start a dominant run in the Mason-Dixon Conference and jumpstart the program's success at the Division I level.
The native of Covington, Va., helped Liberty claim indoor and outdoor track conference championship titles during her junior and senior campaigns (1988 and 1989), thanks to her standout performances in the heptathlon. She earned All-America honors in the discipline in 1987 and 1988, placing fifth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division II national championship.
Quarles was the first student-athlete in program history (men's or women's) to score more than 200 points in a season and one of only 11 in program history to do so at the any level of competition (227.5 points as a senior). The 1989 Penn Relays 100-meter hurdles champion held the program record in the event for more than 20 years before it was broken in 2010.
She served as an assistant coach on Liberty's staff for eight years (1990-97), before joining the coaching staff at South Carolina where she has helped more than 20 student-athletes earn All-America honors.
Men's Track & Field: 1999-2001
Mike Decker exploded onto the scene at Liberty as a sophomore and quickly dashed his way into Liberty's record books, setting standards the current members of the track & field program are still chasing today.
Decker is one of four track & field athletes in program history to earn three or more All-America honors during their careers, earning All-America distinctions in the 400 meters twice at indoor nationals (2000 and 2001) and once at outdoor nationals (2000). He was also a U.S. Olympic Trials 400-meter dash participant in 2000.
The native of Buena Vista, Va., was a three-time Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year (1999, 2000 and 2001), as a 20-time Big South champion (12 individual events and eight relays). As a senior, he won every race he competed in during the Big South and IC4A seasons (both indoors and outdoors).
During his career, he netted Liberty 142 career points at Big South Track Championships and 113 at IC4A Championships and is the program's current record holder in the 200-meter (indoor) and 400-meter (indoor and outdoor) dash events.