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Liberty Track Returning to Jacksonville for NCAA Preliminary Round

May 21, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Two weeks after winning the ASUN Conference men's and women's team titles at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., 17 Liberty track & field athletes will return to the same venue for this week's 2019 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The three-day event, which will determine the qualifiers for the 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, is slated for Thursday through Saturday.

At both the Jacksonville and Sacramento, Calif., venues, 48 athletes will compete in each individual event and 24 teams will race in each relay. The top 12 finishers in each event at each of the two sites will punch their tickets to the 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, to be contested June 5-8 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.

The Flames will look to break the program record of five NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships qualifiers, originally set in 2007 and equaled in 2018. Three current Flames have qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in previous years, including Azaria Kirwa (2017 men's 5K), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (2018 men's 400) and Denzel Pratt (2018 men's javelin).

North Florida is hosting the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the fifth time but the first since 2016. This is the sixth time in the meet's 10-year history it is being contested in Florida.

The meet will begin Thursday at noon with the men's hammer and women's javelin. Liberty's first event will be the men's pole vault, featuring Anders Janes, Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
FloTrack will provide live video streaming coverage during all three days of competition, but a paid subscription is required.

Live results, including lap-by-lap splits and in-progress field event updates, will be available, courtesy of Flash Results.

Periodic updates will be posted to the Liberty Track & Field/Cross Country Twitter account (@Liberty_XCTF) throughout the meet.

Weather Report
Hot, sunny weather is expected during all three days of competition in Jacksonville.

Thursday – Partly cloudy, high near 90
Friday – Sunny, high in the low 90s
Saturday – Sunny, high in the mid 90s

NCAA Preliminary Round Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Men's Pole Vault
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Anders Janes (R-Fr., Victoria, Minn.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 16-7.5 (5.07m)/Tie for No. 38

Outlook: Janes will make his NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debut during a breakthrough 2019 outdoor season. The Minnesota native arrived at Liberty with a high school pole vault PR of 14-4 and then cleared 15-1.75 during a redshirt season in 2018.

Janes vaulted 16-7.5 at the Raleigh Relays on March 29 and later went on to win the ASUN outdoor men's pole vault title.

Janes' 16-7.5 clearance broke the Liberty freshman record of Kolby Shepherd, the most recent Liberty men's pole vaulter to reach the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Shepherd earned All-America honors by tying for fifth place in 2012.

Janes is one of two ASUN men's pole vaulters in the competition, along with Kennesaw State's Brenton Rosa.

Janes will be joined by eight other freshman pole vaulters in Jacksonville, a group headlined by LSU's Mondo Duplantis. Duplantis broke the collegiate record with a 19-8.25 clearance at the SEC Championship.

Road to Austin: After opening at a height of 15-9.25, the pole vault competition will continue until all entrants have attempted at least one height and there are 12 or fewer athletes remaining. At that point, the competition will be halted and the top 12 will move on to Austin, using a jump-off to determine the final qualifiers if necessary. Last year, a 17-2.75 clearance was necessary for national qualification.

Women's 400
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 7:20 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Ty'Asia Dansbury (So., Baltimore, Md.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 53.28/Tie for No. 24

Outlook: After running a program-record time of 53.28 to win the ASUN women's 400 title, Ty'Asia Dansbury will become just the second Lady Flame (also Erin Edmond in 2016) to run the 400 at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Dansbury has clocked a new personal best each time she has run the 400 this season, including a 54.17 effort at the Gamecock Invitational (April 13), a 53.84 time at the Virginia Challenge (April 20) and her aforementioned 53.28 at the ASUN meet on May 11.

If Dansbury qualifies for the quarterfinals, she will run a 400 during each day of this week's meet. She will also be part of the Lady Flames' 4 x 400 relay squad on Saturday.

Road to Austin: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three finishers from each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers advancing to Friday's quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three placers in each heat and the next three fastest qualifiers will punch their tickets to Austin. Last season, a time of 53.04 was required to reach the quarterfinals and a 52.15 clocking was necessary to move on to the national meet.

Men's 400
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 7:45 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 5:45 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (Sr., Cali, Colombia)

Entry Mark/Seed: 45.56/No. 5

Outlook: Perlaza Zapata won the men's 200, 400 and 4 x 400 relay at the ASUN meet but will focus solely on his specialty event (400) this week.

Perlaza Zapata's ASUN-winning time of 45.56 ranks No. 5 among a talented East Region field headlined by NCAA national leader Trevor Stewart of North Carolina A&T and reigning NCAA indoor national champion Tyrell Richard of South Carolina State. That is the highest seed of any Liberty athlete at this week's meet.

Perlaza Zapata qualified for the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 400 and earned All-America honors by placing sixth in the 400 at the 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Perlaza Zapata arrives in Jacksonville on a three-race winning streak in the 400, claiming victory at the Virginia Challenge, Liberty Twilight Qualifier and ASUN Championship.

The ASUN runner-up, Jonathan Imes of Lipscomb, will join Perlaza Zapata in Jacksonville.

Road to Austin: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three finishers from each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers advancing to Friday's quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three placers in each heat and the next three fastest qualifiers will punch their tickets to Austin. Last season, a time of 46.56 was required to reach the quarterfinals and a 45.88 clocking was necessary to move on to the national meet.

Women's 800
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 8:10 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Liberty Competitors: Tanner Ealum (Jr., Anchorage, Alaska) and Delaney McDowell (Sr., Mason, Ohio)

Entry Marks/Seeds: McDowell – 2:06.53/No. 28 and Ealum – 2:06.65/No. 30

Outlook: This is the second straight year that both Ealum and McDowell have qualified to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in the women's 800. Last year, McDowell successfully advanced to the quarterfinal round before falling one race shy of a trip to the national meet.

Both Lady Flames have clocked personal-best times in recent weeks. Ealum's personal best (2:06.65) came at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on May 1, while McDowell won the ASUN women's 800 title with a personal-best time of 2:06.53 on May 11.

Jaime Watson has held the program record of 2:06.09 since 2010, but that time is certainly in jeopardy this week.

Three ASUN women's 800 runners will toe the starting line in Jacksonville, including conference champion McDowell, runner-up Sarah Hendrick of Kennesaw State and third-place Ealum.

Road to Austin: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three finishers from each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers advancing to Friday's quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three placers in each heat and the next three fastest qualifiers will punch their tickets to Austin. Last season, a time of 2:07.00 was required to reach the quarterfinals and a 2:05.16 clocking was necessary to move on to the national meet.

Men's 800
Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 8:35 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 6:45 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Michael Todd (Sr., Anchorage, Alaska)

Entry Mark/Seed: 1:50.24/Tie for No. 46

Outlook: Todd is making his third and final NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round appearance after competing in the men's 800 in 2017 and the men's 4 x 400 relay in 2018.

The senior from Alaska snuck into the field with his season-best 1:50.24 clocking from the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on May 1, which ranked No. 57 in the East Region prior to scratches. That was one of four races where Todd ran between 1:50.24 and 1:50.84 on the season.

Most recently, Todd led a 1-2 Liberty finish in the ASUN men's 800 final, a race which gave the Flames the lead for good in the men's team standings.

Todd ranks No. 3 in program history with his personal-best time of 1:49.56 from the 2017 season. Teammate Bradley Prentice set the program record (1:48.70) at the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Todd will be joined in the 800 field by Timothy Doyle, a freshman from meet host North Florida.

Road to Austin: Six first-round heats will be contested on Thursday, with the top three finishers from each heat and the next six fastest time qualifiers advancing to Friday's quarterfinals. On Friday, the top three placers in each heat and the next three fastest qualifiers will punch their tickets to Austin. Last season, a time of 1:49.49 was required to reach the quarterfinals as a time qualifier and a 1:48.41 clocking was necessary to move on to the national meet.

Women's 10K
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Thursday at 9 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Noel Palmer (So., Forest, Va.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 33:56.67/No. 19

Outlook: Palmer is back in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round women's 10K after placing an impressive 18th as a freshman in 2018.

Palmer's lone 10K of the 2019 season date was an impressive one. She broke the school record with a 33:56.67 clocking at the Raleigh Relays on March 29.

Palmer will square off with ASUN rival Courtney Brenner of Lipscomb on Thursday. Palmer has finished second in all four of her ASUN races this year (cross country, indoor 3K, indoor 5K and outdoor 5K), placing behind Brenner each time. Palmer (33:56.67) enters with a better 10K season best than Brenner (34:09.37).

Road to Austin: All 48 runners will compete in one heat in Jacksonville. The first 12 to cross the finish line will be bound for the NCAA national final in Austin. Last year, the 12th-place women's 10K finisher clocked a time of 34:23.92.

Men's 10K
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Thursday at 9:40 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Azaria Kirwa (Sr., Eldoret, Kenya)

Entry Mark/Seed: 29:22.05/No. 27

Outlook: Kirwa hopes the third time is a charm in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round men's 10K after finishing in the dreaded 13th spot (one place away from national qualification) in both 2017 and 2018.

Kirwa has run a pair of impressive 10Ks this spring, beginning with a 29:22.05 effort for second place at the Virginia Challenge on April 20. He then raced to a meet-record time of 29:47.01 while winning the ASUN men's 10K title on May 10.

Kirwa will aim to become the first Liberty men's 10K runner to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships since Sam Chelanga in 2011.

Road to Austin: All 48 runners will compete in one heat in Jacksonville. The first 12 to cross the finish line will be bound for the NCAA national final in Austin. Last year, the 12th-place men's 10K finisher clocked a time of 29:37.81.

Women's Discus
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at noon

Liberty Competitor: Chelsea Igberaese (So., Dacula, Ga.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 179-6 (54.71m)/No. 12

Outlook: Igberaese has taken a big step forward as a sophomore, boosting her discus personal best from 167-0 during her freshman season to a school-record 179-6 at the Texas Relays on March 30.

Igberaese has exceeded the 170-foot mark at two other meets since then (Gamecock Invitational and Liberty Twilight Qualifier) before finishing as the ASUN runner-up.

Igberaese threw the discus at the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet as a freshman and placed 19th at 165-5, less than two feet away from national qualification.

The only previous Liberty women's discus thrower to advance to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships (Mychelle Cumings – 2013) did so as a sophomore.

Road to Austin: All 48 women's discus throwers in Jacksonville will take three attempts, with the top 12 competitors moving on to Austin. Last year, the 12th-place finisher reached 167-1.

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

Liberty Competitor: Denzel Pratt (Sr., Eleuthera, Bahamas)

Entry Mark/Seed: 227-1 (69.22m)/No. 13

Outlook: Pratt is the only remaining Flame who competed at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in 2016, the last time it was contested in Jacksonville.

He also joins Mychelle Cumings (women's shot put in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) and Ryan Smith (men's shot put in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) as the only three Flames ever to compete in the same event at four NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meets.

Pratt will look to return to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships after placing third in a rain-soaked competition at the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in Tampa, Fla.

Pratt has won four of his six javelin competitions in 2019, claiming the ASUN title most recently.

Pratt will attempt to improve upon his own Bahamas national record (232-0) set in 2017. The Liberty school record of 234-11 is also in play.

Road to Austin: All 48 men's javelin throwers in Jacksonville will take three attempts, with the top 12 competitors moving on to Austin. Last year, the 12th-place finisher threw 206-4, but it must be noted that performances were hindered by the wet weather.

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

Liberty Competitor: Jose Ballivian (R-So., Santiago, Chile)

Entry Mark/Seed: 179-0 (54.55m)/Tie for No. 26

Outlook: Ballivian has made an immediate impact during his first year at Liberty, qualifying for the NCAA Preliminary Round meet in both the shot put and discus.

He climbed to No. 4 in program history with a 179-0 effort which netted second place in the ASUN men's discus final on May 11. That was Ballivian's fifth meet throwing over 170 feet on the season.

Ballivian will join ASUN champion Daniel Haugh of Kennesaw State in Friday afternoon's competition in Jacksonville.

It has been 10 years since a Liberty Flame (John Talbert) reached the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's discus.

Road to Austin: All 48 men's discus throwers in Jacksonville will take three attempts, with the top 12 competitors moving on to Austin. Last year, the 12th-place finisher at this meet threw 176-6.

Women's Pole Vault
Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 5 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Taylen Langin (Fr., Meridian, Idaho)

Entry Mark/Seed: 13-2.5 (4.03m)/Tie for No. 31

Outlook: Langin qualified for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet with a Liberty freshman-record 13-2.5 clearance at the Virginia Grand Prix. Since then, she finished as the ASUN women's pole vault runner-up after winning the event indoors.

Langin is one of 14 freshmen among the 48-member field for Friday's competition.

If Langin can clear a personal-best 13-4.25 on Friday, she would qualify for this summer's USATF U20 National Championships.

A Liberty women's pole vaulter has not advanced to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships since Andrea Wildrick was the national runner-up in 2002.

ASUN outdoor women's pole vault champion Erica Sergeant of Kennesaw State will also take part in Friday's competition.

Road to Austin: After opening at a height of 12-4.5, the pole vault competition will continue until all entrants have attempted at least one height and there are 12 or fewer athletes remaining. At that point, the competition will be halted and the top 12 will move on to Austin, using a jump-off to determine the final qualifiers if necessary. Last year, a 13-8.5 clearance was necessary for national qualification.

Men's Steeplechase
Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Friday at 9 p.m.

Liberty Competitors: Nick Doan (R-Jr., Temecula, Calif.) and Felix Kandie (So., Eldoret, Kenya)

Entry Marks/Seeds: Kandie – 8:55.06/No. 25 and Doan – 9:00.52/No. 46

Outlook: After finishing 1-2 in the ASUN men's steeplechase final, Kandie and Doan will each make their NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debuts in the event on Friday. They are the first Flames to contest the steeplechase at this meet since Josh MacDonald in 2014.

Kandie has only contested the 3,000-meter steeplechase twice previously. His event debut resulted in an 8:55.06 clocking (No. 4 in program history), April 20 at the Virginia Challenge.

Doan posted a personal-best time of 9:00.52 in the same race, earning his NCAA Preliminary Round berth after narrowly missing out on this meet in 2018. He is on the verge of becoming Liberty's seventh sub-9:00 men's steeplechase performer in program history.

The last Flame to reach the NCAA national meet in this event was Evans Kigen in 2010.

Road to Austin: There will be three heats of the men's steeplechase contested Friday night in Jacksonville. The top three finishers in each heat and the next three fastest time qualifiers will advance to Austin. Last year, a time of 8:47.93 was necessary for national qualification.

Men's Shot Put
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 2:45 p.m.

Liberty Competitors: Jose Ballivian (R-So., Santiago, Chile) and Kyle Mitchell (So., Kingston, Jamaica)

Entry Marks/Seeds: Mitchell – 61-2.75 (18.66m)/No. 15 and Ballivian – 58-1 (17.70m)/No. 37

Outlook: Mitchell and Ballivian were the ASUN outdoor and indoor men's shot put champions, respectively, during their first year as Flames in 2019. Now, the duo will represent Liberty at the 2019 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Mitchell, a transfer from Kansas State, came within one centimeter of assistant coach Clendon Henderson's program record from the 2008 season when he reached 61-2.75 at the Virginia Challenge on April 20. That started a string of three straight meets where Mitchell threw the shot put past the 60-foot mark, something no Flame had ever accomplished previously.

Ballivian, who has topped out at 58-1 this season, was in position to complete a sweep of the ASUN indoor and outdoor shot put titles before being overtaken by Mitchell in round six on May 10.

Mitchell and Ballivian will be joined in Jacksonville by Kennesaw State's Tyler Blalock, the ASUN's third-place shot putter. All three of them are sophomores, setting up a bright future for the conference in this event.

Road to Austin: All 48 men's shot putters in Jacksonville will take three attempts, with the top 12 competitors moving on to Austin. Last year, the 12th-place finisher at this meet threw 61-3.5.

Women's Shot Put
Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Naomi Mojica (So., Queretaro, Mexico)

Entry Mark/Seed: 52-3.75 (15.94m)/No. 28

Outlook: Mojica makes a return trip to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at the tail end of a stellar sophomore season. The Mexico native swept the 2019 ASUN indoor and outdoor women's shot put championships and improved her own program record to 52-3.75 at the FSU Relays on March 22.

Mojica made a solid showing at the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in Tampa, placing 21st in the shot put, including third among freshmen.

Mojica will give the Lady Flames a women's shot putter at this meet for the sixth time in the last eight years, also including Mychelle Cumings' quartet of appearances (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016). However, Liberty is still in search of its first NCAA Division I national qualifier in the event.

Road to Austin: All 48 women's shot putters in Jacksonville will take three attempts, with the top 12 competitors moving on to Austin. Last year, the 12th-place finisher at this meet threw 52-9.5.

Men's 5K
Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Saturday at 8:45 p.m.

Liberty Competitor: Azaria Kirwa (Sr., Eldoret, Kenya)

Entry Mark/Seed: 14:04.70/No. 32

Outlook: Kirwa will compete in his second distance race in three days, racing in the men's 5K Saturday evening. He previously reached the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in this event in 2017.

Kirwa qualified for this meet with a 14:04.70 clocking at the Raleigh Relays on March 29. He then raced to an ASUN meet-record time of 14:30.14 while winning the 5K on May 11, one day after his victory in the 10K.

Kirwa and ASUN runner-up Noah Perkins of North Florida will represent the conference in Saturday's 5K races.

Kirwa will look to become the fourth runner in program history to break 14:00 in an outdoor 5K, as his outdoor personal best of 14:00.29 dates back to 2017.

Road to Austin: Saturday night will feature two heats of 24 runners apiece. The top five finishers in each race will qualify for Austin, along with the next two fastest time qualifiers. Last year, a time of 14:02.72 was required for national qualification.

Women's 4 x 400 Relay
Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Saturday at 9:25 p.m.

Liberty Competitors: Tanner Ealum (Jr., Anchorage, Alaska), Ty'Asia Dansbury (So., Baltimore, Md.), Delaney McDowell (Sr., Mason, Ohio) and Cortney Dowling (Jr., Pierre, S.D.)

Entry Mark/Seed: 3:35.77/No. 15

Outlook: Liberty will field a women's 4 x 400 relay team at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second consecutive year. In 2018, the Lady Flames placed 13th at this meet, one spot away from national qualification.

Three of four relay members return from 2018, including Ealum, Dansbury and Dowling. They are joined by McDowell, who clocked a personal-best 54.9 split as the Lady Flames raced to a school-record time of 3:35.77 in the ASUN final on May 11.

Ealum, Dowling and Dansbury have all recorded sub-54.00 splits during their careers, headlined by a program-record 52.34 anchor leg carry by Dansbury at the 2018 NCAA East Preliminary Round meet.

Liberty and Jacksonville will both be among the 24 women's 4 x 400 relay squads battling it out Saturday night. The Dolphins edged the Lady Flames by five thousandths of a second in the ASUN women's 4 x 400 relay final on May 11.

No ASUN women's 4 x 400 relay team has ever qualified to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Additionally, no Liberty relay squad of any kind has ever made it to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Road to Austin: There will be three heats of the women's 4 x 400 relay contested Saturday night in Jacksonville. The top three teams in each heat and the next three fastest time qualifiers will punch their tickets to Austin. Last year, a time of 3:35.89 grabbed the final national qualification spot.