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Flames and Lady Flames Set for NCAA East Regional Championships
The meet will be used to finalize the field for the NCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Championships, slated for June 6-9, in Sacramento, Calif. The top five finishers in each individual event and the top three teams in each relay at the regional meet will earn automatic qualification to the national meet. At-large competitors from each of the four regions will then fill out the national fields.
The men's and women's 10,000 meters, the heptathlon and the decathlon will not be contested at this weekend's regional meet. Josh McDougal (Jr., Peru, N.Y.) has automatically qualified to the national meet at 10,000 meters. Additionally, Carol Jefferson (Jr., Schwenksville, Pa.) in the women's 10,000 meters, Arlene Zelinskas (Sr., Dayton, Ohio) in the heptathlon and Brandon Hoskins (Jr., Garden City, Texas) in the decathlon have all provisionally qualified for the national meet in their respective events.
Below is an event-by-event look at Liberty's regional competitors.
Women's 1,500-Meter Run (Heats Friday at 3:50 p.m., Final Saturday at 6 p.m.): Rebekah Ricksecker (So., Laurel, Del.)
Ricksecker qualified for the regional meet by winning the 1,500-meter final at the Big South Championships in a personal-best time of 4:33.41. She is the No. 4 performer in the event in Liberty history. (Lady Flame assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand holds the school 1,500-meter record. She ran a 4:14.71 to finish second at the 2002 NCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Championships.)
Ricksecker has the 30th-fastest time out of the 32 entrants and will run in the first of three heats, along with the fastest qualifier, Brie Felnagle of North Carolina (4:11.86). The top three finishers in each heat, along with the next three best times, will advance to the final.
Women's 5,000-Meter Run (Final Saturday at 8:50 p.m.): Ashley Osborne (So., Bristol, Va.) and Jefferson
Osborne, whose 5K personal best stood at 17:58.12 prior to this season has enjoyed a few breakthrough races in 2007. She set a new school record with a 16:53.89 performance at the Duke ASICS Invitational on April 6 and later improved her time to 16:42.79 at the Penn Relays. A versatile performer, Osborne was second at 10,000 meters, third at 1,500 meters and fourth at 5,000 meters at the Big South Championships.
Jefferson earned a spot at regionals by virtue of her Big South Championship in the event. Her meet-record time, 17:20.06, ranks her as the No. 2 performer in program history. She also ran the 5,000 meters at the regional meet a year ago and finished 27th.
Osborne ranks 26th among the large, 36-member field which will toe the line for the final and Jefferson is 35th. Wake Forest senior Michelle Sikes, the lone East Region performer to break 16 minutes this season (15:47.48), is the race favorite.
Women's 100-Meter Hurdles (Heats Friday at 4:30 p.m., Final Saturday at 6:25 p.m.): Zelinskas
One of three events in which Zelinskas will compete during the two-day meet this season, the 100-meter hurdles was the senior's lone event at the 2006 regional meet. She finished 21st overall last season, with a time of 14.00. This year, her entry time stands at 13.80, a mark she has reached twice this season, in the Texas Relays heptathlon and the ECAC heptathlon. Her personal-best time of 13.78 (wind-aided) was achieved a season ago and ranks her No. 2 on Liberty's all-time list.
Zelinskas is tied for the 26th-fastest entry time among the 34 athletes who qualified for the regional championships and will run the fifth and final heat. The winner of each of the five heats plus the next three fastest times will qualify for the final. Virginia Tech's Kristi Castlin, at 12.82, is the top qualifier coming into the meet.
Women's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase (Final Saturday at 8:10 p.m.): Piper Newby (Jr., Hayden Lake, Idaho)
Newby, who enjoyed a breakthrough cross country season and regularly served as the Lady Flames' No. 1 runner, has carried the success over to the track. She has cut more than 30 seconds off her own school record in the event this season, hitting a best time of 10:37.89 at the ECAC Championships, an effort which stood up for fourth place.
Ranked 21st in the 40-member field, Newby will run in the middle of three timed finals Saturday evening. Barbara Parker of Florida State, entered at 9:56.29, heads all performers in the event.
Women's High Jump (Final Friday at 1 p.m.): Zelinskas
Zelinskas will kick off a busy Friday with the high jump. The No. 2 performer in program history, the senior has twice cleared 5-8.75 this season, with both leaps coming at home. Most recently, she jumped 5-8.75 to win the Big South high jump title, one of three conference event championships for her at the conference meet.
One of 13 regional athletes who have topped out at 5-8.75 this season, Zelinskas is tied for 13th among the 27 entrants. Georgia's Laverne Spencer, who has cleared 6-3.5, sits atop the regional performance list.
Women's 4 x 100 Relay (Heats Friday at 3:15 p.m., Final Saturday at 5:40 p.m.): Relay pool includes Andrea Beckles (So., Lynchburg, Va.), Charlene Hibbert (Jr., Mississauga, Ontario), Tra' Screen (So., Lynchburg, Va.), Zelinskas, Chenoa Freeman (Fr., Lincoln, Del.) and Marie Williams (Jr., Tampa, Fla.)
The 4 x 100 relay team's defining performance of the season thus far came at the Big South Championships, where the quartet of Beckles, Hibbert, Screen and Zelinskas surprised favorite Coastal Carolina and won the race with a conference, school, meet and facility-record time of 45.95. (Coastal Carolina has since recaptured the conference record with a 45.77 at the Georgia Tech Invitational.)
The Lady Flames sit 16th out of the 19 teams entered at the regional meet. Liberty will run in the third of four heats, along with top qualifier South Carolina (43.33). Each heat winner, along with the next four fastest times, will qualify for the final.
Women's 4 x 400 Relay (Final Saturday at 8:50 p.m.): Relay pool includes Williams, Screen, Hibbert, Freeman, Zelinskas and Beckles.
Head coach Brant Tolsma tried a number of different permutations in this relay throughout the season before finding a winning combination at the ECAC Championships. The foursome of Williams, Screen, Hibbert and Freeman ran 3:42.06 in the prelims, obliterating an 11-year-old program record by more than five seconds. For an encore, the Lady Flames clocked a 3:41.00 in the finals and finished second in the event.
Liberty has the 11th-fastest time among the 20 regional teams. The Lady Flames will run in the second of three timed finals. Top qualifier South Carolina, with a 3:28.44 to its credit, headlines the final section.
Men's 5,000-Meter Run (Final Friday at 8:10 p.m.): Jordan McDougal (So., Peru, N.Y.) and Josh McDougal
The men's 5,000 meters features two McDougals, Jordan and Josh. Jordan qualified for the regional meet for the second consecutive season by virtue of his 14:00.14 clocking, which netted him third place at the Penn Relays. Meanwhile, Josh, ranked first in the nation in both the 1,500 meters and the 5,000 meters, has opted to focus on the latter discipline at the regional meet.
Josh McDougal, a nine-time All-American, will look to qualify for the 5,000-meter run at the national meet for the third time in his career. He was second at last year's regional meet in the event, on his way to a ninth-place finish at the national championships. McDougal ran a 13:20.43 at the Mt. SAC Relays earlier this season, ranking him as the No. 5 all-time collegiate performer in the event.
Josh is No. 1 and Jordan No. 12 on the 26-person start list. Eleven runners on the list have broken 14 minutes during the current season.
Men's 400-Meter Hurdles (Heats Friday at 6:50 p.m., Final Saturday at 7:10 p.m.): Tim O'Donnell (Jr., Hurst, Texas)
O'Donnell, in his first year at Liberty after transferring from South Plains Junior College, has excelled in a number of areas, especially the 400-meter hurdles. The Big South champion, O'Donnell ran his personal-best time of 51.75 to finish third at the IC4A Championships. He is the No. 4 all-time Liberty 400-meter hurdler.
The junior is ranked 18th out of 32 hurdlers entered in the meet. He will compete in heat three of six, aiming to either win the heat or record one of the next two best times, in order to qualify for the final. Justin Gaymon of Georgia leads the field with a 49.25 mark.
Men's High Jump (Final Saturday at 1 p.m.): Matt Parker (So., Rome, N.Y.)
Parker, the No. 4 high jumper in Liberty history at 6-10.75, recorded his best mark at the March 24 Lynchburg College Invitational. He also finished second at the Big South Championships and third in the Eastern section of the high jump at the Penn Relays, earlier this season.
Parker is one of 11 athletes whose best leap is 6-10.75 and is tied for seventh on the entry list. Georgia Tech's Jerome Miller, at 7-3, is the event favorite.
Men's Shot Put (Trials & Final Saturday at 6 p.m.): Jon Hart (Jr., Wyomissing, Pa.) and Clendon Henderson (Jr., Meadow, Texas)
Hart and Henderson, who will both compete in a pair of throwing events at the regional meet, are both scheduled to conclude the meet in the shot put final. Hart notched his best throw thus far this season on March 17, at Coastal Carolina's Shamrock Invitational. His 57-7.5 effort shattered a 24-year-old program record. Meanwhile, Henderson just qualified for the event with a personal-best mark of 55-4.25 at the IC4A Championships. He is ranked No. 3 all-time at Liberty in the shot put.
Hart, ranked No. 13 in the region, will compete in the second of three flights and Henderson, listed No. 28, will throw in the opening flight. N.C. State's Mitchell Pope has thrown 65-5 this year.
Men's Discus (Trials & Final Friday at 6 p.m.): Henderson
Henderson will open up the meet with his specialty, the discus. He has been improving his own school and Big South records all season long. The top mark on both lists now stands at 186-10 after Henderson uncorked the throw to take runner-up honors at the IC4A Championships.
Listed fourth in the event, Henderson will throw in the second of two flights. At 199-8.75, Wes Stockbarger of the host Florida Gators seems to be the athlete to beat.
Men's Hammer (Trials & Final Friday at Noon): Hart
Hart will be the first Liberty athlete to get underway at the regional meet, as he is entered in the first event, the men's hammer throw. Like Henderson in the discus throw, Hart's latest in a season full of record tosses came at the IC4A Championships, a 212-10. The distance allowed Hart to win the event and become the first Flame ever to capture a throwing event title at the IC4A meet.
The junior, who returned to Liberty this season after competing for Penn State for a year, is listed fourth in the region. North Carolina's Nick Owens (231-5.5) is the top entrant in the event.