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Liberty Men, Women Maintain Big South Lead
Despite some weather-related challenges, Friday was a very successful day for host Liberty at the 2013 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. Both the men's and women's squads remain in first place in the team standings with one day remaining in the meet.
The day featured a stiff southerly breeze and severe mid-afternoon thunderstorms which pushed the men's and women's high jump and women's pole vault into the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. The weather conditions also delayed the steeplechase races, which wrapped up at approximately 10:30 p.m., or 13 and a half hours after the day's first events had begun.
During that time, Liberty athletes won four events, while setting three school records, two meet records and a facility record. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames opened up a nearly 50-point lead on two-time defending champion Coastal Carolina in the women's team standings. Liberty has scored 108 points through nine events, while the Chanticleers have tallied 59.25.
On the men's side, Liberty has posted 84 points through eight events as the Flames chase their seventh consecutive team title. High Point (47 points), VMI (45) and Coastal Carolina (43) are currently in a tight battle for second place.
Women's Day Two Recap
Redshirt senior Christina Mitchell enjoyed an extremely successful Friday, winning both the javelin and heptathlon titles. She got things started in the javelin, throwing 152-9 for her second consecutive Big South title in the event. The effort broke her own program record of 151-4 as well as the meet record of 150-5 which had stood since 2004.
Liberty scored a total of 19 points in the javelin, as freshman Nicole Bishop placed fourth at 116-2 and sophomore Jennifer Nicholson came in fifth with a 113-10 heave.
Mitchell then highlighted Liberty's 23-point performance in the heptathlon with her winning score of 4,743. Again the javelin played a key role in her victory, as Mitchell's 143-6 toss gave her the lead for good.
Teammate Riley Brandon earned all-conference honors with her third-place finish and personal-best score of 4,535. The sophomore won the final heptathlon discipline, running a 2:26.85 800 through the wind. As a result, she moved up to eighth on Liberty's all-time heptathlon list.
Audrey Bamford (fifth place, 4,324 points) and Erika Jackson (sixth place, 4,181 points) also scored points for the Lady Flames in the heptathlon. Bamford's day included a personal-best 18-1 long jump which paced all of the heptathletes, including two-time Big South women's long jump champion Patria Norman of Charleston Southern.
Sophomore Mychelle Cumings successfully defended her Big South women's shot put title with a season-best mark of 50-6.75. All five of her legal throws on Friday would have won the competition.
It was another sophomore, Abigail Flower, who set the Lady Flames' other two school records on the day. She qualified for Saturday's finals in the 100 and 200-meter dash events while setting program standards in both sprints.
Flower's 100 time of 11.57 eclipsed the record of 11.68, set by Panthera Seymour in 2000. Meanwhile, her 200 clocking of 23.48 shattered Seymour's standard of 23.91, also established in 2000.
Liberty totaled 14.5 points in the high jump, including a share of second place by Kristen Willeford and Sadalia Ellis, who each cleared 5-4.25. For Ellis, a point guard on the Liberty women's basketball team, it marked an auspicious Liberty track & field debut.
Shelley Parker matched her season-best clearance in the women's pole vault, sailing over 11-5.75 for fourth place.
Fast times were abundant in the women's steeplechase final, as Betel Yosef (fifth place, 11:01.13), Jessica Gass (11th, 11:29.22) and Caroline Parris (12th, 11:44.18) all set new personal bests. Gass moved up to the No. 5 spot in program history while Parris joined the Liberty all-time top 10 at No. 9.
Flower was not the only Lady Flame who fared well in Friday's running event preliminaries. She was joined in qualifying for the 100 final by Olivia Davis and Sherri Spruel. Davis clocked a personal-best and ECAC-qualifying time of 11.99, becoming the eighth Lady Flame ever to dip under 12 seconds.
Liberty also advanced three runners to the 1,500 (Stephanie Buda, Jacy Christiansen and Courtney Russo) and 400 hurdles (Mary Echols, Ansley Gebben and Brittney Webley) finals.
In the 100 hurdles prelims, Webley made the final with a time of 14.19 seconds. The time punched her ECAC ticket and moved the freshman up to No. 7 in Liberty history.
Men's Day Two Recap
Redshirt senior Ryan Smith was the Liberty men's team's biggest star on Friday, winning the men's shot put title for the fourth straight year. His winning throw, which reached a personal-best 60-6, broke the meet and facility records.
Smith becomes the first athlete in Big South Conference history to sweep the conference indoor and outdoor titles in an event for four consecutive years. His victory on Friday came in dominating fashion, as Smith recorded the five longest throws of the morning and won by more than five and a half feet.
Jacob DeValve matched his Big South indoor finish by placing third in the men's shot put. His top throw stretched the tape to 51-8.5. Freshman teammate Andrew Woodley closed out Liberty's 21-point event by placing fourth at 51-6.25.
In the final race of the night, junior Josh MacDonald posted a personal-best steeplechase time of 8:55.31, netting his second third-place finish in as many nights. MacDonald previously placed third as part of Liberty's 1-2-3-4 sweep of the men's 10K on Thursday.
Sophomore Kyle Wheeler was unable to defend his Big South men's high jump crown but did garner all-conference honors with his third-place finish. His top clearance on Friday was 6-8.25.
Running his first race in more than a month, ConRoy Smith showed no signs of rust in the 100-meter dash prelims. He qualified for Saturday's final with a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying time of 10.62.
The 2013 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships will draw to a close Saturday, with the men's discus opening the day's schedule of events at 10 a.m. Running events will commence at 12:30 p.m., when the gun goes off for the women's 4 x 100 relay.