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IC4A, ECAC Meets Up Next for Liberty Track
For only the second time in program history, the Liberty men's track & field team enters the IC4A Outdoor Track & Field Championships as the defending champion. The Flames will attempt to repeat their title, and the Lady Flames will compete in the concurrent ECAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, this Friday through Sunday at William Weaver Track & Field Stadium in Princeton, N.J.
The three-day meet will get underway Friday at 1 p.m., when the IC4A men's decathlon begins with the 100-meter dash. An hour later, the ECAC meet will open up with the heptathlon 100-meter hurdles.
The Liberty men's squad claimed the 2007 IC4A outdoor team championship, outlasting runner-up Virginia by 10.5 points to win the title for the first time since 1996. The Flames should be a contender in the team race again this year, along with Virginia, 2008 IC4A indoor champion Georgetown and Cornell, who won the Heps title last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames enjoyed their highest-ever ECAC finish a season ago, ending up in seventh place in the final team standings. Georgetown is the defending team champion on the women's side, while UConn took the 2008 ECAC indoor crown.
Head men's and women's track & field coach Brant Tolsma will take a sizable contingent of competitors to the meet, including nine female athletes and 19 male athletes, listed below.
LibertyFlames.com will be on hand at the IC4A/ECAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships and will provide a live blog on each day's action. Some of the meet's key storylines are highlighted below.
Women's ECAC Qualifiers
Mia Aghaji (Fr., Chester, Va.) – Triple jump
Andrea Beckles (Jr., Lynchburg, Va.) – 100, 200, 4 x 100
Dacia Bushman (Fr., Castalia, Iowa) – 10K
Chenoa Freeman (So., Lincoln, Del.) – 400, 4 x 100
Brittany Heath (So., Freeport, Grand Bahamas) – 4 x 100
Charlene Hibbert (Sr., Mississauga, Ontario) – 200, 4 x 100
Carol Jefferson (Sr., Schwenksville, Pa.) – 5K, 10K
Rebekah Ricksecker (Jr., Laurel, Del.) – 800, 1,500
Jaime Watson (Jr., Ravenna, Mich.) – 400, 800
Men's IC4A Qualifiers
Jacey Bailey (Fr., Tamarac, Fla.) – 100
Dominic Bolden (Jr., Orlando, Fla.) – 4 x 100
Durell Cull (So., Rome, N.Y.) – 100, 200, 4 x 100
Josh Edmonds (So., Cooperstown, N.Y.) – 5K, 10K
Jon Hart (Sr., Wyomissing, Pa.) – Shot put, discus, hammer
Clendon Henderson (Sr., Meadow, Texas) – Shot put, discus, hammer
Aaron Hewlett (Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.) – 100, 4 x 100
Brandon Hoskins (Sr., Garden City, Texas) – 400, 110 hurdles, pole vault, javelin, decathlon
Jarvis Jelen (R-Jr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) – 3K steeplechase, 5K
Evans Kigen (So., Eldoret, Kenya) – 3K steeplechase, 5K, 10K
Phil Leineweber (Jr., New Freedom, Pa.) – 200, 400
Donald Manns (So., Jacksonville, Fla.) – 4 x 100
Jordan McDougal (R-Jr., Peru, N.Y.) – 3K steeplechase, 5K
Josh McDougal (Sr., Peru, N.Y.) – 1,500, 5K, 10K
Daniel Newell (Jr., Roanoke, Va.) – Decathlon
Matt Parker (Jr., Rome, N.Y.) – 110 hurdles, high jump
Clarence Powell (Fr., Marianna, Fla.) – Triple jump, high jump
Jake Reed (So., Marysville, Ohio) – 10K
Kolby Shepherd (Fr., Dublin, Ga.) – Pole vault
Six Liberty seniors will be competing at the IC4A and ECAC Championships for the final time this weekend. The list includes Jon Hart, Clendon Henderson, Brandon Hoskins and Josh McDougal of the men's team, as well as Charlene Hibbert and Carol Jefferson of the women's squad. These athletes comprise one of the most successful and decorated senior classes ever to graduate from the Liberty track & field program and each merits attention this weekend.
Third Time is a Charm
A season ago, Hart became the first Liberty thrower ever to win an IC4A title, uncorking the hammer 212-10. He followed up the performance by taking first place in the weight throw at this year's IC4A Indoor Championships. Now, the senior will attempt to make it three straight IC4A meets with a victory.
Hart has qualified for the IC4A meet in the shot put, discus and hammer, but his best chance to reach the top of the awards stand will certainly come in the hammer. He is the top seed in the event and ranks No. 12 in the nation with his season-best 217-2 effort.
Looking to Remain Unbeaten
Henderson has enjoyed a successful senior season thus far, winning all six of his discus competitions and ranking No. 3 nationally with his 204-3 discus heave. This weekend, he will attempt to accomplish a feat which has eluded him during his two years at Liberty, winning an individual IC4A title.
Like Hart, Henderson has qualified for the meet in the shot put, discus and hammer. He is seeded No. 1 in both the shot put and discus. The discus figures to be a two-person showdown between Henderson and Virginia's Yemi Ayeni. Last season, Ayeni won the title and Henderson came in second. Both throwers have exceeded the meet record (194-2 by Ayeni in 2007) already this season. Ayeni's top effort is 196-7.
Keeping His Options Open
Hoskins is the only Liberty athlete who has qualified for the IC4A meet in five disciplines this year, the decathlon, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, pole vault and javelin. As a result, he has a number of options this weekend. Should he choose to compete in his specialty, the decathlon, the senior would try for his third IC4A decathlon crown, after winning in 2005 and 2007. Hoskins, a two-time All-American, also claimed the 2008 IC4A indoor heptathlon championship.
If he does attempt the decathlon, Hoskins will be a prohibitive favorite. He scored a school and Big South-record 7,800 points at the Texas Relays in April, a mark which ranks No. 3 in the nation. The decathlon has traditionally been a strong event for Liberty at the IC4A meet, as the Flames have won nine of the last 16 multi-event championships.
Rewriting the Record Book
Josh McDougal has three IC4A event titles to defend, after he became the first runner in the 131-year history of the meet to sweep the men's 1,500, 5K and 10K championships last season. He is qualified in all three events again this season, but will likely focus on the 10K, an event the Empire State native has won two years in succession. If McDougal is victorious in the 10K, he would become the third Flame to win three consecutive event titles at the IC4A meet, joining Mike Decker (400-meter dash in 1999, 2000 and 2001) and Ryan Werner (decathlon in 1994, 1995 and 1996).
McDougal will also be racing the clock Friday evening, hoping to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The automatic qualification standard is 28:45, and the provisional mark is 29:30. McDougal's personal-best time, set in 2007, is 28:27.65. He will have plenty of competition should Sean Quigley of LaSalle decide to run, as Quigley is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation at 28:03.72.
Hibbert will attempt to extend her Liberty track & field career for at least two more weeks. The IC4A and ECAC Championships serve as the Flames and Lady Flames' final opportunities to qualify for the NCAA East Regional Championships. Hibbert will compete in both the 200-meter dash and the 4 x 100 relay this weekend.
The senior's best 200-meter clocking this season is 24.30, and she needs to run 23.96 to reach the regional meet. In the 4 x 100 relay, 45.70 is the regional standard. Liberty's season-best time is 46.42, but Hibbert, Heath, Freeman and Beckles hope to improve upon the time.
Last Chance, Part 2
Jefferson will also get one final opportunity to extend her season. She has a choice to make, whether to compete in the 5K or the 10K. On May 4, Jefferson won the 5K at the Duke Twilight Meet in a time of 16:52.66, missing the regional standard by less than a second. So, the senior could make another attempt at the 5K distance on Friday.
The Keystone State native could also give the 10K a try. She made the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 10K last season, after clocking a personal-best 34:37.27 at the Penn Relays. Eight of the top 21 10K times in the nation in 2008 have been posted by ECAC runners, setting up the possibility for a fast race. The NCAA automatic standard is 33:30, while a 35:00 makes the provisional list.
No matter what happens this weekend, Jefferson will graduate as arguably the finest women's distance runner in Liberty history. A six-time Big South event champion, she holds the school indoor 5K and outdoor 10K records.
All of the discussion so far has centered around seniors, but junior Jaime Watson is aiming to make a bit of history in the women's 800-meter run. She swept the Big South indoor and outdoor 800-meter crowns this season, and will now look to do the same in the ECAC. A victory would make Watson only the second Lady Flame ever to win a running event at the ECAC Outdoor Championships, joining assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand.
Watson is also chasing Zealand's Liberty and Big South 800-meter record of 2:08.00. The reigning Big South Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Week nearly broke the record at the May 1 Liberty Twilight Qualifier, winning the race in 2:08.29.