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Liberty Set to Host New Balance Big South Conference Track & Field Championships Presented by UCS
The meet will serve as an opportunity for Liberty fans to see the team's prominent athletes, including Josh McDougal (Jr., Peru, N.Y.) and Arlene Zelinskas (Sr., Dayton, Ohio) compete in a number of events. Also on display will be numerous regional qualifiers from the other seven conference schools.
"We coaches are really excited about the progress of our team," Liberty head coach Brant Tolsma noted. "We look forward to competing in good weather in front of a hometown crowd. This weekend will also give the community a chance to see some high-level track competition."
Tolsma has good reason to be excited about his teams. The men's squad, tied for No. 25 in the most recent Trackwire Top 25 rankings, is seeking to complete a Big South "Triple Crown" after previously capturing conference crowns in cross country and indoor track & field this year. If Liberty is victorious, it would be the team's first "Triple Crown" since the 1999-2000 academic year.
The Flames will be challenged by defending team champion, Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers, competing on their home track, took the 2006 title by 31.5 points. Liberty has captured 11 out of 13 men's outdoor track & field team championships since joining the conference, however.
On the women's side, the Coastal Carolina Lady Chanticleers won the 2006 Big South outdoor team championship by over 100 points and are favored to repeat.
The Lady Flames have the ability to contend as well. Zelinskas is a regional qualifier in both the 100-meter hurdles and the high jump and is a provisional national qualifier in the heptathlon. Liberty won the Big South women's cross country title this past October and those athletes are excelling on the track as well. The Lady Flames boast the meet's top qualifiers at 1,500 meters (Rebekah Ricksecker, So, Laurel, Del.), 5,000 meters (Ashley Osborne, So., Bristol, Va.), 10,000 meters (Carol Jefferson, Jr., Schwenksville, Pa.) and the steeplechase (Piper Newby, Jr., Hayden Lake, Idaho).
Speaking of distance runners, Liberty's McDougal has been burning up the track so far this spring. In his last race on Liberty's track, he ran a 3:57.46 mile, which still ranks as the world's fastest during the current outdoor season. Then, McDougal became the fifth-fastest 5,000-meter performer in collegiate history at Friday's Mt. SAC Relays, clocking a 13:20.43 in the event.
Spectators will have several opportunities to see McDougal compete this weekend. He is entered in the 10,000-meter final, scheduled for a Thursday 5:45 p.m. start. Depending on the number of race entrants, he may run a preliminary heat of the 1,500 meters, Friday at 1 p.m. The 1,500-meter final and the 5,000-meter final will both be contested on Saturday, at 12:20 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
Just before McDougal begins his busy weekend of competition, the conference's deepest event, in terms of regional qualifiers, will be on display. Five hammer throwers who have exceeded the regional qualifying standard will compete in the event final at the newly renovated hammer ring, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Liberty junior Jon Hart (Jr., Wyomissing, Pa.) is the top entrant at 207-3, but will be pushed by classmate Clendon Henderson (Meadow, Texas), Timothy Morse and Jeremiah Spence of Radford and Coastal Carolina's Tommy Sugishita.
Two other Big South field event athletes of note will be wrapping up distinguished careers this season. Coastal Carolina senior Chasity Johnson, the conference record holder in both the long jump and triple jump, has won 12 of a possible 14 Big South titles in the two events during her career, indoors and outdoors. She is also a four-time Big South 200-meter champion. Meanwhile, Radford senior Tiffany Evans is a 10-time Big South champion in the throwing events and just broke her own conference shot put record on Saturday, eclipsing 50 feet for the first time.
Parking and admission are free to all three days of competition. Action will get underway at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning and at 10 a.m. Saturday. For more information about the meet, click here. Live result updates will be posted here throughout the meet.