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Liberty Track Set for NCAA Preliminary Round Meet

May 23, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Aklesso Agama will return to his home state of Florida to compete in the men's triple jump at this week's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Aklesso Agama will return to his home state of Florida to compete in the men's triple jump at this week's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Meet Schedule

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Link to Declared Athletes and Start Lists

@LUGameday Twitter

Jacksonville Weather

Eleven Liberty men's and women's track & field athletes will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., this weekend for the 2016 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The three-day event, which will determine the qualifiers for the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, will be contested Thursday through Saturday at North Florida's Hodges Stadium.

At both the Jacksonville and Lawrence, Kan., venues, 48 athletes will compete in each individual event and 24 teams will run in each relay. The top 12 qualifiers in each event at each of the two sites will earn a berth into the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, to be contested June 8-11 in Eugene, Ore.

North Florida is hosting the meet for the third straight year and the fourth time in the last five seasons. Last year, Jocelyn Williams qualified from Jacksonville to Eugene in the women's hammer for the Lady Flames

The women's hammer will be Liberty's first event at this year's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, featuring sophomore Dasiana Larson. The event is slated to begin Thursday at 4 p.m.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available throughout the meet, courtesy of Flash Results, Inc. Their services include lap-by-lap splits of the track events and in-progress updates of the field events.

Periodic updates will also be posted to the Liberty Gameday Twitter account (@LUGameday) throughout the meet.

Weather Report
The high temperature in Jacksonville is expected to be in the mid 80s during all three days of competition. Abundant sunshine and a breeze off the ocean are forecasted throughout the meet, with just a slight chance of precipitation. Unusually, the temperature is supposed to be slightly higher in Lynchburg than in Jacksonville this week.

NCAA Preliminary Round Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Women's Hammer
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Dasiana Larson (So., Garner, Iowa)

Entry Mark/Seed: 185-5 (56.52m)/No. 48 of 48

How She Got Here: Larson grabbed the 48th and final qualifying spot in the women's hammer thanks to her personal-best throw of 185-5 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on May 4. The sophomore's NCAA Preliminary Round debut comes during a season which has seen the Iowa native improve by more than 24 feet from her top 2015 mark of 161-3.

Liberty has sent two women's hammer throwers to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the last five years, including Melinda Bendik in 2012 and Jocelyn Williams a year ago. Larson could be poised to follow in their footsteps, as her 185-5 heave is superior to the sophomore-year marks of Bendik (168-3) and Williams (166-6).

Larson improved to seventh in the Big South women's hammer competition, after placing ninth as a freshman. She also earned her first All-Big South honor with a third-place showing in the women's shot put.

Field Breakdown: Six of last year's Eugene qualifiers are back, paced by Winthrop's Marthaline Cooper. The three-time Big South women's hammer champion finished 10th at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships a year ago.

Gardner-Webb's Krista Chauvin qualified to Eugene in 2015, but has since graduated. However, her protégé, sophomore Natasha Akbarizadeh, has broken Chauvin's program record and will throw in Jacksonville on Thursday.

Georgia senior Shelby Ashe is the region's top seed at 216-8. However, she was defeated at the SEC meet by Kentucky's Beckie Famurewa.

Road to Eugene: All 48 women's hammer throwers will make three attempts, with the top 12 competitors advancing to Eugene. Last season, it took a throw of 190-0 to reach Eugene, and three of the 12 qualifiers hailed from the Big South.

Men's Pole Vault
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Carson Waters (So., St. Petersburg Beach, Fla.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 16-10.75 (5.15m)/No. 26 of 48

How He Got Here: Waters will make his NCAA Division I Preliminary Round debut thanks to a late-season hot streak which has seen him post three consecutive pole vault personal bests. Waters cleared 16-9.25 at the Highlander Invitational on April 29, before improving to 16-9.5 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier (May 4) and 16-10.75 at the Big South meet (May 12).

The Big South indoor and outdoor men's pole vault runner-up, Waters has added more than a foot to his previous personal best of 15-9 in 2016. Waters will compete at Hodges Stadium for the first time since May 3, 2014, when he placed fifth in the pole vault at the Florida 3A state meet as a senior at Osceola High School.

Waters is the fourth different Flame to pole vault at this meet in the last five years, joining Kolby Shepherd (2012), Cody Bingham (2013) and Ken Ritchey (2015).

Field Breakdown: The field includes six vaulters who have placed inside the top eight at either the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships or the 2016 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. SE Louisiana's Devin King, who tied for third place with Virginia Tech's Deakin Volz indoors, leads the nation with an 18-8.25 clearance. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Adrian Valles has finished fifth at the most recent NCAA indoor and outdoor championships.

Remarkably, Virginia Tech swept the top seven spots in the ACC men's pole vault competition, and all seven of those athletes will compete in Jacksonville on Thursday.

Waters will be joined in the competition by reigning Big South indoor and outdoor pole vault champion Austin Miller of High Point. Miller is coming off of a career-best 17-2.75 clearance at the Big South meet.

Road to Eugene: After opening at a height of 15-11, the pole vault will continue until all athletes have attempted at least one height and there are 12 or fewer remaining in the competition. At that point, the competition will be halted and the top 12 will move on to Eugene, using a jump-off to determine the final qualifiers if necessary. Last year, the 12th-place vaulter at this meet cleared 17-2.75.

Men's 400 Hurdles
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 5 p.m., Quarterfinals – Friday at 7:45 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Ryan Davis (Jr., Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 52.43/No. 48 of 48

How He Got Here: Davis has clocked four sub-53.00 times in the 400 hurdles this season, including a season-best 52.43 at the Texas Relays on March 31. That effort got the junior into this meet as the 48th and final qualifier.

Davis, who will compete at the NCAA Preliminary Round meet in his home state for the second straight season, made a strong bid for a third consecutive Big South men's 400 hurdles title. However, he ended up finishing a close second in the event, to go along with a fifth place in the 110 hurdles final.

Field Breakdown: Seven of last season's 12 Eugene qualifiers return in 2016, including three athletes who raced in the 2015 national final. South Carolina's Jussi Kanervo placed sixth in the 2015 NCAA men's 400 hurdles final, while Florida's Eric Futch was seventh and Pittsburgh's Desmond Palmer came in eighth. Futch is the No. 1 seed in the East Region this season, thanks to his SEC-winning time of 49.24 seconds.

Big South champion Jerome Coaxum of Coastal Carolina also qualified for Jacksonville with his conference-winning effort of 51.94.

Road to Eugene: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three from each heat and the next six time qualifiers advancing to Friday's trio of quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three in each heat and the next three fastest times will move on to Eugene. In 2015, a time of 51.99 was required to reach the quarterfinals and 51.33 was the slowest time which advanced to Eugene.

Women's 400
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 7:20 p.m., Quarterfinals – Friday at 6 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Erin Edmond (R-Sr., Oak Leaf, Texas)

Entry Mark/Seed: 54.08/No. 47 of 48                

How She Got Here: Edmond swept the Big South indoor and outdoor women's 400 dash titles during her first season at Liberty, after transferring from Vanderbilt. However, her berth in Jacksonville was not secure until 12 runners ahead of her scratched, making Edmond the 47th of 48 qualifiers into the meet.

Edmond enjoyed a memorable final day of the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships on May 12. In addition to her 400 victory (in a personal-best time of 54.08), Edmond anchored the Lady Flames' 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay teams to victory. She came from behind to overtake Coastal Carolina's anchor in the 4 x 100, while her 54.11 split removed any doubt in the 4 x 400. Edmond also placed fourth in the 200, clocking a season-best time of 24.29 from lane one, for good measure.

Edmond competed at the 2015 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for Vanderbilt, splitting 53.05 seconds for the anchor leg of the Commodores' 4 x 400 relay team. She is the first Liberty women's 400 runner ever to qualify for this meet.

Field Breakdown: Miami's Shakima Wimbley and Notre Dame's Margaret Bamgbose highlight the seven returning Eugene qualifiers from 2015. Wimbley and Bamgbose went on to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 2015 NCAA national final. More recently, Wimbley and Bamgbose placed 1-2 in the ACC women's 400 final.

Although Edmond is the only Big South runner in the field, she will reunite with former Vanderbilt teammate Jennifer Edobi. Edobi is one of 18 SEC entrants in the women's 400 in Jacksonville.

Road to Eugene: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three from each heat and the next six time qualifiers advancing to Friday's trio of quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three in each heat and the next three fastest times will move on to Eugene. In 2015, a time of 53.42 was required to reach the quarterfinals and 52.70 was the slowest time which advanced to Eugene.

Men's Javelin
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at noon

Liberty Competitors: Steve Feister (R-Sr., Lancaster, Pa.) and Denzel Pratt (Fr., Eleuthera, Bahamas)

Entry Marks/Seeds: Feister – 234-11 (71.61m)/No. 14 of 48, Pratt – 225-5 (68.72m)/No. 22 of 48

How They Got Here: Redshirt senior Feister and freshman Pratt have been two of Liberty's most consistent performers in 2016, from beginning to end. Pratt won the men's javelin title in his collegiate debut, March 11 at the Coastal Carolina Invitational, marking the first of his four javelin victories as a freshman. One week later, Feister took down the school record with his mark of 234-7 at the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational in his first meet of the season.

Fast forward two months, and both produced their best marks of the season to date at the Big South meet on May 12. Feister captured his second straight conference title at 234-11, taking down his own program record and the facility record. Pratt followed in third place with a personal-best 225-5 heave.

Feister returns to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second straight year, after placing 16th in 2015, just 51 inches away from a trip to Eugene. His consistency should bode well on Friday, as all six of the Pennsylvania native's throws at the Big South meet measured 224-8 or longer.

Pratt has been known to step up in big meets, capturing a pair of Penn Relays high school boys' javelin titles for St. Augustine's College. The Bahamian national record, which has stood at 229-9 for 25 years, could be in jeopardy if Pratt has a good day.

Pratt is one of eight freshmen among the 48 men's javelin throwers who qualified to Jacksonville. The only freshman in the field who has thrown farther than Pratt this season is Virginia Tech's Matija Muhar, who won the ACC title at 248-0.

Field Breakdown: The men's javelin field in Jacksonville is a strong one, as 18 competitors have thrown over 230 feet this season and seven are returning Eugene qualifiers from 2015. Three of the top six finishers from the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships are included in the field, including national runner-up John Ampomah of Middle Tennessee, third-place Curtis Thompson of Mississippi State and sixth-place Thomas Lang of Duke. Thompson is this year's East Region top seed at 265-10.

The top four finishers in the Big South men's javelin competition all qualified for Jacksonville, including champion Feister, runner-up Christian Spaulding of High Point, third-place Pratt and fourth-place Robert Castellani of Coastal Carolina.

Road to Eugene: All 48 competitors will take three throws, with the top 12 punching their tickets to Eugene. Last year, a throw of 220-8 was required to reach Eugene.

Men's Discus
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 4 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Fred Fulton (R-Sr., Fredericksburg, Va.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 182-9 (55.71m)/No. 23 of 48

How He Got Here: Fulton battled injury through much of his senior season before finally hitting his stride when the calendar turned to May. He opened the month with a season-best 182-9 mark at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier (May 4). One week later, Fulton won his second consecutive Big South men's discus title in dominating fashion, throwing 181-11.

Fulton placed 20th in the discus at the 2015 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, finishing less than 10 feet away from advancing to Eugene. Fulton will attempt to become the first Flame to advance to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the men's discus since John Talbert in 2009.

Field Breakdown: Defending national champion Sam Mattis of Penn headlines a deep field in the men's discus. This season, Mattis has thrown 221-3, ranking him No. 3 in collegiate history and No. 5 in the world this year.

Nine of last year's 12 Eugene qualifiers are back, also including national third-place finisher Filip Mihaljevic and sixth-place finisher Jordan Young, both of whom throw for Virginia. Alabama also figures to have a strong presence in Jacksonville, with four athletes seeded at 195-3 or better.

Coastal Carolina's Devontaye Edwards will join Fulton in Jacksonville. He finished a disappointing sixth at the Big South meet but has reached 173-2 during an impressive freshman season.

Road to Eugene: All 48 competitors will take three throws, with the top 12 punching their tickets to Eugene. In 2015, a throw of 188-1 qualified for Eugene.

Men's Triple Jump
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 3 p.m.

Liberty Competitors: Darrel Jones (So., Monroe, N.Y.) and Aklesso Agama (Jr., Miami, Fla.)

Entry Marks/Seeds: Jones – 50-11 (15.52m)/No. 32 of 48, Agama – 50-8.25 (15.45m)/No. 34 of 48

How They Got Here: Jones will make his NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debut as part of an impressive sophomore season. The New York native capped off his indoor campaign by winning the Big South triple jump title and placing second at the IC4A meet. Outdoors, he reached a personal-best 50-11 at the Virginia Challenge and finished fourth at the Big South meet at 50-3.25 despite struggling to find the board.

Agama saved his best for last, literally. At the tail end of a junior season hampered by injuries, Agama reached a personal-best 50-8.25 on his sixth and final attempt at the Big South meet on May 12. He very nearly defended his Big South outdoor men's triple jump title, before being relegated to second place by Charleston Southern's EJ Reddick. Now, Agama will triple jump at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in his home state of Florida for the second year in a row.

Field Breakdown: 2016 NCAA indoor triple jump runner-up Matthew O'Neal of South Florida is the East Region's top seed at 54-11.25. Meanwhile, Louisville's Ben Williams and Alabama's Jeremiah Green placed fourth and sixth, respectively, in this event at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The top five finishers in the Big South men's triple jump competition all sailed past 50 feet, and all five will compete in Jacksonville. The list includes conference champion Reddick of Charleston Southern, runner-up Agama, third-place Lorne Jenkins of Campbell, fourth-place Jones and fifth-place Will Narramore of High Point.

Ishmael Kamara, who captured the 2014 Big South outdoor men's triple jump title for Coastal Carolina, has since transferred to Clemson and will also be part of the field in Jacksonville.

The ACC boasts the most competitors in the Jacksonville men's triple jump field with eight, followed by both the Big South and Conference USA with five apiece.

Road to Eugene: All 48 competitors will take three jumps, with the top 12 punching their tickets to Eugene. Last season, a jump of 51-2.25 was good for 12th place at this meet.

Women's Shot Put
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Mychelle Cumings (R-Sr., Madison, Tenn.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 49-6.25 (15.09m)/No. 42 of 48

How She Got Here: Cumings has been superb during her final collegiate season. Indoors, she was the Big South women's shot put champion and the ECAC runner-up. Outdoors, Cumings made conference history, becoming the first Big South female athlete ever to win four indoor titles and four outdoor championships in the same event (shot put).

Cumings now joins Ryan Smith (2010-13) as the only Flames ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet four times. This will be the first time Cumings has only thrown one implement at the Preliminary Round meet, however. She placed 37th in the shot put in 2012, 29th in 2013 and 21st a year ago.

Cumings has made one previous appearance at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, qualifying in the women's discus in 2013. However, she is attempting to become the first Lady Flame ever to throw the shot put at the national meet.

Field Breakdown: Raven Saunders of Mississippi is the athlete to watch. She won the national title last season as a freshman at Southern Illinois and then set the indoor collegiate record earlier this year. Saunders tops the nation at 61-6.25 heading into the NCAA Division I Preliminary Round competitions.

If Saunders falters, the field also features this year's NCAA indoor second (Tennessee's Cassie Wertman) and third-place (Harvard's Nikki Okwelogu) finishers.          

Five of the top seven seeds belong to SEC competitors, including Saunders, Auburn's Valentina Muzaric, Wertman, Florida's Lloydricia Cameron and Auburn's Rachel Dincoff.

Road to Eugene: All 48 competitors will receive three attempts apiece in the women's shot put. The athletes with the top 12 marks will advance to Eugene. Last season, the 12th-place thrower at this meet reached 51-11.25.

Women's 5K
Event Schedule: Semifinals – Saturday at 8:05 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Ednah Kurgat (So., Eldoret, Kenya)

Entry Mark/Seed: 15:48.63/No. 2 of 48

How She Got Here: Kurgat's sophomore outdoor track season has included only two races. She opened her year by shattering the Liberty and Big South 5K records with her 15:48.63 clocking at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 15. That effort ranks No. 2 in the East Region and No. 6 nationally this season. Most recently, Kurgat captured the Big South women's 10K title on May 10.

Kurgat has earned a pair of All-America honors this year, thanks to her 12th-place finish in cross country and her ninth-place showing in the indoor 5K final. She is bidding to become the first Lady Flame ever to earn NCAA Division I All-America honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track during the same academic year.

Kurgat competed in the 10K at the 2015 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet as a freshman, running with the lead pack early on before finishing 32nd.

Field Breakdown: Boston College's Liv Westphal, the East Region's top seed at 15:44.28, is the only returnee among last season's dozen Eugene qualifiers in this event. Westphal is also one of four entrants who competed in the 5K at the 2016 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Tennessee's Chelsea Blaase placed third in that race, Kurgat was ninth, Westphal 10th and Penn State's Tessa Barrett 11th.

Notably, 2016 NCAA indoor 5K champion Molly Seidel of Notre Dame and indoor 5K runner-up Erin Finn of Michigan are absent from the field in Jacksonville. Seidel suffered a season-ending injury, while Finn is redshirting the 2016 outdoor campaign.

Only five of the top 20 seeds in the 5K in Jacksonville will be attempting a double. Blaase, UCF's Anne-Marie Blaney, Notre Dame's Alexa Pelletier and Iona's Tara Jameson are also entered in the 10K, while Princeton's Emily de La Bruyere is slated for an ambitious steeplechase/5K double on back-to-back nights.

Road to Eugene: The 48 women's 5K runners will be broken up into two heats of 24. The top five finishers in each heat and the next two fastest time qualifiers will move on to Eugene. A year ago, a time of 16:13.99 or faster was required to reach Eugene.