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Henderson, McDougal Head to NCAA Indoor Meet
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A pair of Liberty senior men's track athletes will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., this Friday and Saturday for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Clendon Henderson will compete in the shot put, while Josh McDougal will attempt the 3,000/5,000-meter double.
Henderson will be making his first trip to the indoor national meet, while McDougal will make his fourth-consecutive national appearance. The two-day competition will be hosted by Arkansas at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Fans unable to attend the meet in Fayetteville will be able to follow Henderson and McDougal's progress online. Live results and team scoring updates will be available throughout the meet. Coverage of the meet will be aired on ESPN2, March 20 from 4-5:30 p.m.
Clendon Henderson (Sr., Meadow, Texas) – Men's Shot Put
Schedule: Prelims/Final Round - Friday, 3:30 p.m. Eastern
How He Got Here: Henderson, who entered his senior season with an indoor shot put personal best of 55-5.75, improved his mark to 61-10.5 on Jan. 12 at the Virginia Tech Invitational. The lengthy throw set a new Liberty and Big South Conference record and left him ranked No. 8 on the year-end national performance list. The effort at Virginia Tech was no aberration for Henderson, who won the shot put at three of the five meets he entered this season, including the Big South Championship.
Inside the Circle with Clendon: Henderson is in the midst of his second and final season at Liberty, after opening his collegiate career with two years at South Plains Junior College. He looks forward to his senior season of outdoor track & field, when he can compete in his specialty, the discus throw. Henderson threw the discus 198-2 at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships last season and placed 10th in the event. Just eight days later, he became head coach Brant Tolsma's son-in-law, when he married Tolsma's daughter Brenda.
Shot Put Preview: On paper, Arizona State sophomore Ryan Whiting and Idaho senior Russ Winger are the favorites to capture the shot put title in Fayetteville. Whiting owns the year's best throw, a 70-5.25 heave. Meanwhile, Winger finished second at last year's indoor national meet and has a 68-10.75 throw to his credit in 2008. Manhattan senior Milan Jotanovic, who triumphed at last weekend's IC4A Indoor Championships, could also contend. Tom Borish of the website Trackshark.com thinks a relative darkhorse, Arizona junior Zack Lloyd, will take home first place.
Tolsma's Thoughts: "Clendon is a small guy for a shot putter. Therefore, he relies heavily on his speed and technique. He'll go out there hoping to hit a big throw, and it wouldn't surprise me if he hits one. Clendon is more of a discus thrower, but his progress in the shot has been incredible. His best throw as a college freshman was 44 feet. To go from there to 61-10.5 as a senior is mind-boggling!"
Josh McDougal (Sr., Peru, N.Y.) – Men's 3,000 Meters, 5,000 Meters
Schedule: 5,000-Meter Final – Friday, 8:50 p.m. Eastern; 3,000-Meter Final – Saturday, 8:35 p.m. Eastern
How He Got Here: Just 12 days after winning the first national title of his career, at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, McDougal took to the track at the season-opening Liberty Kickoff. He covered 5,000 meters in 13:45.16 that afternoon (Dec. 1), automatically qualifying for the national meet. The time ranks first among NCAA athletes and second in the world this season. McDougal then picked up his automatic qualifier at the 3,000-meter distance on Feb. 29, running a 7:54.85 to win the Big South title. The time puts him No. 6 on the national performance list.
A Minute with McDougal: McDougal enters his final NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships as a 12-time All-American. Five of those distinctions have been earned at the indoor national meet, including three at the 3,000-meter distance and a pair in the 5,000 meters. McDougal enters the national meet having only raced four times during the 2007-08 indoor season. He has lightened his racing load this year, with his eyes on the U.S. Olympic Trials, scheduled for June 27-July 6 in Eugene, Ore. Still, his efforts were impressive enough to garner the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year honor. McDougal is one of only two athletes entered in either the 3K or 5K who has won an NCAA national title (also Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Shadrack Songok).
3K Preview: McDougal is seeking his fourth-straight top five national finish at the 3K distance, a streak which includes a third-place effort in 2007. The race will be his second in two nights, and McDougal is one of only three male athletes (also LaSalle's Sean Quigley and Michigan's Lex Williams) attempting the 3K/5K double. Yet, Trackshark.com has tabbed McDougal as the prerace favorite. Villanova senior Bobby Curtis figures to be a top contender, especially if the pace is slow. He outkicked McDougal in the 5,000-meter race at the 2007 NCAA East Regional Championships and owns a 3:57 mile personal best. Curtis, the top entrant at 7:50.17, finished second in the 5,000-meter race at the outdoor national meet last season. Georgetown sophomore Andrew Bumbalough, entered at 7:53.63, is a middle-distance specialist who would also thrive in a tactical race.
5K Preview: Many people, including Trackshark.com's prognosticators, believe McDougal is the favorite to win Friday's 5,000-meter race. He owns the fastest time this season and the fastest overall personal best (13:20.43) in the field. A season ago, McDougal placed eighth in the event. However, the top returning finisher from 2007 is Quigley, who edged McDougal for seventh place. He has run 13:50.76 this season. Trackshark.com picks Eastern Kentucky senior Jacob Korir to finish second. Korir, who has had a number of notable duels with McDougal in cross country the past two seasons, ended up sixth at the national cross country meet in November. Not to be forgotten is Songok. Although he is entered with the field's slowest time, 13:58.19, he won the 10,000-meter national title outdoors in 2007 by virtue of a powerful closing sprint.
Tolsma's Thoughts: "Josh is an amazing athlete who loves to compete. This meet isn't his biggest focus of the year, as he is looking ahead to the outdoor season and the Olympic Trials. He is still looking very strong, though, as evidenced by his solo 7:54 3K at the Big South meet. It will be fun to see what he can do this weekend."
Men's Team Outlook
Trackshark.com forecasts Liberty finishing in a tie for seventh place in the final team standings, on the strength of McDougal's 20 points. Such a placing would be the Flames' best finish ever at the national indoor meet, by far. Liberty's best finish to date is a tie for 23rd place in 2006.
Tolsma is a bit more cautious in his projections, as he stated, "We are ranked 25th this week. We have a shot at finishing above our ranking. We are also hoping for our best finish to date.
"Another notable thing for our team is placing six men's athletes on the national performance lists for the indoor season. We've never had that happen before, and we hope it forecasts a good outdoor season."
Trackshark.com projects two-time defending national men's outdoor track & field champion Florida State to win the indoor team title, in a tight battle with Tennessee. The same two teams are ranked first and second in the USTFCCCA's weekly Top 25 poll.