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Liberty Kickoff to Open Track & Field Season

November 29, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Matt Parker will be aiming for his first career 7-0 clearance in the high jump on Saturday.

Matt Parker will be aiming for his first career 7-0 clearance in the high jump on Saturday.

Some of Liberty's top track & field athletes, including 2007 NCAA Cross Country Champion Josh McDougal, will make their 2007-08 season debuts at the Liberty Kickoff, Friday and Saturday at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Competitors from 22 universities and a number of post-collegiate athletes will be included in the field.

Last season was a memorable one in the annals of Liberty track & field. The Flames and Lady Flames swept the Big South Conference outdoor team titles at Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. The men's squad went on to capture its first IC4A championship since 1996 and tie for 22nd at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Most of Liberty's top performers have returned for the 2007-08 campaign, and they will be joined by a talented group of freshmen. The mixture of youth and experience has head coach Brant Tolsma excited to get the season underway.

"We're looking forward to getting started," Tolsma remarked. "This will be our first look at how people compete. We have the potential to be a really good team, but the unknown element right now is our newcomers."

A chronological meet preview follows.

Friday, Nov. 30
3 p.m. – The meet will open with the women's pentathlon 60-meter hurdles. Christine Nicewonger of James Madison is the top entrant, with a score of 3,700 points.

3:15 p.m. – The two-day, seven-event men's heptathlon will begin with the 60-meter dash. Six men are entered with scores of 5,020 or higher, including Liberty two-time All-American Brandon Hoskins (Sr., Garden City, Texas). Liberty junior Daniel Newell (Roanoke, Va.) will try to defend his Liberty Kickoff heptathlon crown from 2006.

Saturday, Dec. 1
9 a.m. – Liberty senior throwers Jon Hart (Wyomissing, Pa.) and Clendon Henderson (Meadow, Texas), both of whom competed at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships last season, will look to get 2007-08 started in fine fashion in the weight throw.

9:30 a.m. – Liberty fans will get their first look at freshman Mia Aghaji (Chester, Va.), as she competes in her specialty, the triple jump. She is also entered in the long jump and 4 x 400 relay.

11 a.m. – The running events will get started with one of the most intriguing women's events of the meet, the 60-meter hurdles. Rachel Houseknecht (Fr., Hughesville, Pa.), a high school state hurdles champion in Pennsylvania, will make her first appearance in a Liberty uniform. The race also features a pair of standout post-collegiate competitors. Ebony Foster, a Jefferson Forest High School product, is now representing Nike after a standout career at N.C. State. She was the lone collegiate athlete to make the finals of the women's 100-meter hurdles at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. Foster will be pushed by Samaiyah Islam of Real Deal Track Club.

11:15 a.m. – The men's 60-meter hurdles are scheduled to follow the women's event. Matt Parker (Jr., Rome, N.Y.) and freshman Jeff Ferris (Culpeper, Va.) are the Flames' top entrants.

11:30 a.m. – Next up on the track will be the men's 60-meter dash. Jacey Bailey (Fr., Tamarac, Fla.) looks to be the most promising young sprinter on the Flames' roster this season.

11:45 a.m. – Andrea Beckles (Jr., Lynchburg, Va.), who holds the Liberty women's 60-meter dash record at 7.62 seconds, will open her campaign.

12:30 p.m. – Henderson will return to action with the shot put competition. He is part of a quality field, which includes Mitchell Pope, a N.C. State graduate who finished second in the shot at the 2007 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and Liberty school record holder Dan Royal, competing unattached.

12:45 p.m. – The four sprint and sprint hurdle finals will be held in rapid succession, beginning with the men's 60-meter hurdles and ending at 1:05 with a two-heat final of the women's 60-meter dash.

1:30 p.m. – Three of Liberty's best newcomers will get their events started simultaneously. Aghaji will be back in action at the long jump pit, where she will meet Real Deal Track Club's Amy Seward, the seventh-place long jumper from the 2007 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. In the triple jump, Clarence Powell (Fr., Marianna, Fla.) will make his Liberty debut. On the track, Kati Albright (Fr., Wake Forest, N.C.) will run the mile, after completing a solid rookie cross country season.

1:55 p.m. – Fans of the 400-meter dash will be in luck, as an hour is allotted for the event, which has 57 female entrants and 65 male entrants. Liberty's top male competitor is Phil Leineweber (Jr., New Freedom, Pa.), while three Lady Flames appear poised for strong performances—Chenoa Freeman (So., Lincoln, Del.), Charlene Hibbert (Sr., Mississauga, Ontario) and Jaime Watson (Jr., Ravenna, Mich.).

2:55 p.m. – Heats of the 800-meter run will get underway. Alisa Harvey, who set the U.S. masters (age 40-over) mile record at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center in 2006, is listed in the 800, 1,500 and 5K events. Whichever event(s) the 42-year-old standout chooses to enter should be entertaining, as Harvey, competing unattached, clashes with runners half her age.

Approx. 3:30 p.m. – Parker, who narrowly missed a trip to the national meet in the high jump during the 2007 outdoor season, will make his first attempts of the 2007-08 indoor campaign. Tolsma reports Parker has been performing well in practice and may have a shot to clear 7-0 for the first time.

4:15 p.m. – The featured event of the day, the men's 5,000 meters, will take the track. Last season, Josh McDougal (Sr., Peru, N.Y.) waited until March to solidify his spot at the national indoor meet. This time around, he hopes to qualify in December, by running 13:48.90 or faster. He will be joined on the starting line by some familiar faces. Liberty training partners Jarvis Jelen (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.), Sam Chelanga and David Cheromei are all slated to compete. (Chelanga and Cheromei will run unattached.) William & Mary will also bring a strong contingent, headed by assistant coach Ed Moran. Moran finished less than a tenth of a second ahead of McDougal in April, when the Liberty senior posted his 5K personal-best time of 13:20.43. The Tribe's Christo Landry, who placed 13th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, is slated to compete as well.

4:35 p.m. – After the dust clears from the men's 5,000 meters, the women will get set for the 5K. Lady Flames Carol Jefferson (Sr., Schwenksville, Pa.) and Ashley Osborne (Jr., Bristol, Va.) both broke the 17-minute barrier for the first time last season and both are entered in Saturday's competition.

5:25 p.m. – The meet's final running event features a Liberty women's 4 x 400 relay squad, which has the potential to post a fast time. Freeman, Hibbert, Aghaji and Watson are hoping to open the season with a qualifier for the ECAC Championships (3:53.94 or faster).