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Liberty Sweeps Big South Indoor Track Crowns

February 25, 2012
|  Blacksburg, Va.
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The Liberty women's indoor track & field team captured its third straight Big South championship on Saturday.

For the third straight year, both the Liberty men's and women's teams were victorious at the 2012 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. The meet wrapped up Saturday at Virginia Tech's Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va.

On the men's side, Liberty scored 168 points to finish 70 tallies ahead of both Charleston Southern and Radford, which shared runner-up honors. The Flames have now won the conference title all 15 times this meet has been contested, marking the longest streak of consecutive championships in Big South Conference history, regardless of sport.

The Lady Flames withstood a strong second-day charge by Coastal Carolina to pull out a 187 to 174.5 victory over the Chanticleers. Liberty has now won 10 women's titles in meet history, and this is the Lady Flames' longest streak of championships since winning six in a row between 1998 and 2003.

Liberty also claimed quite a bit of individual hardware at the meet's conclusion, including Jennifer Klugh's second straight Women's Outstanding Track Performer award. Flames teammates Leonard Robbins and Kyle Wheeler shared the Men's Freshman of the Year honor.

Liberty head coach Brant Tolsma captured both the Men's and Women's Coach of the Year awards, sharing the men's distinction with Tim Langford of Charleston Southern. Tolsma has now collected 49 Big South Coach of the Year awards during his 26 years at the helm of the Flames.

The Flames' Big South All-Academic Team honorees included Rachel Houseknecht and Caleb Edmonds. It was Edmonds' second career appearance on the squad, while Houseknecht was honored for the first time.

Men's Meet Recap
Robbins had a busy and productive Saturday, scoring 17.5 points for the Flames in three different events. He became the second straight Liberty runner to win the 400-meter dash title at this meet, clocking a personal-best time of 48.70 seconds. Robbins also notched a personal-best effort in the 200, running a 21.79 for fourth place.

To cap things off, Robbins joined Kyle Gill, Andre Washington and Taylor Courtney in helping the Flames put an exclamation point on their team victory. The quartet won the final men's event of the day, the 4 x 400 relay, edging Radford and Charleston Southern with a time of 3:14.70.

Liberty's best men's event of the day overall was the shot put, as the Flames' four entrants totaled 23 points. Leading the way was Ryan Smith, who threw a personal-best 60-1.75 to capture his third consecutive Big South indoor shot put title. The first 60-foot shot put of Smith's career enables him to join his coach, Clendon Henderson, as the only 60-footers in program history. Smith also became the first men's thrower in meet history to sweep the men's shot put and weight throw titles at the same meet.

Smith's shot put effort was complemented by David Scouten (third place, 52-4.75), Jacob DeValve (fifth, 48-9) and Tim Abbott (sixth, 48-2.5).

After winning the men's high jump title Friday night, Wheeler came back to earn his second All-Big South accolade of the meet on Saturday. His 22-11 mark in the long jump, a new season best by nearly a foot, netted third place in the event.

Edmonds and Josh MacDonald both ran personal-best times in the men's 5K final, placing third and fourth, respectively. Edmonds' 14:35.76 effort ranks him No. 9 on Liberty's all-time performance list, while MacDonald's 14:45.76 earns him a trip to Boston for next weekend's IC4A meet.

Harrison Allen used a strong second day in the heptathlon to climb into third place in the final standings. His personal-best score of 4,646 points ranks No. 6 in program history.

Even though mid-distance standout Isaac Wendland was sidelined with an injury, the Flames still made a strong showing in both the 800 and mile. Paul Arslain came away with fourth place in a blanket finish in the 800 final, as his time of 1:58.50 was just eight-thousandths of a second away from second place.

In the mile, Andrew Rigler shaved five seconds off of his previous personal best, posting a 4:20.79 to win his heat and place fifth overall.

Women's Meet Recap
Klugh won the mile and placed second to teammate Khristina Kanagy in the 5K on Saturday, wrapping up a 28-point meet for the Liberty senior. The women's distance events were a key to the Lady Flames' team victory, as Liberty racked up 62 points in the mile, 3K and 5K during the meet.

In the first women's running event of the day, Klugh won her second consecutive Big South mile championship, finishing in 5:02.41. Freshman Jacy Christiansen followed in fourth place, posting a 5:06.58.

Later in the afternoon, with the Liberty-Coastal Carolina team battle hanging in the balance, the Lady Flames outscored the Chanticleers by a 23-7 margin in the 5K. Kanagy crossed the line in 17:43.09 for her first career Big South title, just steps ahead of Klugh's runner-up time of 17:43.55. Christiansen added her second fourth-place finish of the day, stopping the clock in 17:46.29.

The Lady Flames also performed well in the shot put, scoring 16 points. Freshman Mychelle Cumings became the first Lady Flame ever to win the shot put at this meet, throwing 47-9.25. Rachel Barnes added a fifth-place finish, and her personal-best 42-9 toss ranks the sophomore No. 5 in program history.

Staying in the field events, Liberty put four high jumpers in the top eight, paced by Mia Aghaji in second place at 5-7 and Marianne Wheeler in the fourth position at 5-5. The runner-up finish was Aghaji's second of the meet, after she came in second in Friday's triple jump competition.

Meghan Burggraf narrowly missed out on defending her 800-meter title, but did record a season-best time of 2:11.81 to finish second behind UNC Asheville's Sarah Gentry.

Freshman Abigail Flower earned the first All-Big South award of her career by just six-thousandths of a second. That's how much she edged Coastal Carolina's Qwontajah Thompson by for third place in the 200-meter dash final. Flower's official time was 25.04 seconds.

The Flames and Lady Flames will head to Boston next weekend, for the IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Both meets will take place Saturday and Sunday, with the IC4A meet being contested at the Boston University Track and Tennis Center and the ECAC championship being held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

Final Men's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 168

2T) Radford – 98
2T) Charleston Southern – 98
4) High Point – 73.5
5) VMI – 71
6) Winthrop – 53
7) Gardner-Webb – 51
8) Campbell – 36
9) UNC Asheville – 13.5

Final Women's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 187

2) Coastal Carolina – 174.5
3) Charleston Southern – 99
4) Gardner-Webb – 45
5) UNC Asheville – 30
6) High Point – 28
7T) Campbell – 26
7T) VMI – 26
9) Radford – 24
10) Winthrop – 23.5

Men's Outstanding Track Performer
Javon Young, Charleston Southern

Women's Outstanding Track Performer
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty

Men's Outstanding Field Performer
Antonio Wood, VMI

Women's Outstanding Field Performer
Kierra Gabe, Coastal Carolina

Men's Freshman of the Year
Leonard Robbins, Liberty
Kyle Wheeler, Liberty

Women's Freshman of the Year
Mulern Jean, Charleston Southern

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Brett Olinger, Radford

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Kelsey Fraser, High Point

Men's All-Academic Team
Brett Olinger, Radford
Jevin Monds, High Point
Cabell Willis, VMI
Caleb Edmonds, Liberty
Christopher Schulist, Campbell
Carson Sears, Gardner-Webb
Avery Coe, Charleston Southern
Kurt Hibert, UNC Asheville
Adam Leroux, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Kelsey Fraser, High Point
Rachel Houseknecht, Liberty
Jennifer Sing, VMI
Maggie Wissler, Radford
Rachel Carson, UNC Asheville
Sarah Hurd, Gardner-Webb
Rudi Fate, Campbell
Tara Bowman, Winthrop
Adrienne Cuff, Charleston Southern
Mary Lawrence, Coastal Carolina

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Tim Langford, Charleston Southern

Women's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty