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Liberty Open Slated for Friday and Saturday
The Liberty men's and women's indoor track & field teams will compete at home for the first time in eight weeks when they host the eighth annual Liberty Open this weekend. The meet, which will feature athletes from 24 different colleges and a number of post-collegiate competitors, will be contested Friday and Saturday inside the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.
The meet will begin Friday at 2 p.m., when the gun goes off for the pentathlon 60-meter hurdles. Most events will take place Saturday, starting with the men's weight throw at 9 a.m.
With just four weeks remaining until the 2013 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, Liberty will get a first-hand look at some of its conference competitors this weekend. Athletes from Gardner-Webb, High Point, Radford, VMI and Winthrop are all entered in the Liberty Open.
The Liberty Open will represent fans' final opportunity to see the full Liberty teams in action during the 2012-13 indoor season. The Flames will host the Liberty Quad on Feb. 7-8, but some of the team's top competitors will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Tyson Invitational that weekend.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available during both days of competition and are accessible by clicking the "live results" link at the top of this page or the "live stats" link on the track & field schedule/results page of LibertyFlames.com.
Keep Your Eye Out for Olympians
Two competitors from last summer's London Olympic Games are entered in the Liberty Open, including Ayanna Alexander of Trinidad & Tobago and Samyr Laine of Haiti.
Alexander, entered in the women's 60-meter dash and long jump this weekend, finished 14th in the women's triple jump at the Olympics. A native of Falls Church, Va., Alexander was an All-American triple jumper at Louisiana Tech.
Laine, who placed 11th in the Olympics men's triple jump final, will compete in his specialty event on Saturday. He boasts an impressive triple jump personal-best mark of 57-0.75, but has gained most of his notoriety for being the college roommate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg at Harvard.
Familiar Faces in New Places
One of the highlights of the Liberty Open will be the collegiate track & field debut of Walt Aikens, an All-Big South defensive back on the Liberty football team. He is entered in the long jump and high jump on Saturday, which will mark his first track meet since the 2009 North Carolina 4A state championship. That day, Aikens won the long jump at 23-8.25 and took third place in the high jump at 6-6.
Aikens, who also played basketball for the Flames during the 2011-12 season, will be the first Liberty football player to compete on the track & field squad since fellow defensive back Kevin Fogg in 2010.
A number of athletes have excelled in both football and track & field and Liberty over the years, including track & field assistant coach Andrew "Pete" McFadden and head strength and conditioning coordinator Bill Gillespie. Additionally, standout wide receiver James McKnight set the Liberty indoor long jump record at 25-0.5 in 1994.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames are also expected to receive help from other teams on campus at some point this year. Volleyball outside hitter Ansley Gebben is a proficient hurdler, with a personal-best time of 59.90 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles. Meanwhile, women's basketball point guard Sadalia Ellis high jumped 5-7 last year as a high school senior.
The first U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Regional Index of the season was released this week, and both the Liberty men's and women's squads are listed No. 12 in the Southeast Region. The Coastal Carolina women's team is the only other Big South squad appearing in this week's rankings, coming in two spots behind the Lady Flames at No. 14. Clemson's men's and women's teams currently own both of the No. 1 rankings in the region.
10 Events You Won't Want to Miss
Listed in chronological order
Friday, 2:15 p.m. and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – Men's Heptathlon – Five of the top six decathletes from the 2012 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships are entered in the heptathlon at the Liberty Open. The exception is reigning Big South decathlon champion Jacob DeValve of Liberty, who is entered in five individual events (800, 60 hurdles, long jump, high jump and shot put). The field features the 2012 Big South decathlon runner-up (VMI's Antonio Wood), third-place finisher (High Point's Tristan Faure), fourth-place finisher (Liberty's Tevan McIntire), fifth-place finisher (Liberty's Harrison Allen) and sixth-place finisher (VMI's Quincy Murphy). Wood, who won the heptathlon at the 2011 Liberty Open, appears to be in good form, having long jumped 23-8 and high jumped 6-7.5 already this season.
Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Women's Pole Vault – Liberty senior Shelley Parker, who swept the 2011 Big South indoor and outdoor women's pole vault crowns, is the top seed. However, freshman teammate Chandler Fraley could challenge her. Fraley cleared 11-3.75 at the Liberty Kickoff and currently ranks No. 2 in the Big South Conference this season. Brooke Shelton of Ledford High School in North Carolina, who owns a personal best of 11-6, is also entered in the meet. Christopher Newport's Kalee Hammerton, the 2012 Mason-Dixon Conference indoor and outdoor pole vault titlist, could also contend for the win.
Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Women's Weight Throw – Liberty's Jocelyn Williams, who is redshirting during the 2012-13 indoor season, will look for her second weight throw title of the year after winning the event at the Liberty Kickoff. Behind her, some of the Big South's better women's weight throwers will battle it out. Lady Flames sophomore Mychelle Cumings ranks sixth in the conference after posting a personal-best throw of 51-10 at last week's Wake Forest Invitational. Meanwhile, Cynthia Gordon of Winthrop is listed No. 8 in the Big South at 49-1.5, Jordan Wilson of Radford sits No. 9 at 48-4.5 and Radford's Ashlen Veatch ranks No. 10 at 48-3.25.
Saturday, 12:20 p.m. – Men's 60 Final – Blink, and you might miss Saturday's first running event final, the men's 60-meter dash. A number of talented sprinters will attempt to dethrone 2012 Liberty Open champion Tazz Petty. Virginia Tech alum Keith Ricks is beginning his post-collegiate career after finishing 12th in the men's 60 final at the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Concord's RJ Anderson came in fifth in last year's NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships men's 60 final. Evan Emery of High Point was fourth in this event at the 2012 Big South Championship. With ConRoy Smith not entered in the 60-meter dash this week, the Flames' top hopes lie with Roderick Spruel. He ran a personal-best time of 6.91 seconds to take third place at the Liberty Kickoff.
Saturday, 12:25 p.m. – Women's 60 Final – Liberty sophomore Abigail Flower raced to an impressive victory in the women's 60 dash final at the Liberty Kickoff. However, she will be challenged to win on her home track again on Saturday. Scottesha Miller, a 2011 indoor All-American at 60 meters while competing for Oklahoma, is entered. Another sprinter to watch is Ayanna Alexander, who triple jumped in the London Olympics.
Saturday, 12:35 p.m. – Men's 60 Hurdles Final – The men's 60 hurdles will feature Radford's Vincent Wyatt. The meet's defending champion was named Big South Men's Track Athlete of the Week after blazing a Big South-record 60 hurdles time of 7.76 seconds at the Virginia Tech Invitational last weekend. The effort currently ranks No. 5 nationally in the event. He will face a pair of talented post-collegiate athletes in Aramis Massenburg and Luke Marker. Massenburg reached the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 110 hurdles, while running for Norfolk State. Marker clocked a 60 hurdles time of 7.91 while at Air Force. Lynchburg College's Rachad Davis won the 2012 ODAC 60 hurdles championship at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Meanwhile, Andre Washington has been Liberty's top hurdler this season and is coming off of a personal-best 8.35 clocking at the Wake Forest Invitational.
Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – Women's 60 Hurdles Final – The women's 60 hurdles final is likely to have a strong Big South flavor, highlighted by Radford's Courtni Pannell. She won this event at the 2012 Liberty Open and Liberty Kickoff. Teammate Amber Church was the 2011 Big South 60 hurdles champion, while Winthrop's Sharrone Honor took fourth in the event a year ago. Promising Liberty freshman Brittney Webley, who owns a season-best time of 8.97 seconds, will test her mettle against some of her top conference rivals.
Saturday, 1 p.m. – Men's Triple Jump – Samyr Laine, who placed 11th in the London Olympics men's triple jump final, will be a strong favorite to win this event and challenge the facility record of 52-1.25. He will contend with former Flames and Big South triple jump champions Anthony Bryant and Chris Johnson. Bryant jumped 49-9.75 last Saturday to win the Wake Forest Invitational triple jump crown. Also in the field is Kwarteng Asare of Christopher Newport, the 2012 Mason-Dixon Conference indoor and outdoor triple jump winner.
Saturday, 3 p.m. – Women's 800 – Meghan Burggraf, redshirting this season for the Lady Flames, will aim for her second 800-meter victory of the year after claiming the Liberty Kickoff title while competing unattached. She could be pushed by North Carolina A&T's Kristin Rush, who owns a personal best of 2:12.37, and Danielle Alfano, who won the mile at the Liberty Kickoff. Liberty will be led by Amanda Wimbush, who is currently listed No. 3 in the Big South, and Jacy Christiansen, who will drop down to the 800-meter distance for the first time in her college career. Christiansen, who clocked an 800 time of 2:18 in high school, sits No. 2 on the Big South list for the mile and 5K this season.
Saturday, 3 p.m. – Men's High Jump – Many eyes will be on Liberty football player Walt Aikens as he high jumps for the first time in his collegiate career, but he is expected to face some strong competition. Flames sophomore Kyle Wheeler, the 2012 Big South indoor and outdoor men's high jump champion, is looking to recapture last year's form. He has topped out at 6-6.25 so far this season. Meanwhile, Hoova Taylor won the 2010 NCAA Division II outdoor high jump national title while competing for Virginia State.