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13 Flames Set to Compete in Greensboro
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The Liberty men's and women's track & field teams will continue their season Thursday through Saturday, when 13 Flames and Lady Flames compete in the 2013 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at North Carolina A&T's Aggie Stadium in Greensboro, N.C. The meet will determine the qualifiers for the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
At both the Greensboro and Austin, Texas venues, 48 athletes will compete in each individual event and 24 teams will run in each relay. The top 12 qualifiers in each event will earn a berth into the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, to be contested June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.
Liberty will try to make it 10 straight years of sending at least one athlete to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. However, none of the Flames' 13 Greensboro qualifiers (nine men, four women) have ever competed at the NCAA national meet.
Aaron Johnson will be the first Liberty athlete to compete at the meet, with the men's long jump set for a 1 p.m. start Thursday afternoon.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will both be available throughout the meet, with the link available at the top of this release.
LibertyFlames.com will be on hand for all three days of action in Greensboro, providing live interactive blog coverage of all Liberty athletes' events.
LibertyFlames.com will also supplement the blog with periodic updates on @LibertyFlames, the department's official Twitter page, especially during some of the throwing events contested outside Aggie Stadium.
There is a chance of thunderstorms in Greensboro on Thursday, with the high temperature expected to reach the upper 70s. On Friday and Saturday, the skies are forecasted to be variably cloudy with highs in the low to mid 70s.
NCAA Preliminary Round Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Men's Long Jump
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 1 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Aaron Johnson (R-Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 24-1.5 (7.35m)/No. 47 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 1 of 4
How He Got Here: Johnson jumped over 24 feet twice during the outdoor season, saving his top performances for the Flames' biggest meets. He sailed out to a season-best 24-1.5 at the Big South meet, earning his first career all-conference honor with a third-place finish. Johnson then went 24-0.25 at the IC4A championship, placing sixth.
This will be Johnson's second NCAA Preliminary Round appearance. He previously long jumped in Greensboro in 2010, thanks to a career-long 24-2.5 effort that season.
Field Breakdown: The men's long jump will be one of the top events to watch at this meet, as nine of last season's 12 national qualifiers from the East Region are back. The list is highlighted by 2013 indoor national champion Marquis Dendy of Florida and indoor runner-up Damar Forbes of LSU.
Track & Field News expects four of the top five finishers in Eugene to come from the East Region, including Dendy (first), Forbes (second), Ohio State's Mike Hartfield (third) and Florida State's Stefan Brits (fifth).
Johnson will be one of three Big South long jumpers in the field, as he will be joined by the Charleston Southern duo of Lavon Allen and Braxton Drummond.
Road to Eugene: Each of the 48 long jumpers will take three attempts, with the top 16 performers earning three more jumps apiece. At the conclusion of the competition, the top 12 long jumpers will advance to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: During the last three years, it has taken anywhere between 24-7 and 24-10 to reach the national meet in the men's long jump.
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitors: Mychelle Cumings (So., Madison, Tenn.), Jocelyn Williams (Jr., Hamilton, N.J.) and Jennifer Nicholson (So., Charleston, Mo.)
Entry Marks/Seeds: Cumings – 166-11 (50.89m)/No. 22 of 48, Williams – 163-10 (49.95m)/No.32 of 48 and Nicholson – 161-8 (49.29m)/No. 43 of 48
Flight Assignments: Nicholson is in Flight 1, while Cumings and Williams are in Flight 2 of 3
How They Got Here: The women's discus has been one of Liberty's best events this season, as the Lady Flames went 1-2-3 (Cumings-Williams-Nicholson) at the Big South Championship and 1-5 (Cumings-Nicholson) at the ECAC meet. All three of the Lady Flames' discus throwers have been named Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week this spring.
Cumings, the Big South and ECAC champion, will be making her second straight appearance at this meet, while Nicholson and Williams are making their NCAA Preliminary Round debuts. This is only the second time Liberty has qualified three or more athletes to the NCAA Preliminary Round meet in the same event. The Flames sent four men's long jumpers to Greensboro in 2010.
Field Breakdown: Only four of last season's 12 national qualifiers are back in the women's discus. Michigan State senior Beth Rohl is the pre-meet favorite, after placing sixth nationally in 2011 and fourth a year ago. Track & Field News picks her to finish third in Eugene, with Kentucky freshman Becky Famurewa forecasted for eighth place.
Liberty joins Brown as the only teams to qualify three women's discus throwers to this year's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The Lady Flames and Bears combined to claim three of the top five places at the ECAC championship, with Liberty's Mychelle Cumings winning, Brown's Lacey Craker finishing third and the Lady Flames' Jennifer Nicholson taking fifth place.
Road to Eugene: All 48 women's discus competitors will take three throws, at which point the top 16 will earn three more attempts apiece. The top 12 discus throwers at the event's conclusion will qualify for Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place finisher at this meet has thrown between 161-11 and 166-9 during the last three seasons.
Men's Pole Vault
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Cody Bingham (R-Fr., Lynchburg, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 16-4.75 (5.00m)/No. 44 of 48
How He Got Here: Bingham has enjoyed a strong freshman season in the pole vault, sweeping the Big South indoor and outdoor titles. However, his top clearance of 16-4.75 came during his first collegiate decathlon competition, March 28 at the Texas Relays.
Bingham will look to continue the Flames' strong tradition in the pole vault, which most recently saw Kolby Shepherd qualify for the national meet in both 2011 and 2012. Shepherd is now a volunteer assistant coach for Liberty, working with Bingham and the rest of the Flames' pole vaulters.
Field Breakdown: There is a bit of a youth movement in the men's pole vault in the East Region, as only five of last year's 12 national qualifiers return. Two freshmen and a sophomore placed in the top five at the 2013 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, including Mississippi sophomore Sam Kendricks (third place), Tennessee freshman Jake Blankenship (fourth) and Akron freshman Shawn Barber (fifth).
Road to Eugene: The 48 pole vaulters will be split into two groups of 24, which will compete simultaneously at two different pits. Once all vaulters have competed at a height and there are 12 or fewer competitors left when the bar is moved up, the competition will be halted. At that point, the 12 Eugene qualifiers will be determined and a jump-off will be conducted if necessary.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2011, one pole vaulter reached the national meet with a 16-10.75 clearance. Meanwhile, last season's meet saw several vaulters' seasons end despite 17-3.5 clearances.
Men's 400 Hurdles
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 5 p.m., Quarterfinal – Friday at 7:45 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Andre Washington (Sr., Woodbridge, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 51.95/No. 21 of 48
Heat Assignment: Heat 6 of 6, Lane 1
How He Got Here: Washington made his big breakthrough during the Big South final, winning the 400 hurdles title with a personal-best time of 51.95 seconds. He then backed up that effort 11 days later, clocking 52.02 for second place at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier.
The fifth Liberty athlete ever to dip under 52 seconds in the 400 hurdles, Washington will be making his NCAA Preliminary Round debut on Thursday.
Field Breakdown: The men's 400 hurdles is an event dominated by the West Region. Michigan junior Ali Arastu is the only East Region athlete currently listed among the top 10 on the Track & Field News formchart, as he is picked to place fourth in Eugene. Ohio State sophomore Antonio Blanks came in seventh in the NCAA national final in 2012.
Road to Eugene: Six first-round heats will be contested Thursday afternoon, with the top three runners in each heat and the next six fastest times advancing to the quarterfinals. Friday evening's quarterfinal round will feature three heats. The top three finishers in each quarterfinal section and the next three fastest times will move on to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: During the last three years, it has taken a time between 50.79 and 51.17 seconds to reach the national meet.
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 6 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Isaac Wendland (R-Sr., Charles City, Iowa)
Entry Mark/Seed: 3:46.79/No. 44 of 48
Heat Assignment: Heat 4 of 4
How He Got Here: Wendland has enjoyed a memorable last month, sweeping the Big South men's 800 and 1,500-meter championships before posting a come-from-behind victory in the IC4A 1,500 final. However, his fastest 1,500 time of the year (3:46.79) came in his final home meet at the May 1 Liberty Twilight Qualifier. Wendland ranked 64th on the year-end East Region performance list but earned an invitation to Greensboro after 20 runners ahead of him failed to declare for the event.
Wendland is a veteran of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, competing in the 800 in 2010 and the 1,500 in 2011. At the 2011 meet in Bloomington, Ind., the Hawkeye State native advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 1,500.
Field Breakdown: Indiana's Andrew Bayer and N.C. State's Ryan Hill headline a strong field of men's 1,500-meter entrants in the East Region. Bayer was tabbed by Track & Field News as the favorite to defend his national title from 2012, while Hill is picked to finish second after placing third a year ago.
Wendland will see some familiar faces in Greensboro, as he will be joined by Big South rivals Chris Schulist of Campbell and Andrey Dmitriev of VMI in the event.
Road to Eugene: Four first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top five runners in each heat and the next four fastest time qualifiers advancing to Saturday's quarterfinal round. On Saturday, the top five finishers in each race and the next two time qualifiers will punch their tickets to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: Over the three years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, the slowest time qualifier has run anywhere between 3:45.37 and 3:48.23.
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 10 a.m.
Liberty Competitor: Jocelyn Williams (Jr., Hamilton, N.J.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 179-0 (54.56m)/No. 48 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 1 of 3
How She Got Here: Williams was not included among the originally-announced field of 48 women's hammer throwers. However, she was added to the field on Tuesday when a thrower ahead of her on the performance list was scratched from the meet.
Williams, who will also throw the discus in Greensboro, has made steady improvement in the hammer during the 2013 campaign. Her personal-best toss of 179-0 came in her most recent meet, garnering an 11th-place ECAC finish. Williams was the Big South runner-up in the event.
Field Breakdown: Precocious Princeton freshman Julia Ratcliffe enters as a considerable pre-meet favorite. She has thrown 225-8 this season and is Track & Field News' projection to place second in Eugene. MAC rivals Brooke Pleger of Bowling Green and Brittany Funk of Akron are tabbed to finish seventh and eighth, respectively, at the NCAA national meet.
Seven of last season's 12 national qualifiers graduated, including the Lady Flames' Melinda Bendik.
Williams is one of three Big South entrants in the event, along with conference champion Jessica Dunston of Campbell and Daisy Whitaker of Charleston Southern.
Road to Eugene: All 48 women's hammer throwers will take three attempts, after which the top 16 will earn three more throws. At the conclusion of the competition, the top 12 throwers will move on to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place women's hammer thrower has thrown between 185-1 and 191-3 during the three years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
Men's Shot Put
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 5 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Ryan Smith (R-Sr., Winder, Ga.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 60-6 (18.44m)/No. 12 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 4 of 4
How He Got Here: Smith is the most decorated men's shot putter in Big South Conference history, as he completed his fourth consecutive sweep of the conference's indoor and outdoor shot put titles in 2013. His outdoor championship came as a result of his personal-best and meet-record throw of 60-6.
Smith will be throwing the shot put at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the fourth year in a row. He placed 16th in 2010, 18th in 2011 and 17th a season ago.
Field Breakdown: A lot of new faces will be heading to Eugene in the men's shot put this year, as only two of last year's dozen national qualifiers are part of this year's field. Smith is familiar with the No. 1 seed, Cornell sophomore Stephen Mozia, this year's IC4A champion. Smith will also match up with talented Gardner-Webb freshman Alex Young, in a contest between the 2013 Big South Indoor (Young) and Outdoor (Smith) Men's Field Athletes of the Year.
Road to Eugene: The 48 shot putters will throw three times apiece, and the top 16 performers will earn three more attempts. At competition's end, the top 12 shot putters will punch their Eugene tickets.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: During the history of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, it has taken anywhere between 58-5.25 and 59-10.5 to place 12th and qualify for the national meet.
Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase
Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Josh MacDonald (Jr., San Leandro, Calif.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 8:49.14/No. 7 of 48
Heat Assignment: Heat 3 of 3
How He Got Here: MacDonald has only run the steeplechase three times this season, but all have been high-quality efforts. He won the season-opening Coastal Carolina Invitational on March 9 in 8:57.26, placed third in the April 19 Big South final in 8:55.31 and then won the IC4A title on May 10 in a personal-best 8:49.14.
MacDonald, who will be running the steeplechase at this meet for the second consecutive year, is Liberty's top seed this week. He is ranked seventh out of the 48 entrants in the East Region.
Field Breakdown: Kentucky's Luis Orta is the only NCAA national qualifier from the East Region returning in 2013. Florida State freshman Zak Seddon (8:34.42) and N.C. State senior Brian Himmelright (8:38.96) have both broken 8:40 in 2013.
The Big South Conference boasts three runners seeded inside the top 18 of the steeplechase in the East Region, including conference champion Dakota Peachee from High Point (No. 5), MacDonald (No. 7) and High Point's Benji Szalai (No. 18).
Road to Eugene: There will be three heats of the steeplechase Friday evening, with the top three finishers in each race and the next three time qualifiers qualifying for Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: In the last three years, times between 8:44.36 and 8:47.09 have served as the final time qualifier to the national championship.
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 10 a.m.
Liberty Competitor: Ryan Smith (R-Sr., Winder, Ga.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 195-11 (59.71m)/No. 36 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 1 of 3
How He Got Here: Smith will throw the hammer at this meet for the second year in a row, thanks to a season-best mark of 195-11 at the Texas Relays. He was also the Big South runner-up and placed 15th at the IC4A meet.
Field Breakdown: Virginia Tech freshman Tomas Kruzliak, who has thrown 232-5 this season, is Track & Field News' national champion pick. Florida senior Jeremy Postin, who was the 2012 national runner-up, is another top contender in the East Region.
Smith will be joined in the field by Big South champion Alex Young of Gardner-Webb and Radford senior Curtis Hodge. He will also face IC4A titlist Leonard Joseph of Bucknell, a 2012 national qualifier.
Road to Eugene: As with the other throwing events, the men's hammer will see all 48 competitors take three throws, which will cull the field to 16 competitors. Those 16 athletes will receive three more attempts, leading to the determination of the 12 Eugene qualifiers.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place men's hammer thrower at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet has recorded a mark between 201-8 and 206-3 during the past three years.
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at Noon
Liberty Competitor: Christina Mitchell (R-Sr., Monroe, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 152-9 (46.57m)/No. 27 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 2 of 3
How She Got Here: Mitchell has focused almost exclusively on the javelin this season, although she did win the Big South title during her lone heptathlon of 2013. The redshirt senior broke her own javelin school record twice, including her Big South-winning throw of 152-9.
Mitchell, who has now claimed back-to-back Big South javelin titles, will throw the javelin at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second consecutive season.
Field Breakdown: Mitchell will have a tough challenge in front of her on Saturday, as nine of last year's national qualifiers are back. Five of Track & Field News' top six picks for Eugene hail from the East Region, including Florida's Marija Vucenovic (first place), Penn State's Lauren Kenney (third), Florida's Fawn Miller (fourth), Georgia's Freya Jones (fifth) and Cincinnati's Emilie Larsson (sixth).
Mitchell will also square off against High Point freshman Christine Rickert, who threw 156-9 to win the Liberty Collegiate Invitational crown. Mitchell then defeated her at the Big South meet two weeks later.
Road to Eugene: The 48 women's javelin throwers will each take three attempts, with the top 16 receiving three more throws. After those rounds, the top 12 competitors will advance to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place women's javelin thrower in the East Region has thrown between 147-11 and 151-4 at this meet.
Men's Triple Jump
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 1 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Chris Johnson (R-Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 50-2.75 (15.31m)/No. 33 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 2 of 4
How He Got Here: The longest triple jump mark of Johnson's career, a 50-2.75 leap, came at just the right time, enabling him to win his second Big South title in the event. It also made Johnson the fourth 50-foot triple jumper in program history and enabled him to join his twin brother Aaron in qualifying for Greensboro.
Field Breakdown: The triple jump field is topped by Florida standouts Omar Craddock and Marquis Dendy. Track & Field News tabs Craddock to successfully defend his national championship in Eugene, while Dendy is picked fourth by the publication.
Also in the field is Isaiah Harris of St. Peter's, the newly-crowned IC4A champion who is one of four returning NCAA national qualifiers competing in Greensboro this weekend.
Road to Eugene: All men's triple jumpers will hop, skip and jump three times, before the top 16 competitors take three more jumps apiece. At that point, the top 12 jumpers will move on to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place men's triple jumper has sailed between 50-11 and 51-3.5 during the three years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
Women's Shot Put
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Mychelle Cumings (So., Madison, Tenn.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 50-9.5 (15.48m)/No. 26 of 48
Flight Assignment: Flight 2 of 4
How She Got Here: Cumings has won three of her five shot put competitions this spring, including the fourth Big South shot put crown of her young career (two indoor, two outdoor). Her longest throw of the year, 50-9.5, netted runner-up honors at the ECAC meet.
Cumings will be throwing the shot put at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second year in a row and will be competing in her second event of the week, following Thursday's discus competition.
Field Breakdown: Seven of last year's dozen national qualifiers are back, highlighted by Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson. She placed fifth at the 2012 national meet and is picked by Track & Field News to finish fourth this year. Victoria Flowers of Connecticut, the ECAC champion, is also entered in the 48-member field.
Road to Eugene: The women's shot putters will throw three times each, with the top 16 competitors making three more attempts. At the end of the competition, places No. 1-12 will advance to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place women's shot putter has thrown anywhere between 51-6.5 and 53-3.5 during the last three seasons of this meet.
Men's High Jump
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 6 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Kyle Wheeler (So., Wilson, Texas)
Entry Mark/Seed: 6-10.75 (2.10m)/No. 36 of 48
How He Got Here: After winning the Big South indoor high jump championship, Wheeler has cleared 6-10.75 twice during the outdoor season. He placed third at the Big South meet and tied for sixth place at the IC4A championship.
Wheeler jumped a school-record 7-1 last season, when he made his NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debut.
Field Breakdown: The last field event to begin in Greensboro, the men's high jump should be a fun event to watch. Eight jumpers in the field have gone 7-3.25 or higher this season, led by indoor national champion Derek Drouin of Indiana at 7-7.75. Mississippi State's Marcus Jackson was the indoor national runner-up, while Track & Field News picks Purdue's Geoff Davis to place third in Eugene. In total, eight of Track & Field News' national top-10 picks will compete in Greensboro.
Road to Eugene: The high jumpers will be separated into two groups of 24, who will compete simultaneously at two different pits. After all 48 entrants have contested at least one height and 12 or fewer jumpers remain in the competition, jumping will cease. The dozen Eugene qualifiers will then be determined using tiebreakers and jump-offs if necessary.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, it only took a 6-11 clearance to reach the national meet. However, a 7-2.25 clearance was necessary to guarantee national qualification last season.
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Saturday at 8:45 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Caleb Edmonds (R-So., Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 13:57.09/No. 13 of 48
Heat Assignment: Heat 2 of 2
How He Got Here: Edmonds' trio of 5K races this season have all been memorable. He raced to a time of 13:57.09 at the Stanford Invitational on March 29, becoming just the third Flame ever to clock a sub-14:00 5K. Edmonds then won the Big South title on April 20 and finished third in the IC4A final on May 10.
Field Breakdown: The 48-member field includes two notable names in Northeastern's Eric Jenkins and UNC Greensboro's Paul Chelimo. Jenkins, who has been arguably the biggest breakthrough performer in men's collegiate distance running this season, owns a sterling personal-best time of 13:18.57. He is picked to finish second in Eugene, the same place that Chelimo took at last year's national meet.
Road to Eugene: There will be two heats of 24 runners Saturday evening, with the top five finishers in each race and the next two time qualifiers moving on to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The slowest time qualifier to the national meet during the last three years has finished between 14:05.69 and 14:08.43.