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Liberty Track Enjoys Impressive 2012 Season

June 13, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Liberty men's indoor track & field team won its unprecedented 15th consecutive Big South title in 2012.

Last week, Liberty redshirt seniors Melinda Bendik and Kolby Shepherd each earned All-America honors at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Their standout performances punctuated another successful season for the Liberty men's and women's track & field teams.

Team Accomplishments
Big South's Best

Liberty won three Big South track & field team titles in 2012, sweeping the men's and women's indoor championships and taking the men's outdoor crown. The men's program completed its sixth consecutive Big South "Triple Crown," consisting of conference cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field championships.
News and Notes:
-- The men's indoor track & field team won by 70 points, capturing its 15th straight Big South title.
-- The Flames have won all 15 Big South men's indoor track & field titles ever awarded, marking the longest run of consecutive titles in Big South Conference history in any sport.
-- The Lady Flames edged Coastal Carolina by 12.5 points (187-174.5) at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, winning their third straight title and the 10th in program history.
-- At the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the Liberty men's squad racked up 213 points, outdistancing host Coastal Carolina by 78 points.
-- The Liberty men's squad has now won six consecutive Big South outdoor track & field team titles and 17 crowns in the 19-year history of the meet.

ECAC Excitement
The Lady Flames recorded their most successful year ever at the ECAC level, placing 11th at the ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships and coming in seventh at the ECAC Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
News and Notes:
-- Liberty's 11th-place finish at the ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championship was the Lady Flames' best-ever placement at the meet. Liberty previously placed 12th in 2001.
-- At the ECAC Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship, the Lady Flames' seventh-place showing equaled the best placement in program history. Liberty also came in seventh at the 2007 ECAC Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship.

Making a Name Nationally
Kolby Shepherd tied for fifth place in the men's pole vault final at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, scoring 3.5 team points for the Flames. As a result, Liberty tied Air Force for 54th place in the final men's team standings.
News and Notes:
-- The Liberty men's team has now scored points at each of the last six NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, a streak which began in 2007.
-- The Flames are one of only 26 men's teams to score points at each of the last six NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Individual Accomplishments
Des Moines Duo
Redshirt seniors Melinda Bendik and Kolby Shepherd each wrapped up their collegiate careers in impressive fashion, by competing at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Bendik placed 16th in the women's hammer final to earn second team All-America honors. Shepherd became a first team All-American, thanks to his tie for fifth place in the men's pole vault final.
News and Notes:
-- Shepherd's top pole vault clearance, 17-8.5, set a new program record and tied the Big South record.
-- It was Shepherd's second consecutive appearance at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
-- Shepherd became the first Liberty men's pole vaulter ever to become an NCAA Division I All-American.
-- Bendik was the first Liberty women's thrower ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
-- She became the Lady Flames' first All-American since Heather Sagan and Andrea Wildrick in 2002.
-- Liberty has sent a thrower to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for six consecutive years.

Throwing Their Weight Around
The Liberty women's throwing crew (highlighted by Melinda Bendik, Mychelle Cumings, Christina Mitchell and Jocelyn Williams) enjoyed a record-breaking 2012 season, eclipsing all six school records for the indoor and outdoor throwing events. The Lady Flames' throwers won five Big South titles, captured a pair of ECAC crowns and saw Bendik compete at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
News and Notes:
-- Melinda Bendik was the first Liberty women's thrower ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, where she threw the hammer.
-- Bendik became the Lady Flames' first thrower to earn NCAA Division I All-America honors, earning second team All-America accolades with her 16th-place women's hammer finish.
-- Liberty won its first-ever ECAC indoor (Jocelyn Williams – Weight) and outdoor (Bendik – Hammer) women's throwing event titles in 2012.
-- The Lady Flames became the first team ever to win all four women's throwing event titles at the same Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championship, sweeping the shot put (Mychelle Cumings), discus (Cumings), hammer (Bendik) and javelin (Christina Mitchell) crowns.

Fantastic Freshmen
Liberty boasted a strong freshman class in 2012, featuring the trio of Mychelle Cumings, Leonard Robbins and Kyle Wheeler. All three athletes earned Big South Freshman of the Year honors, while combining for four school records and seven Big South individual event titles.
News and Notes:
-- Leonard Robbins and Kyle Wheeler shared the Big South Men's Freshman of the Year award at the indoor championship, while Wheeler captured the honor outdoors.
-- Mychelle Cumings shared the Big South Women's Freshman of the Year award with Charleston Southern's Mulern Jean outdoors.
-- Cumings set three school records herself (women's indoor and outdoor shot put and outdoor discus), while Wheeler equaled the men's outdoor high jump mark.
-- Freshmen Abigail Flower and Meme Layne also ran on the Lady Flames' school record-breaking 4 x 100 relay quartet.
-- Cumings (women's indoor and outdoor shot put and outdoor discus), Robbins (men's indoor and outdoor 400) and Wheeler (men's indoor and outdoor high jump) all won multiple Big South titles in 2012.

An Abundance of Awards
Below is a list of awards and honors Liberty athletes and coaches earned during the 2012 indoor and outdoor track & field campaigns.

Liberty Track & Field Award Winners:
Mia Aghaji – Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (Feb. 2)
Melinda Bendik – Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (March 14, May 3)
Meghan Burggraf – Big South Women's Track Athlete of the Week (March 8)
Olivia Charnuski – Big South All-Academic Team (Outdoor)
Mychelle Cumings – Big South Women's Freshman of the Year (Outdoor), Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (Dec. 8, Feb. 16, April 11)
Jacob DeValve – Big South All-Academic Team (Outdoor)
Caleb Edmonds – Big South All-Academic Team (Indoor), Big South Men's Track Athlete of the Week (March 8)
Rachel Houseknecht – Big South All-Academic Team (Indoor)
Jennifer Klugh – Big South Women's Outstanding Track Performer (Indoor), Big South Women's Track Athlete of the Week (Dec. 8, Jan. 26, Feb. 16, April 4)
Christina Mitchell – Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (May 10)
Shelley Parker – Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (Jan. 26)
Leonard Robbins – Big South Men's Freshman of the Year (Indoor)
Kolby Shepherd – Big South Men's Field Athlete of the Week (Jan. 26)
Ryan Smith – Big South Men's Most Outstanding Field Performer (Outdoor), Big South Men's Field Athlete of the Week (Feb. 2, Feb. 9, Feb. 16)
Brant Tolsma – Big South Men's Coach of the Year (Indoor and Outdoor), Big South Women's Coach of the Year (Indoor) – Tolsma has now won 50 Big South Coach of the Year awards in his career.
Kyle Wheeler
– Big South Men's Freshman of the Year (Indoor and Outdoor)
Jocelyn Williams – Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week (March 8)

Record Breakers
Liberty athletes broke or equaled 12 different school records in 2012, including all six women's throwing events. Here is a summary of the new standards.

Men's Outdoor Track & Field
High Jump – 7-1 – Kyle Wheeler (April 20) – Tied Matt Parker's record from 2009
Pole Vault – 17-8.5 – Kolby Shepherd (June 8)

Women's Indoor Track & Field
3K – 9:44.62 – Jennifer Klugh (Jan. 20)
5K – 16:48.32 – Jennifer Klugh (Feb. 10)
Shot Put – 51-3 – Mychelle Cumings (Feb. 10)
Weight Throw – 62-6.5 – Jocelyn Williams (March 4)

Women's Outdoor Track & Field
4 x 100 Relay – 45.90 – Meme Layne, Abigail Flower, Olivia Charnuski, Alyssa Pegues (April 7)
Triple Jump – 42-1.25 – Mia Aghaji (May 13)
Shot Put – 51-2.75 – Mychelle Cumings (May 13) – Previous record (43-11.75) had stood since 1982
Discus – 167-0 – Mychelle Cumings (April 7) – Previous record (151-8) had stood since 1992
Hammer – 202-7 – Melinda Bendik (May 26)
Javelin – 146-1 – Christina Mitchell (May 6)

We Are the Champions
Liberty athletes won a total of 25 events at the 2012 Big South Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships and captured a pair of ECAC event titles. The following is a list of the Flames and Lady Flames' conference champions.

Men's Big South Indoor
Leonard Robbins – 400
Kolby Shepherd – Pole Vault (Fourth career title)
Ryan Smith – Shot Put (Third in a row), Weight
Kyle Wheeler – High Jump
4 x 400 Relay – Kyle Gill, Andre Washington, Leonard Robbins, Taylor Courtney

Men's Big South Outdoor
Jacob DeValve – Decathlon
Ngetich Kipchirchir – 10K
Leonard Robbins – 400
Kolby Shepherd – Pole Vault (Second in a row, third career title)
Ryan Smith – Shot Put (Third in a row), Discus
Kyle Wheeler – High Jump

Women's Big South Indoor
Mychelle Cumings – Shot Put
Khristina Kanagy – 5K
Jennifer Klugh – Mile (Second in a row), 3K (Second in a row)

Women's Big South Outdoor
Mia Aghaji – Triple Jump (Third in a row)
Melinda Bendik – Hammer (Liberty's first Big South women's hammer title since 1997)
Mychelle Cumings – Shot Put, Discus (Liberty's first-ever Big South women's discus title)
Jennifer Klugh – 1,500 (Second in a row), 5K
Christina Mitchell – Javelin, Heptathlon (Second in a row)

Women's ECAC Indoor
Jocelyn Williams – Weight

Women's ECAC Outdoor
Melinda Bendik – Hammer