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7 Flames Bound for NCAA Preliminary Round
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Seven Liberty men's and women's track & field athletes will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., this weekend for the 2014 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The three-day event, which will determine the qualifiers for the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, will be contested Thursday through Saturday at North Florida's Hodges Stadium.
At both the Jacksonville and Fayetteville, Ark., venues, 48 athletes will compete in each individual event and 24 teams will run in each relay. The top 12 qualifiers in each event at each of the two sites will earn a berth into the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, to be contested June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.
This is the first of three straight years that North Florida will host the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The meet previously took place at Hodges Stadium in 2012, when Liberty's Melinda Bendik (women's hammer) and Kolby Shepherd (men's pole vault) each advanced to the national championship.
Liberty will try to make it 11 straight years of sending at least one athlete to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. However, none of the Flames' seven Jacksonville qualifiers (five men, two women) have ever competed at the NCAA national meet.
Daniel Klase will be the first Liberty athlete in action, as the men's javelin is set to begin Thursday at noon. Teammate Steve Feister was slated to join Klase in the javelin, but has withdrawn from the meet due to injury.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available throughout the meet, courtesy of Flash Results. Their services include lap-by-lap splits of the track events and in-progress updates of the field events.
LibertyFlames.com will be on hand for all three days of action in Jacksonville, providing live interactive blog coverage of all Liberty athletes' events.
Periodic updates will also be posted to the Liberty Gameday Twitter feed (@LUGameday) throughout the meet.
The high temperature is expected to reach 90 degrees during all three days of competition, with a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast each day.
NCAA Preliminary Round Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at noon
Liberty Competitor: Daniel Klase (Jr., Birdsboro, Pa.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 219-1 (66.79m)/No. 28 of 48
How He Got Here: Daniel Klase was the final Flame to qualify for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, thanks to his personal-best 219-1 javelin heave on the final day of the IC4A Outdoor Track & Field Championships on May 18. That throw shattered the junior's previous best of 207-5 and moved him up to No. 2 in program history.
Klase, who came to Liberty as a walk-on, has made consistent progress throughout his career. His javelin personal best has improved from 176-6 in high school to 192-10 as a freshman to 202-1 as a sophomore to 219-1 this season. In the Big South men's javelin final, Klase placed sixth as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and second as a junior.
Klase will try to make it seven times in the last eight seasons that a Liberty men's thrower has qualified for the NCAA national meet. That string of success includes two national appearances in the javelin by program record holder Elliot Galeone (2010 and 2011).
Field Breakdown: The men's javelin is expected to be a strong event at this meet, as seven national qualifiers return from a year ago. Seven of Track & Field News' projected top 10 national finishers reside in the East Region, led by Kentucky's Raymond Dykstra (projected national runner-up), Tennessee's Kyle Quinn (third place) and Western Kentucky's Tomas Guerra (fourth place). Moreover, 25 throwers in the East Region have reached 68 meters (223-1) this season, as opposed to only 12 in the West Region.
Klase will see some familiar faces in Jacksonville, as the top 11 finishers in the IC4A men's javelin all qualified for the meet. Klase placed fifth in that competition. High Point's Christian Spaulding, who came in third in the Big South final, will also throw the javelin in Jacksonville.
Road to Eugene: All 48 men's javelin competitors will take three throws, at which point the top 16 will earn three more attempts apiece. The top 12 javelin throwers at the event's conclusion will qualify for Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: During the first four years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, it has taken anywhere between 218-7 to 225-3 to finish as the 12th and final NCAA national qualifier. Last season saw the fiercest competition in meet history, with 16 throwers reaching 221-0 or longer.
Men's 100-Meter Dash
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 6:30 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: ConRoy Smith (Sr., Chambersburg, Pa.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 10.45/No. 45 of 48
How He Got Here: Senior ConRoy Smith has saved his best season for last. He was stellar at the Big South Championship, winning the 100-meter dash title, while placing second in the 200 and 4 x 100 relay and fifth in the long jump. He then sped to a personal-best time of 10.45 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier, climbing to No. 3 on Liberty's all-time list and punching his ticket to Jacksonville.
Smith is the first Liberty men's or women's athlete ever to run the 100-meter dash at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. No Flame has advanced to the NCAA national meet in the 100 since program record holder Jacob Swinton finished seventh in 1994.
Field Breakdown: This meet features four men who competed in the NCAA national final at 100 meters last season, including Florida State's Dentarius Locke (second place), Alabama's Diondre Batson (fourth), LSU's Aaron Ernest (seventh) and Clemson's Reggie Lewis (eighth). They are four of the nine Eugene qualifiers who return from the 2013 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
Locke, the 2014 NCAA indoor national champion at 60 meters, is Track & Field News' pick to win the 100 national title this year, followed by Batson in second place. However, the top seed in the event belongs to Northwestern State's Justin Walker, who won the Southland title with a nation-leading time of 9.95 seconds.
The last two Big South men's 100-meter dash champions will both race in Jacksonville, including Smith and 2013 titlist Evan Emery of High Point.
Road to Eugene: The first round of the men's 100 dash will consist of six heats, with the top three finishers in each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers moving on to the quarterfinals. There will be three quarterfinal heats, with the top three finishers in each heat and the next three time qualifiers punching their tickets to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The final time qualifiers from the first round to the quarterfinals have historically run anywhere between 10.43 and 10.58 seconds. It has taken a time between 10.30 and 10.43 to advance from the quarterfinals to the NCAA national site.
Women's 800-Meter Run
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 8:35 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 7:15 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Meghan Burggraf (R-Sr., Lynchburg, Va.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 2:07.09/No. 35 of 48
How She Got Here: Meghan Burggraf has enjoyed a highly-decorated career at Liberty, including five Big South titles in the 800 and the 2014 ECAC indoor 800-meter crown. She will now run the event at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the first time, thanks to her outdoor personal-best 2:07.09 clocking at the Stanford Invitational.
Burggraf will now attempt to join former teammate Jaime Watson as the only Lady Flames ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I national meet in the 800-meter run. Watson competed in the 800 at the 2010 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Field Breakdown: Alabama senior Yanique Malcolm, who ran the 4 x 800 for Jamaica in the IAAF World Relays last weekend, is picked by Track & Field News as the national runner-up in this event. Georgetown's Andrea Keklak placed fourth in the 800 at the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, is one of five Hoyas in the field.
Thirty-two of the 48 entrants in the East Region 800-meter run have clocked sub-2:07 times this season, as compared with 20 in the West Region. The East Region's mid-distance depth was on display at the ECAC meet, where it took a time of 2:08.06 to make the final.
Burggraf has experienced success against some of the other NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round entrants in 2014. She defeated Georgetown's Becca Deloache and Shanique Dasilva and Cornell's Elyse Wilkinson to capture the ECAC indoor 800-meter title.
Road to Eugene: The first round of the women's 800-meter run will consist of six heats, with the top three finishers in each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers moving on to the quarterfinals. The following day, there will be three quarterfinal heats, with the top three finishers in each heat and the next three time qualifiers advancing to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: During the four years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, it has taken between 2:06.82 and 2:08.80 to guarantee a berth in the quarterfinals. Then, the slowest time qualifier from the quarterfinal round to the NCAA national site has run between 2:05.45 and 2:07.84.
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Jennifer Nicholson (Jr., Charleston, Mo.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 164-11 (50.26m)/No. 36 of 48
How She Got Here: Jennifer Nicholson's junior season has seen the Missouri native rack up four first-place finishes in the discus, including her first career Big South discus championship. She moved up to No. 2 in program history and No. 4 in Big South Conference annals with her personal-best 164-11 throw at the Texas Relays on March 29.
Nicholson will throw the discus at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second year in a row. Last season, she was one of three Lady Flames entrants in the event, but teammates Mychelle Cumings and Jocelyn Williams are redshirting this season. That leaves it up to Nicholson to make it three years in a row that Liberty has sent a women's thrower to the NCAA national meet.
Field Breakdown: The women's discus is stronger in the West Region than in the East Region this season. Eighteen West Region throwers have reached 54 meters (177-2) in 2014, while only seven East Region competitors have thrown that far.
MAC rivals Danniel Thomas (Kent State) and Alexis Cooks (Akron) each finished in the top eight at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and both are expected to be among the top national contenders this year.
Nicholson's 164-11 mark at the Texas Relays put her in front of eight other NCAA East Preliminary Round qualifiers who also competed at that meet, including Cooks and Florida State standout Kellion Knibb.
Road to Eugene: Each of the 48 women's discus competitors will throw three times, within three flights of 16 entrants. The top 16 throwers will then earn three more throws apiece. At the end of the competition, the top 12 finishers will move on to Eugene.
What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th and final NCAA national qualifier has thrown between 161-11 and 166-9 during the previous editions of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. Last season, Liberty's Mychelle Cumings qualified to Eugene with a 164-2 heave.
Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase
Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Friday at 8:50 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Josh MacDonald (Sr., San Leandro, Calif.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 8:50.15/No. 13 of 48
How He Got Here: Josh MacDonald has run the steeplechase three times as a senior, including an 8:54.07 effort at the Stanford Invitational, an 8:55.02 clocking to win his first Big South steeplechase title and a season-best 8:50.15 performance for second place in the IC4A final.
The Flames' top NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round seed at No. 13, MacDonald hopes that the third time is the charm. He will race the steeplechase at this meet for the third consecutive season and will aim for his first NCAA national qualification.
The men's steeplechase is the only event Liberty has contested at all five editions of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. Prior to MacDonald, Evans Kigen competed in the steeplechase in both 2010 and 2011, advancing to the national championship in 2010.
Field Breakdown: Eight of last year's 12 Eugene qualifiers are back in 2014, headlined by Louisville's Mattias Wolter (sixth place nationally in 2013) and Eastern Kentucky's Ole Hesselbjerg (seventh place nationally in 2013). Track & Field News projects both of them to finish inside the top five in Eugene this season.
Three of the other six returning national qualifiers hail from either Georgetown or Indiana. There will be four Hoyas and four Hoosiers competing in this event in Jacksonville, including IC4A champion Dylan Sorensen of Georgetown. The top eight finishers in the IC4A steeplechase final all qualified to Jacksonville.
All three podium finishers in the Big South steeplechase final will be reunited in Jacksonville, including conference champion MacDonald, runner-up Patrick Crawford of High Point and third-place Jacob Smith of High Point.
The men's steeplechase has been a strong event in the Big South Conference in recent years, as a conference athlete has advanced to the NCAA national meet five times in the last six years. The list includes Liberty's Evans Kigen (2008 and 2010), VMI's Donnie Cowart (2009) and the High Point duo of Smith (2012) and Dakota Peachee (2013).
As usual, the steeplechase boasts an international flavor, with nine foreign-born athletes among the 48 entrants in Jacksonville. This includes runners from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Kenya and Switzerland.
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: During the first three editions of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, the final time qualifier ran between 8:44.36 and 8:47.09. However, a time of 8:50.29 made it to Eugene a year ago.
Men's High Jump
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 5 p.m.
Liberty Competitor: Zach Davis (Fr., Sparta, N.J.)
Entry Mark/Seed: 7-0.25 (2.14m)/No. 17 of 48
How He Got Here: Zach Davis has been impressive as a freshman both in the high jump and the decathlon. At the Big South meet, he placed second in the high jump and third in the decathlon. He then came in third in the IC4A decathlon and tied for seventh in the high jump.
This weekend, Davis will be able to focus on the high jump exclusively. The last time he did that, Davis cleared a personal-best and facility-record 7-0.25 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on May 1. That made the New Jersey native the ninth Flame ever to clear the seven-foot barrier.
Davis is the second Liberty freshman to high jump at this meet in three years, as teammate Kyle Wheeler high jumped in Jacksonville in 2012. Davis will attempt to become the first Flames freshman since 2009 (John Talbert – men's discus) to qualify for the NCAA national meet. That was the same year that Matt Parker became Liberty's first men's high jumper ever to reach the national meet.
Field Breakdown: The men's high jump is deeper in the West Region than in the East Region this year, as 21 athletes in the West have cleared 7-0.5 or higher, while just 14 athletes have done so. However, there are some standouts atop the East Region performance list.
Mississippi's Ricky Robertson, who is Track & Field News' national runner-up pick, has cleared 7-6 this season. Meanwhile, Penn's Maalik Reynolds has made it over 7-4.5 in 2014, after finishing sixth nationally in 2013.
The last two Big South outdoor men's high jump champions will be part of the field, including 2013 titlist Avion Jones, who has since transferred from VMI to East Carolina, and 2014 winner Reggie Nelson of Coastal Carolina.
Davis is one of eight freshmen entrants in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round men's high jump competition. Only three of them have gone over seven feet this season, including Davis, Bethune-Cookman's Ed'Ricus Williams and Penn State's Robert Cardina.
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: It has ranged between 6-11 and 7-2.25 to qualify to the NCAA national meet from the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. Last season, a second-attempt clearance at 7-0.25 was sufficient for advancement to Eugene.
Men's 5,000-Meter Run
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Saturday at 8:05 p.m.
Liberty Competitors: Caleb Edmonds (Sr., Cooperstown, N.Y.) and Josh MacDonald (Sr., San Leandro, Calif.)
Entry Marks/Seeds: Edmonds – 14:02.84/No. 22 of 48; MacDonald – 14:05.87/No. 30 of 48
How They Got Here: Caleb Edmonds (14:02.84) and Josh MacDonald (14:05.87) both clocked their fastest 5K times of the season in the same race, at the Raleigh Relays on March 28. Edmonds will run the 5K at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second year in a row, while MacDonald makes his Preliminary Round 5K debut.
Edmonds will attempt to advance to Eugene after just missing a year ago. The Empire State native finished just 0.68 seconds out of the final Eugene qualifying berth from his heat in 2013. He has enjoyed a successful 2014 outdoor campaign at the 5K distance, placing second in the Big South and third in the IC4A. He also raced to the Big South 1,500-meter title.
The 5K will be MacDonald's second race in as many nights at this meet, but he has shown the ability to perform well during multi-event meets. Earlier this season, MacDonald was the Big South 10K runner-up, steeplechase champion and 5K fourth-place finisher in three consecutive days.
Both Edmonds (2013 outdoor) and MacDonald (2013 indoor) have been Big South 5K champions during their careers.
Field Breakdown: The men's 5K is an event dominated by the West Region. In the Track & Field News' national projections, Penn's Thomas Awad (ninth place) is the only East Region 5K runner listed among the top 10.
Awad won the Raleigh Relays 5K title on March 28, and is one of seven runners from that race (including Edmonds and MacDonald) who will contest the 5K in Jacksonville.
The top four finishers from the IC4A 5K final will compete on Saturday evening, including champion Alfredo Santana of La Salle, runner-up Daniel Everett of Columbia, third-place Edmonds and fourth-place Collin Leibold of Georgetown.
Two of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round 5K runners (N.C. State's Andrew Colley and Villanova's Patrick Tiernan) finished inside the top 10 at the 2013 NCAA Division I Cross Coutnry Championships.
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 final time qualifier to the national meet has clocked a 5K time between 14:04.47 and 14:08.43 during the first four editions of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.