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Liberty Track & Field Season to Kick Off Friday
One of the nation's first collegiate track & field meets of the 2012-13 indoor season will get underway Friday afternoon at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. The ninth annual Liberty Kickoff will continue through Saturday, featuring competitors from 17 different universities.
The heptathletes will have the facility to themselves on Friday, competing in the 60-meter dash, long jump, shot put and high jump beginning at 2:15 p.m. All other events will take place Saturday, with the women's weight throw getting the day started at 8:30 a.m. Running events will commence at 9:15, when the gun goes off for the women's 5K.
The 2012 Liberty Kickoff will have a strong Commonwealth flavor, with 11 of the 17 participating institutions hailing from Virginia. Meanwhile, other athletes will be traveling from as far away as Central Missouri and Florida A&M to compete at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available during both days of competition and are accessible by clicking the "live results" link at the top of this page or the "live stats" link on the track & field schedule/results page of LibertyFlames.com.
Back to Defend Their Titles
Six individual event champions from the 2011 Liberty Kickoff will attempt to defend their titles this weekend. Five of them have Liberty ties, including Mychelle Cumings (women's shot put), Caleb Edmonds (men's 5K), Jessica Harrison (women's pentathlon), Jennifer Klugh (women's 5K) and Ryan Smith (men's shot put).
Smith will be in search of his fifth consecutive Liberty Kickoff men's shot put crown, while Klugh will seek her fourth Liberty Kickoff women's 5K title in a row in her first race as a post-collegiate athlete. Harrison was victorious in the pentathlon a year ago as a senior at South Walton High School. Now she will attempt to repeat as a Liberty freshman.
Big South's Best
Liberty has swept the Big South men's and women's indoor track & field team titles in each of the past three years. Twelve current Flames and Lady Flames have captured Big South individual event championships during their careers, and eight of them will compete at the Liberty Kickoff.
On the men's side, Cody Fridgen (pole vault), Leonard Robbins (200, 400 and 4 x 400 relay), Ryan Smith (shot put and weight throw) and Kyle Wheeler (triple jump and high jump) will all be in action. Lady Flames Meghan Burggraf (800), Mychelle Cumings (shot put and weight throw), Christina Mitchell (pentathlon) and Shelley Parker (pole vault) are all entered in this weekend's meet as well. However, Burggraf will be competing unattached.
Seventeen athletes are expected to make their Liberty track & field debuts at the Liberty Kickoff, and all but two of them are female. Alexandru Barker (pole vault) and Patrick Donigan (high jump) are the only two men's newcomers slated to compete this weekend.
Meanwhile, fans can see many of the new Lady Flames by focusing on three events. Corinn Bedell, Mary Echols, Kelli Ley, Le'Ambre Punch and Brittany Webley are among a sizable contingent of Liberty runners registered for the women's 400. The trio of Brittany Crittenden, Jessica Harrison and Erika Jackson will compete in their first collegiate pentathlon. Chandler Fraley and Grayson Mack are both expected to pole vault on Saturday.
10 Events You Won't Want to Miss
Listed in chronological order
Friday, 2:15 p.m. – Men's Heptathlon – The multi events are almost always among the strongest disciplines at Liberty's home meets, and this weekend should be no exception. Defending Big South decathlon champion Jacob DeValve of Liberty was a late scratch, but a small, high-quality field of athletes remains. High Point's Tristan Faure, who placed second to DeValve in the 2012 Big South decathlon, boasts the top seed mark at 4,956 points. Central Missouri's Carl McCargo placed 10th in the decathlon at the 2012 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships, while Washington & Lee's Dillon Myers came in 11th in the 2012 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships decathlon. Virginia Tech's Scott Campbell was the fifth-place finisher in the 2012 ACC heptathlon, with Liberty's Harrison Allen earning All-Big South honors as a result of his third-place showing in the 2012 Big South heptathlon competition.
Saturday, 9:15 a.m. – Women's 5K – The women's 25-lapper should get track action off to a fast start Saturday morning. Jennifer Klugh, who wrapped up her Liberty career by competing at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships two weeks ago, will start her post-collegiate racing career in this event. Klugh is the three-time defending champion in the Liberty Kickoff women's 5K. She and Liberty assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker could set a fast pace and help pull Liberty All-Big South cross country performers Jacy Christiansen and Betel Yosef to fast times. Another intriguing athlete to watch will be Roanoke's Carmen Graves. An NCAA Division III All-American in the 800-meter run, Graves will be taking a large step up in distance on Saturday.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – Women's Triple Jump – Talented Liberty underclassmen Melissa Rohwer (39-0.25 personal best) and Janae Jones (39-8 personal best) will be challenged by Florida A&M's Kinnesha Jones and Kirsten Bowens of St. Augustine's, among others. Kinnesha Jones was the 2012 MEAC outdoor women's triple jump champion, while Bowens came in ninth in this event at the 2012 NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – Women's Pole Vault – Competitors with ties to Virginia Tech have won the women's pole vault crown at each of the last six Liberty Kickoff meets, and the Hokies will be well represented once again on Saturday. Virginia Tech's Martina Schultze is the reigning ACC women's pole vault champion, while teammate Leigh Allin vaulted at the 2012 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. William & Mary's Elizabeth Crafford qualified for the ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships as a freshman in 2012. Liberty's top entrant is Shelley Parker, a two-time Big South women's pole vault titlist during her career.
Saturday, 11 a.m. – Women's Pentathlon – Redshirt senior Christina Mitchell, the 2010 Liberty Kickoff pentathlon champion, will begin her final season as a Lady Flame trying to fend off a host of underclassmen. Liberty has five freshmen and sophomores entered in the pentathlon, including sophomores Audrey Bamford and Riley Brandon, who placed third and fourth, respectively, in the 2012 Big South pentathlon. Lady Flames freshmen Brittany Crittenden and Jessica Harrison, who were teammates at South Walton High School in Florida, could also contend. Crittenden has scored 4,514 points in the heptathlon, while Harrison took home the 2011 Liberty Kickoff pentathlon crown as a high school senior. Elon sophomore Louise Prevoteau was the 2012 Southern Conference pentathlon champion and went on to win the heptathlon at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational.
Saturday, 12:40 p.m. – Women's 60 Hurdles Final – Brittney Webley of Uniondale, N.Y., is one of the most highly-touted freshmen on this year's Liberty squad. She will be tested in her indoor specialty race, the 60 hurdles. Post-collegiate athlete Octavia James clocked a personal-best time of 8.56 seconds a year ago. Meanwhile, Radford's Courtni Pannell and Amber Church are perennial Big South contenders in the hurdles races. Church won the 60 hurdles crown at the 2010 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships as a freshman.
Saturday, 1:20 p.m. – Men's 400 – The men's 400-meter dash promises a strong battle between NCAA Division I, II and III athletes. Leonard Robbins of Liberty swept the Big South men's indoor and outdoor 400-meter titles as a freshman in 2012 and posted a time of 47.37 seconds. James Quarles from St. Augustine's clocked a time of 46.43 a year ago and came in seventh at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Representing Division III, Washington & Lee's Alexander Tallman was the 2012 ODAC indoor and outdoor 400-meter champion and boasts a personal best of 47.66 seconds.
Saturday, 2:05 p.m. – Men's 500 – If nothing else, the men's 2.5-lap sprint could feature a head-to-head matchup between Liberty's Paul Arslain and Radford's Kaise White. Arslain came in eighth in the 2012 IC4A 500-meter dash final, while White was the Big South outdoor 400-meter dash runner-up last season.
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – Men's Pole Vault – The last time Joe Davis, Hunter Hall and Kolby Shepherd faced off in a pole vault competition was in Des Moines, Iowa at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. All three were seniors, with Davis and Hall representing Virginia Tech and Shepherd vaulting for the final time as a Liberty Flame. Shepherd had the upper hand that day, tying for fifth place overall. Davis followed in seventh place, with Hall coming in 16th. All three of them are scheduled to compete on Saturday, with Davis trying to defend his Liberty Kickoff title from 2011. Other competitors to watch include 2012 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round qualifier Chris Uhle of Virginia Tech and Liberty's Cody Fridgen, the 2010 Big South outdoor men's pole vault champion.
Saturday, 3 p.m. – Men's High Jump – Liberty's Kyle Wheeler, who high jumped 7-1 and swept the Big South indoor and outdoor high jump titles as a freshman, will face some stiff competition in Saturday's final field event to get underway. Eddie Shelton of St. Augustine's and Jamaal Petty of Virginia Union both high jumped at the 2012 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Meanwhile, William & Mary's Ben Katz was the CAA men's high jump runner-up a year ago.