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Liberty Collegiate Invitational to Open Friday
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The Liberty men's and women's track & field teams are preparing for their first home meet of the 2014 outdoor season. The Liberty Collegiate Invitational, featuring athletes from 19 different colleges, will be contested Friday and Saturday at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex.
The Flames' final tuneup for the 2014 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships will begin Friday at 1 p.m. with the decathlon 100-meter dash. Saturday's action will commence with the women's pole vault at 9:30 a.m.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available throughout both days of competition. Additionally, periodic meet updates will be available on Twitter, via the Liberty Gameday (@LUGameday) account.
Spring weather finally seems to have arrived in Lynchburg, and it is expected to continue this weekend. Friday's high temperature is projected to reach the mid-70s, while Saturday's high will be near 70. There is a slight chance of rain both days.
Who's Coming to Town?
Fifteen of the 19 schools entered in the Liberty Collegiate Invitational hail from either Virginia or North Carolina, including Big South members Radford and VMI and the 2014 ODAC indoor men's (Lynchburg College) and women's (Bridgewater) team champions.
Monmouth and Saint Peter's of the MAAC will also venture to Lynchburg this weekend. Monmouth swept the 2014 MAAC indoor crowns, ending Manhattan's string of 17 straight men's conference championships.
Liberty redshirt sophomore Ansley Gebben was a part of two school-record performances at last weekend's Texas Relays. She sped to a program-record time of 1:00.42 in the 400 hurdles and clocked a 54.7-second split during the Lady Flames' record-setting sprint medley relay (3:53.34).
Gebben will look for another strong performance in the 400 hurdles on Saturday and will face plenty of competition in the event. Teammates Mary Witmer (1:02.04) and Mary Echols (1:03.60) have each notched personal-best times in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Elon's Jennifer Esposito broke the Phoenix's program record with 1:00.57 effort at the Raleigh Relays last weekend. Veronica Luedke of Elon, the 2013 Southern Conference 400 hurdles runner-up, boasts a personal best of 1:01.55.
Flower is Flying
Liberty junior Abigail Flower has found the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex to her liking during the first two years of her collegiate career. She has set three school records on her home track, including the 100 (11.57), 200 (23.48) and 4 x 100 relay (45.90). Additionally, Flower is the defending Liberty Collegiate Invitational champion in the women's 100 and the two-time defending champion in the 200. She is entered in Saturday's 100, 200 and 4 x 100 relay.
The Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex has been known to yield some fast times in the sprints over the years. Most recently, Nike's Barbara Pierre raced to a wind-aided 100-meter dash time of 10.99 seconds at the 2013 Liberty Twilight Qualifier. At the time, it was the fastest 100 clocking in the world for 2013.
Heptathlon & Decathlon Debuts
The host teams will be well represented in the heptathlon and decathlon this weekend, as a number of Flames and Lady Flames make their 2014 debuts in the multi events. Liberty will have three entrants in the heptathlon (Riley Brandon, Brittany Crittenden and Ashley Eubank), in addition to Audrey Bamford, who is redshirting the 2014 outdoor campaign. Flames Zach Davis, Zach Gilroy, Blake Kohring and Tevan McIntire are slated to contest the decathlon.
The decathlon field will include the top four finishers from the 2014 Big South indoor heptathlon competition, including conference champion Quincy Murphy of VMI, runner-up McIntire, third-place Gilroy and fourth-place Davis.
Reigning Big South pentathlon champion Brandon highlights the heptathlon field. She will be seeking her second straight Liberty Collegiate Invitational heptathlon crown, but will be challenged by 2014 ECAC pentathlon qualifiers Nicole Gilbert and Summer Walter of James Madison. Shenandoah's Jaclyn Mohlmann, who placed 14th in the pentathlon at the 2014 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships, is also in the field.
Jumping for Joy
The women's long jump and men's high jump are two of the top jumping events to keep an eye on this weekend, as the facility records of 20-1.75 (women's long jump) and 6-11.5 (men's high jump) could be challenged on Saturday.
Monmouth senior Mariah Toussaint, who long jumped 20-8 and qualified for the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, headlines an impressive field of women's long jumpers. James Madison boasts a pair of freshmen (Kennedy King and Ebony Owusu-Sampah), who have each jumped over 19 feet in 2014.
The Lady Flames will enter five athletes who have long jumped over 18 feet during their careers, including Melissa Rohwer (19-0), Oasis Hernandez (18-9.25), Sadalia Ellis (18-8), Janae Jones (18-2.25) and Erica Carney (18-1). Ellis will be long jumping for the first time in her collegiate career this weekend.
In the men's high jump, Liberty junior Kyle Wheeler is the defending Liberty Collegiate Invitational champion and recently won his third Big South indoor high jump title. He will have his hands full with Saint Peter's senior Isaiah Harris, who cleared 7-3 during the indoor season. Monmouth's Joseph Marini (6-10.25 personal best) and Eastern Mennonite's Jordan King (6-9 personal best) also figure to contend.
Tracking the Throws
Set for a 2 p.m. start Friday afternoon, the men's javelin will be one of numerous highly-competitive throwing events this weekend. Four Monmouth competitors boast personal-best throws of 216-4 or longer, headlined by senior Vincent DuVernois. He has thrown 230-8 during his career and qualified for the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships along with Liberty's Elliot Galeone.
The Flames will counter with the trio of Jacob DeValve, Steve Feister and Daniel Klase, all of whom have thrown longer than 196-7 during their career. Klase was the 2012 Liberty Collegiate Invitational men's javelin champion, in a breakthrough performance.
Liberty junior Jennifer Nicholson is the defending Liberty Collegiate Invitational women's discus champion and is coming off of a personal-best 164-11 effort at the Texas Relays. She will battle against redshirting teammates Mychelle Cumings (167-0 personal best) and Jocelyn Williams (163-10). Monmouth's Taylor Johnson, who threw the discus 167-10 to win the 2013 Northeast Conference title, is also entered.
Big South's Best
Through the early stages of the 2014 outdoor season, Liberty tops the Big South Conference performance list in a number of events.
On the men's side, the Flames rank No. 1 in the 200 (ConRoy Smith-21.37), 800 (John Sherret-1:53.58), 5K (Caleb Edmonds-14:02.84), shot put (Jacob DeValve-52-10.25) and discus (David Scouten-167-5).
In women's events, Lady Flames lead the way in the 100 (Abigail Flower-11.96), 200 (Abigail Flower-24.30), long jump (Melissa Rohwer-18-8.5), triple jump (Janae Jones-40-4.75) and discus (Jennifer Nicholson-164-11).