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Flames, Lady Flames Bound for Boston
A group of 13 Liberty men's athletes and nine women's athletes will make the trip to the Northeast to compete against the top NCAA Division I performers from East Coast institutions from Maine to Virginia. The Flames and Lady Flames will hope to build upon their positive results from last weekend's New Balance Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, where the men's team won its 11th-consecutive conference title and the women's squad took second.
The men's IC4A meet will be contested at the Boston University Pavilion. Action at the two-day event will begin Saturday at 11 a.m., with the heptathlon 55-meter dash. Meanwhile, the women's ECAC championships will take place across town, at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. The first event on the docket is the pentathlon 55-meter hurdles, Saturday at 9 a.m.
IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships
Jacey Bailey (Fr., Tamarac, Fla.) – 55-meter dash
Durell Cull (So., Rome, N.Y.) – 55-meter dash
Jon Hart (Sr., Wyomissing, Pa.) – Shot put, weight throw
Clendon Henderson (Sr., Meadow, Texas) – Shot put, weight throw
Brandon Hoskins (Sr., Garden City, Texas) – Heptathlon
Jarvis Jelen (R-Jr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) – 5,000-meter run
Evans Kigen (So., Eldoret, Kenya) – 5,000-meter run
Phil Leineweber (Jr., New Freedom, Pa.) – 500-meter dash
Jordan McDougal (R-Jr., Peru, N.Y.) – 5,000-meter run
Daniel Newell (Jr., Roanoke, Va.) – Heptathlon
Matt Parker (Jr., Rome, N.Y.) – High jump, 55-meter hurdles
Clarence Powell (Fr., Marianna, Fla.) – Triple jump
Kolby Shepherd (Fr., Dublin, Ga.) – Pole vault
Taking a Weekend Off
Liberty fans may notice the absence of Josh McDougal's (Sr., Peru, N.Y.) name from the above list. He has produced some memorable moments at the IC4A indoor meet during his career. As a sophomore in 2006, McDougal clocked a 7:53.16 for 3,000 meters, breaking the 25-year-old meet record set by Sidney Maree. Last season, the Liberty standout ran the world's best 5,000-meter time during the 2007 indoor campaign, a 13:37.32.
McDougal will not compete this weekend, because he has already posted automatic qualifying times for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships at both the 3K and 5K distances. The national meet will be held in Fayetteville, Ark., beginning March 14.
A number of Liberty athletes hope to join McDougal in Arkansas, and the IC4A meet is their last chance to qualify. Currently, Henderson is in the best position. His personal-best 61-10.5 effort in the shot put sits No. 7 on the national performance list.
Three other Flames—Hart, Hoskins and Parker—hope to improve their standing on the national lists in Boston. Hart is No. 21 in the weight throw, after posting a career-best and school-record mark of 66-6.5 to win the Big South title last weekend. He likely needs to add at least one more foot to earn a ticket to the national meet during the event, which starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Hoskins, fresh off a school-record heptathlon score of 5,383 at the Big South meet, will be back at it again this weekend. The two-time All-American ranks No. 27 nationally. He will aim to post over 5,500 points at the IC4A meet to put his name in the mix for a national invitation.
Parker, the Big South Men's Outstanding Field Performer, is one of nine men tied for 26th place in the high jump, at 7-0.25. A clearance of 7-1.5 will likely be necessary for Parker to claim his first national appearance. The high jump will commence at noon Sunday.
Even without Josh McDougal competing, Liberty head coach Brant Tolsma is excited about the Flames' chances at the IC4A meet. Last season, Liberty placed eighth, while Tolsma believes his 2008 squad has a shot at its best-ever finish at the IC4A indoor championships. In 1999, Liberty ended up third place indoors, the Flames' highest placing in program history.
"We certainly have the athletes to place well," noted Tolsma. "We're fresh off a performance at the Big South meet that would have placed us high at a lot of conference meets around the country. Our team is senior-loaded, and we have a lot of big-meet experience."
Liberty's top returning finishers from last year's meet include Hart, Newell and Parker. Hart scored points in both throwing events, taking third in the weight throw and seventh in the shot put. Newell ended up fourth in the heptathlon, while Parker tied for fourth place in the high jump.
ECAC Indoor Track & Field Championships
Mia Aghaji (Fr., Chester, Va.) – Triple jump
Kati Albright (Fr., Wake Forest, N.C.) – Mile run
Andrea Beckles (Jr., Lynchburg, Va.) – 55-meter dash, 200-meter dash
Chenoa Freeman (So., Lincoln, Del.) – 400-meter dash
Charlene Hibbert (Sr., Mississauga, Ontario) – 400-meter dash
Carol Jefferson (Sr., Schwenksville, Pa.) – 5,000-meter run
Ashley Osborne (Jr., Bristol, Va.) – 3,000-meter run
Rebekah Ricksecker (Jr., Laurel, Del.) – Mile run
Jaime Watson (R-So., Ravenna, Mich.) – 800-meter run
Solid in the Middle
The strength of the Lady Flames' team throughout the 2007-08 indoor team has been the 400-meter dash, the 800-meter run and the mile run. Thus, it is no surprise that five of Liberty's nine entrants will be running one of those three events.
"It has been a good year for our quarter-milers, and Jaime [Watson] ran a big 800 last week," stated Tolsma. "We're hoping to score some points in the 400, 800 and mile this weekend."
Watson's aforementioned 800 performance was a Liberty and Big South-record 2:09.79 clocking to win the Big South championship, last Saturday. Freeman established program and conference records by traversing 400 meters in 55.70 seconds, earlier this season.
If the Lady Flames' competitors can qualify for Sunday's finals, it promises to be an action-packed half-hour for Liberty. The mile will go off at 1:45 p.m., followed by the 400-meter dash at 1:55 and the 800-meter final at 2:10.
Jefferson has enjoyed success at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center before. Last season, she finished 10th in the 5,000-meter run in a Liberty and Big South-record time of 17:03.23. Coming off runner-up finishes in the 3K and 5K at the Big South meet last weekend, Jefferson hopes to run another fast time this season in Boston. The 5,000 meters, the lone running event final on Saturday, is set for 3:45 p.m.