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Program-Record 9 Flames Bound for Austin

June 3, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Azaria Kirwa will compete in the men's 5K and 10K events in Austin this week.

Azaria Kirwa will compete in the men's 5K and 10K events in Austin this week.

Meet Schedule (Times Listed are Central)

Meet Information Page

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Men's Start Lists

Women's Start Lists

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@Liberty_XCTF Twitter

A program-record nine Liberty athletes will compete in the 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Wednesday through Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. Prior to this year, the most Flames to ever qualify for this meet was five (2007 and 2018).

Liberty's national qualifiers include Felix Kandie (men's steeplechase), Azaria Kirwa (men's 5K and 10K), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (men's 400), Denzel Pratt (men's javelin), Chelsea Igberaese (women's discus) and the women's 4 x 400 relay quartet of Tanner Ealum, Ty'Asia Dansbury, Delaney McDowell and Cortney Dowling.

Liberty will have athletes in action during all four days of the meet, beginning Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. Eastern with Pratt in the men's javelin.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
The ESPN family of networks will broadcast live coverage from Austin each evening, including Wednesday (7:30-11 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2), Thursday (8-9 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU, 9-11:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2), Friday (8:30-11 p.m. Eastern on ESPN) and Saturday (6:30-9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2).

Live video streaming coverage of the field events will be available on ESPN3 throughout the meet.

Live results, including throw-by-throw and jump-by-jump results in the field events, will be available, courtesy of Flash Results.

Additionally, periodic updates will be posted to the Liberty Track & Field (@Liberty_XCTF) Twitter account.

Weather Report
Wednesday's forecast for Austin calls for a high temperature in the mid 80s and a significant chance of thunderstorms.

The chance of rain dissipates as the week goes on, but the temperature will keep climbing, reaching the mid to upper 90s by Friday and Saturday.

About the Facility
Mike A. Myers Stadium, which seats 20,000, will play host to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the first time since 2004. That year, Chad Wilson represented Liberty in the men's long jump, while Danielle McNaney took part in the heptathlon.

All of the Flames' national qualifiers have previously competed at Mike A. Myers Stadium except the men's distance duo of Felix Kandie and Azaria Kirwa.

Chelsea Igberaese (179-6 women's discus in 2019), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (3:20.65 men's sprint medley relay in 2018) and the grouping of Ty'Asia Dansbury, Cortney Dowling, Tanner Ealum and Delaney McDowell (3:51.67 women's sprint medley relay in 2019) have all broken school records during previous visits to Austin. McDowell also anchored the Lady Flames to a program-record 4 x 800 relay time of 8:56.96 at the 2016 Texas Relays as a freshman.

Liberty's current school records in the men's 110 hurdles, men's shot put, men's discus and decathlon were also set at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

NCAA Championship Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Men's Javelin
Event Schedule: Final – Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. Eastern

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

Season Best/Personal Best: 227-1 (69.22m)/232-0 (70.72m)

How He Got Here: Pratt qualified for the NCAA national meet for the second straight year, thanks to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. Two of his three throws in Jacksonville would have been good enough to punch his ticket to Austin, including his first-round mark of 221-5 and his third-round throw of 224-6.

Pratt's season-best 227-1 mark came at the Texas Relays on March 29. That effort placed eighth in Section A, among a field which included six other throwers who went on to qualify for Austin.

Pratt has won four of his seven javelin competitions this season, headlined by a dominating victory at the ASUN Championship.

Event Breakdown: Pratt, who recorded the 10th-best mark between the NCAA Division I East and West Preliminary Round meets, will look to improve upon his 17th-place showing from the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The Bahamas' national record holder, Pratt will be one of seven foreign entrants in Wednesday's men's javelin competition. Other nations represented will be Canada (Brendan Artley of North Dakota State), Grenada (Anderson Peters of Mississippi State), Iceland (Sindri Gudmundsson of Utah State), South Africa (Werner Bouwer of Texas Tech), Sweden (Simon Litzell of UCLA) and Trinidad & Tobago (Tyriq Horsford of Mississippi State).

Mississippi State expects a strong showing in this event, as the Bulldogs feature the 2016 (Curtis Thompson) and 2018 (Anderson Peters) national champions.

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: After each of the 24 men's javelin competitors takes three throws, the top nine will receive three more attempts apiece in the finals. The top eight finishers will score points for their respective teams and earn first team All-America honors. Placers No. 9-16 will become second team All-Americans.

Last year, it took a throw of 226-0 to reach finals and a 230-6 effort to score.

What's at Stake: Pratt will aim to become Liberty's first NCAA Division I men's javelin All-American. The best finish by a Flames men's javelin thrower at this meet is 17th place, by Elliot Galeone in 2011 and Pratt in 2018.

Pratt is the first ASUN men's javelin thrower ever to reach the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Pratt will look to improve upon his own Bahamian national record of 232-0, set at the 2017 Big South Championship.

Pratt is also within reach of the Liberty record of 234-11 set by former teammate Steve Feister in 2016.

Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Wednesday at 8:02 p.m. Eastern; Final – Friday at 8:54 p.m. Eastern

Liberty Competitor: Felix Kandie (So., Eldoret, Kenya)

Season Best/Personal Best: 8:42.43/8:42.43

How He Got Here: Kandie punched his ticket to Austin during the third 3,000-meter steeplechase race of his life. He clocked a school-record time of 8:42.43 at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet to place fourth in his heat and advance as a time qualifier to his first NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Kandie made his 3,000 steeplechase debut at the Virginia Challenge on April 20, running 8:55.06 to place second behind fellow national qualifier Kigen Chemadi of Middle Tennessee.

Kandie also raced to victory in the ASUN steeplechase final on May 10 in 9:04.76.

Event Breakdown: Kandie is the first Flame to qualify for the NCAA national meet in the men's steeplechase since fellow Eldoret, Kenya native Evans Kigen in 2010. Additionally, he is the first ASUN men's steeplechase runner ever to qualify for this meet.

Kandie is one of 16 steeplechase runners among the 24 Austin entrants who clocked personal-best times at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Kandie is also included among the 10 foreign-born entrants who will be competing in the men's steeplechase in Austin. Kandie is one of four Kenyans in the field, along with Kigen Chemadi (Middle Tennessee), Albert Kosgei (Louisville) and Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane). Other countries represented included Australia (Ed Trippas of Princeton), Canada (Ryan Smeeton of Oklahoma State), Ethiopia (Fitsum Seyoum of Virginia Tech), Germany (Johannes Motschmann of Iona), Spain (Julian Sanchez-Pinto of Memphis) and the United Kingdom (Will Battershill of Harvard).

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: Two semifinal heats of 12 runners apiece will be contested on Wednesday. The top five finishers in each heat, along with the next two fastest time qualifiers, will advance to Friday's final. The top eight finishers on Friday will score points for their teams and earn first team All-America honors. The other four finalists along with the four fastest performers from the semifinals who do not advance to the final will be named second team All-Americans.

Last year, 8:43.22 was the final time qualifier from the semifinal heats and an 8:41.24 was required to score in the final.

What's at Stake: Kandie will try to become Liberty's first NCAA Division I All-American in the men's steeplechase.

The best finish by a Liberty men's steeplechase runner at this meet was 10th by Evans Kigen in 2008.

Kandie will aim to break his own school record of 8:42.43 from the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

Men's 400-Meter Dash
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern; Final – Friday at 9:32 p.m. Eastern

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

Season Best/Personal Best: 45.19/44.86

How He Got Here: Perlaza Zapata earned his second straight trip to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships by winning both of his heats at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The 2016 Olympian clocked his two fastest times of the season in the process, including 45.45 in the first round and 45.19 in the quarterfinals. Only national leader Trevor Stewart of North Carolina A&T ran faster than Perlaza Zapata in Jacksonville.

Perlaza Zapata heads to Austin having won his last five 400-meter races in a row, also including victories at the Virginia Challenge, Liberty Twilight Qualifier and ASUN Championship.

Perlaza Zapata also excelled indoors, racing to a sixth-place finish in the men's 400 final at the 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. As a result, he earned his first career All-America certificate.

Event Breakdown: The men's 400 has not been quite as strong this season as it was in 2018. Last season, Perlaza Zapata was one of nine national qualifiers who had broken 45 seconds prior to the competition in Eugene. This year, only three Austin qualifiers have done so, including North Carolina A&T's Trevor Stewart (44.38), Houston's Kahmari Montgomery (44.78) and Baylor's Wil London (44.93).

Perlaza Zapata's season-best 45.19 effort is tied for sixth fastest among the 24 Austin qualifiers, and Track & Field News projects him to finish 10th.

Eight foreign nations will be represented in the men's 400 competition in Austin, including Perlaza Zapata's native Colombia. Other nations include Barbados (Jonathan Jones of Texas), Denmark (Benjamin Lobo Vedel of Florida), Jamaica (Sean Bailey of UTEP), Liberia (Akeem Sirleaf of North Carolina A&T), the Republic of Mauritius (Orwin Emilien of Oregon), South Africa (Derrick Mokaleng of TCU) and Trinidad & Tobago (Dwight St. Hillaire of Kentucky).

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: The top two finishers in each of Wednesday's three semifinal heats will advance to Friday's final, where they will be joined by the next two fastest time qualifiers. These eight runners will have an opportunity to score team points and earn first team All-America honors. The No. 9 through 16 runners in the semifinals will become second team All-Americans.

Last year, a time of 44.98 was required to make the final.

What's at Stake: Perlaza Zapata has a chance to become Liberty's first finalist in the men's 400 at this meet. The Flames' previous best NCAA Division I showing was a ninth-place finish by Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Mike Decker in 2000. Perlaza Zapata placed 23rd a year ago.

Decker is the only Liberty men's 400-meter dash runner who has earned All-America honors at this meet, doing so in 2000.

Perlaza Zapata is the first ASUN men's 400-meter dash runner ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

If Perlaza Zapata can run faster than 44.86, he will break his own Liberty and Colombian national records.

The South American outdoor men's 400 record is 44.29 by Brazil's Sanderlei Parrela in 1999. Perlaza Zapata already owns the South American indoor men's 400 standard with his 46.07 clocking at the 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Men's 10,000-Meter Run
Event Schedule: Final – Wednesday at 10:08 p.m. Eastern

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

Season Best/Personal Best: 28:56.84/28:56.84

How He Got Here: After placing 13th (one spot away from national qualification) in the men's 10K at both the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meets, Kirwa left nothing to chance this time around. He clocked a personal-best time of 28:56.84 for sixth place in Jacksonville.

In the process, Kirwa joined past NCAA national champions Sam Chelanga and Josh McDougal as the only Flames ever to break 29:00 for a 10K.

Kirwa's first two 10Ks of the season included a 29:22.05 effort at the Virginia Challenge on April 20 and a meet-record 29:47.01 performance which captured the ASUN title on May 10.

Event Breakdown: Kirwa will be the first Flame to run the 10K at this meet since Sam Chelanga in 2011 and the first ASUN men's 10K runner ever to compete at the NCAA national meet.

Kirwa, who hails from Eldoret, Kenya, is one of seven foreign-born runners to qualify for the 10K in Austin. He will be joined on the starting line by countrymen Gilbert Kigen (Alabama) and former Big South rival Lawrence Kipkoech (Campbell). Other nations represented include Ethiopia (Hassan Abdi of Oklahoma State), Italy (Iliass Aouani of Syracuse) and South Africa (twin brothers Adriaan and Nadeel Wildschutt of Coastal Carolina).

BYU qualified a meet-record six runners to compete in the 10K in Austin.

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: All 24 10K entrants will race together in Austin, with the top eight finishers scoring team points and earning first team All-America accolades. The ninth through 16th runners will become second team All-Americans.

A year ago, the eighth-place finisher in Eugene clocked 29:13.12.

What's at Stake: Kirwa will aim for his first All-America honor on the track after previously earning All-America recognition for cross country in 2017.

All four of Liberty's previous men's 10K races at this meet have resulted in top-three finishes, including efforts by Josh McDougal (3rd in 2007) and Sam Chelanga (3rd in 2009, 1st in 2010 and 2nd in 2011).

Women's 4 x 400-Meter Relay
Event Schedule: Semifinal – Thursday at 11:18 p.m. Eastern; Final – Saturday at 8:51 p.m. Eastern

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.)

Season Best: 3:33.20

How They Got Here: One year ago, Ealum, Dansbury and Dowling were part of the Lady Flames' first 4 x 400 relay squad ever to compete at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. That grouping clocked a school-record time of 3:36.56 and missed NCAA national qualification by one spot.

This year, joined by McDowell, the Lady Flames' 4 x 400 relay squad has posted back-to-back school-record performances. Liberty ran 3:35.77 to place a close second in the ASUN final before clocking 3:33.20 for third place in their NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round heat. The latter performance made them Liberty's first relay team ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I national meet, either indoors or outdoors.

Liberty's splits during the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet included 54.4 for Ealum, a personal-best 51.4 for Dansbury, a personal-best 54.82 for McDowell and a personal-best 52.57 for Dowling, who overtook LSU's anchor in the final straightaway to officially punch Liberty's tickets to Austin.

Dansbury (400) and McDowell (800) both won individual events at the ASUN Outdoor Track & Field Championships, while Dansbury (53.28) and Dowling (53.99) have set Liberty's outdoor and indoor women's 400 program records in 2019. Ealum was the ECAC indoor 500 dash champion in March in 1:10.74, the fourth fastest time in the world this year.

Event Breakdown: Liberty was one of five non-Power Five schools to qualify for Austin in the women's 4 x 400 relay, joining North Carolina A&T, Penn, San Diego State and Stephen F. Austin. A non-Power Five school has not reached the women's 4 x 400 final at this meet since Louisiana Tech did so in 2009.

SEC 4 x 400 relay squads captured eight of the 24 qualifying berths to Austin, headlined by 2019 indoor national champion South Carolina.

The remaining qualifiers include five Big 12 teams, three ACC squads and a trio of Pac-12 groupings.

The women's 4 x 400 relay final will wrap up the four-day meet Saturday evening and team national championship contenders Arkansas and USC could both be in the mix. Last year, USC won the women's 4 x 400 to dramatically claim the team national title.

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: Thursday night will feature three semifinal heats. The top two teams in each heat and the next two fastest time qualifiers will move on to Saturday's final. The finalists will be able to score team points and earn first team All-America honors. The ninth through 16th fastest teams in the semifinal round will become second team All-Americans.

Last year, 3:31.02 was the slowest time to advance to the final.

What's at Stake: Liberty will be making history as the first relay squad of any kind in school history to race at the NCAA Division I national meet.

The Lady Flames are also the first ASUN women's 4 x 400 relay squad ever to reach the national meet.

Ealum, Dansbury, McDowell and Dowling are all in search of their first career All-America certificates.

If Liberty can run faster than 3:33.20, it will break the school record for the third race in a row.

Men's 5,000-Meter Run
Event Schedule: Final – Friday at 10:25 p.m. Eastern

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

Season Best/Personal Best: 14:02.15/13:55.74 (Indoor) and 14:00.29 (Outdoor)

How He Got Here: Kirwa led for more than half of his 5K heat at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet before finishing in a season-best 14:02.15 for the fifth and final automatic qualifying berth to Austin.

Kirwa, who had already qualified in the 10K two days earlier, will race the 5K distance at the NCAA national meet for the second time in three years.

Kirwa also posted a time of 14:04.70 at the Raleigh Relays on March 29 and a meet-record 14:30.14 effort to win the ASUN title on May 11.

Kirwa will bookend his senior year with NCAA national meet appearances after qualifying for the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships as an individual.

Event Breakdown: Kirwa and fellow ASUN competitor Noah Perkins (North Florida) will give the conference its first national representatives in this race since Georgia State's Andrew Letherby in 1997.

Kirwa will be one of eight men's 5K runners running the second leg of a distance double in Austin on Friday. He will complete the 5K/10K double along with Alabama's Gilbert Kigen, BYU's Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, Colorado's John Dressel, Furman's Aaron Templeton and UCLA's Robert Brandt. Templeton is the younger brother of former Flames distance runner Will Templeton.

Additionally, Middle Tennessee's Kigen Chemadi is entered in both the steeplechase and 5K this week.

Kirwa and Chemadi are two of four Kenyans in the field, joining Kigen and Iowa State's Edwin Kurgat. Other countries which will be represented include Australia (Morgan McDonald of Wisconsin), Canada (Grant Fisher of Stanford), Guatemala (Luis Grijalva of Northern Arizona) and New Zealand (Geordie Beamish of Northern Arizona).

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: All 24 5K entrants will race together in Austin, with the top eight finishers scoring team points and earning first team All-America accolades. The ninth through 16th runners will become second team All-Americans.

A year ago, the eighth-place finisher in Eugene clocked 13:58.20.

What's at Stake: Kirwa will look to improve upon his 22nd-place 5K finish from the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Sam Chelanga was the last Flame to earn All-America honors in this event, closing his collegiate career with a 5K national title in 2011.

The best finish ever by an ASUN men's 5K runner at this meet was ninth place by Georgia State's Andrew Letherby in 1997.

Kirwa's 5K personal best (13:55.74) came indoors, but he is still looking to break 14:00 for the first time outdoors. His top outdoor time (14:00.29) came at the Virginia Challenge on April 22, 2017. The only Flames ever to dip under 14:00 outdoors are Chelanga, Josh McDougal and Caleb Edmonds.

Women's Discus
Event Schedule: Final – Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Eastern

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

Season Best/Personal Best: 179-6 (54.71m)/179-6 (54.71m)

How She Got Here: Igberaese needed a clutch third-round throw in order to qualify for her NCAA national debut. Sitting in 20th place with one discus throw remaining, she unleashed a 172-8 effort which stood up for 11th place out of the 12 Austin qualifiers from the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.

After entering her sophomore season with a discus personal best of 167-0, Igberaese has exceeded that distance at four different meets in 2019.

Igberaese found the throwing circle at Mike A. Myers Stadium to her liking on March 30. That day, she won Section B of the Texas Relays women's discus competition with a 179-6 effort which shattered the previous school record by 11 feet and still ranks as her best mark.

Igberaese was the ASUN women's discus runner-up, while also winning the conference title in the hammer and placing sixth in the shot put.

Event Breakdown: Igberaese is the first Liberty women's discus thrower to advance to the NCAA national meet since Mychelle Cumings also did so as a sophomore in 2013. Igberaese is also the first ASUN women's athlete ever to reach the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in any throwing event.

Igberaese, who hails from Dacula, Ga., is one of two Georgia natives who will be competing in Austin. Louisville sophomore Makenli Forrest grew up about an hour away from Igberaese in Ellenwood, Ga.

Igberaese will also face Annina Brandenburg of Abilene Christian, a team which is coached by former Liberty assistant Lance Bingham.

How the Event Will Progress in Austin: After each of the 24 women's discus competitors takes three throws, the top nine will receive three more attempts apiece in the finals. The top eight finishers will score points for their respective teams and earn first team All-America honors. Placers No. 9-16 will become second team All-Americans.

Last year, it took a throw of 176-6 to reach finals and a 176-8 effort to score.

What's at Stake: Igberaese will try to better Mychelle Cumings' 20th-place finish from the 2013 national meet as the best women's discus showing in program history.

Igberaese will also aim to join the hammer duo of Melinda Bendik (2012) and Jocelyn Williams (2015) as the only Liberty women's throwers ever to earn NCAA Division I All-America recognition.

A new personal best would eclipse Igberaese's own school record of 179-6, while a throw of 190-3 would automatically qualify her for this summer's USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships.