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Shamrock Invitational Next Up for Liberty Track

March 16, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Kate Flower (left) and Dana Mercer (right) return from the Lady Flames' record-breaking women's 4 x 100 relay squad from last season and will help Liberty compete for the Shamrock Invitational Mayor's Relay Cup this weekend.

Kate Flower (left) and Dana Mercer (right) return from the Lady Flames' record-breaking women's 4 x 100 relay squad from last season and will help Liberty compete for the Shamrock Invitational Mayor's Relay Cup this weekend.

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Following a week of training in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Liberty men's and women's track & field teams will compete on the Grand Strand for the second consecutive weekend. Most of the Flames and Lady Flames will open the 2016 outdoor season at the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational, Thursday through Saturday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

Liberty's lone competition on Thursday will be the men's hammer, beginning at 11 a.m. The remaining events will be contested Friday and Saturday, with action starting at 9 a.m. each morning.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results are expected to be available throughout the meet, courtesy of AdkinsTrak Timing.

Weather Report
The weather is forecasted to be partly cloudy for most of the meet, with a slight chance of showers as events wrap up on Saturday. Thursday's forecasted high temperature is in the mid 70s, while lower 70s are expected for Friday and upper 60s on Saturday.

Looking Back
Liberty will compete in the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational for the first time since 2013. That year, Josh MacDonald won the men's 10K in a time of 30:41.71, which is one of three meet records the Flames own.

Liberty also holds both Shamrock Invitational distance medley relay records. Jordan McDougal, Phil Leineweber, Travis Campbell and Josh McDougal set the men's record at 9:46.44 in 2007. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames' squad of Rebekah Ricksecker, Charlene Hibbert, Sarah Roberts and Katie Albright clocked a record-time of 11:49.20 the following year.

Christina Mitchell did some record breaking of her own at the 2013 Shamrock Invitational, improving the Liberty women's javelin record to 151-4.

Baton Battles
One of the highlights of the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational is the battle for the Shamrock Invitational Mayor's Relay Cup. All four relay events (4 x 100, 4 x 200, 4 x 400 and 4 x 800) will be scored from first to eighth place (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1) and the male and female teams with the highest point totals will take home the title. Last year, South Carolina won the men's title, while Clemson and Coastal Carolina shared the women's championship.

Liberty, which has entered a squad in all eight relays this weekend, is coming off of a strong indoor season of relay running. The Flames and Lady Flames won three of the four Big South relay titles (men's 4 x 400, women's 4 x 400 and women's distance medley relay). Four Liberty relay teams then recorded top-five IC4A/ECAC finishes, including the men's distance medley relay (second place), men's 4 x 800 (third), women's 4 x 400 (third) and women's 4 x 800 (fifth).

Additionally, the Lady Flames set program records in two different relay events during the 2015-16 indoor season. Corinn Bedell, Nicole Leonzo, Ansley Gebben and Erin Edmond set the 4 x 400 relay record of 3:42.64 at the Big South meet. Gebben, Alexis Taylor, Torree Scull and Delaney McDowell then clocked a 4 x 800 record time of 8:47.12 at the ECAC championship.

Liberty will face some stiff competition in the relays this weekend, in the form of Clemson, Purdue, South Carolina, Tennessee and many other opponents. The 4 x 200 and 4 x 800 relays are slated for Friday, with the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 set for Saturday.

Outdoor Outlook
Liberty should fare well in a number of the outdoor-only events during the 2016 season, including the 10K, 400 hurdles, 4 x 100 relay, steeplechase, discus, hammer and javelin. Below is a preview of some of the Flames' top outdoor disciplines.

Men's 10K: Jeremie Bourget has placed fifth in the Big South men's 10K final each of the past two seasons and owns a personal-best time of 30:56.07. Fellow veteran Sam Hibbs boasts a 31:02.65 personal best. Freshman Azaria Kirwa should be a factor in the 10K as well, after placing 68th at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships with a cross country 10K time of 31:19.6.

Women's 10K: After lowering her 5K personal best to 15:47.89 and placing ninth in the NCAA indoor women's 5K final, Ednah Kurgat hopes for a big breakthrough in the 10K outdoors. As a freshman, Kurgat clocked 34:38.75 for the 10K, placed second at the Big South meet and qualified for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Men's 400 Hurdles: Junior Ryan Davis has captured back-to-back Big South men's 400 hurdles titles as a freshman and sophomore and ranks No. 2 in Liberty and Big South history at 51.23 seconds. Sophomore Jeff Jacobs could be poised for a breakthrough in this event after lowering his 400 dash personal best to 48.58 seconds indoors.

Women's 400 Hurdles: The top two names on Liberty's all-time women's 400 hurdles list (Mary Witmer – 59.92 and Ansley Gebben – 60.32) are both part of the Lady Flames' 2016 roster. Witmer placed fourth at the 2015 Big South meet, following Gebben's back-to-back third-place Big South finishes in 2013 and 2014.

Women's 4 x 100 Relay: The Lady Flames captured the Big South women's 4 x 100 relay title last season in a program-record time of 45.68 seconds. Kate Flower and Dana Mercer return from that squad and could be joined by a bevy of other options in 2016, including Erin Edmond, Oasis Hernandez, Nicole Leonzo, Bailey Reeves, Rajon Stinnett-Perry and Enajah Winbush.

Men's Steeplechase: Josh Showalter came in fifth in the 2015 Big South men's steeplechase final in a personal-best time of 9:17.27, while Jeremie Bourget was fifth in 2014 in 9:20.37.

Men's Discus: Liberty finished 1-2-3-4 in the Big South men's discus final a year ago. Although the Flames are unlikely to repeat that feat in 2016, Liberty does boast the 2015 Big South champion (Fred Fulton, 184-7 personal best) and 2014 Big South champion (David Scouten, 168-0). The Flames will be aiming for their ninth Big South men's discus title in the last 10 years.

Women's Discus: Two-time defending Big South women's discus champion Jennifer Smith has graduated, but the Lady Flames still feature another two-time Big South women's discus titlist in Mychelle Cumings. The redshirt senior captured back-to-back Big South titles in 2012 and 2013 before placing second a year ago. She owns the program record of 167-0 and threw the discus at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Holly Arey, who placed eighth at the 2015 Big South meet, opened her sophomore season with a personal-best 142-9 heave last weekend.

Men's Hammer: The Flames boast two of the top five finishers from the 2015 Big South men's hammer final in Fred Fulton (third place) and David Scouten (fifth place). Fulton, who owns a personal best of 198-11, will look to become just the second Flame ever to eclipse the 200-foot barrier.

Women's Hammer: All-American Jocelyn Williams and 2015 Big South fourth-place finisher Jennifer Smith have graduated, but the Lady Flames still could find some success in the women's hammer this season. Freshmen Dasiana Larson and Holly Arey placed ninth and 10th, respectively, at the 2015 Big South meet. Meanwhile, junior Catherine Oyarzun threw 167-1 at De Anza College and opened her Liberty career with a 158-5 heave last weekend.

Men's Javelin: Liberty has a strong 1-2 punch in the men's javelin, thanks to redshirt senior Steve Feister (225-11 personal best) and freshman Denzel Pratt (220-7 personal best). Feister won the Big South title and finished just four spots away from qualifying for the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships a year ago. Pratt began his collegiate career with an impressive throw of 219-7 at last weekend's Coastal Carolina Invitational. Decathlete Zach Davis gives the Flames a third 200-foot thrower, with a personal best of 202-2.

Women's Javelin: Three Lady Flames threw the javelin 137-10 or better last season, but Yana Babbitt is recovering from injury and Nicole Bishop is redshirting the 2016 campaign. That leaves sophomore Brenna Smith to lead the way, after throwing 140-10 and recording a third-place Big South finish as a freshman. Heptathlete Riley Brandon is also back for her final season, after improving her best mark to 131-11 a year ago.