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Track & Field Season Begins on Wednesday

December 3, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Senior Phil Leineweber is entered in the men's 800-meter run on Thursday at the season-opening Liberty Kickoff.

Senior Phil Leineweber is entered in the men's 800-meter run on Thursday at the season-opening Liberty Kickoff.

The annual Liberty Kickoff indoor track & field meet is scheduled for today and tomorrow at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. This season, the meet will really live up to its name, as it is believed to be the first indoor track meet in the nation for the 2008-09 season.

The Liberty Kickoff, which will feature the Liberty men's and women's teams competing with athletes from Elon, James Madison, Radford, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington & Lee and Winston-Salem State, will begin at 1 p.m. this afternoon, with the men's heptathlon 60-meter hurdles. The only events on today's program are the four opening-day disciplines of the heptathlon.

The primary action will take place Thursday, during an extended day of competition. Things get underway at 11 a.m., with the women's pentathlon 60-meter hurdles. The pentathlon and heptathlon will wrap up by 3:30 p.m., when the men's weight throw will begin.

Track events are slated to commence at 5 p.m. Thursday, with the prelims of the men's 60-meter hurdles, and will continue until the women's 4 x 400 relay at 9 p.m.

The meet will provide Liberty's lone opportunity for competition during the fall semester, and head coach Brant Tolsma says his athletes are eager to get the season started.

"This meet has helped motivate our training for the past several weeks," Tolsma noted. "This is a reward for our athletes who have been training for three months, without being able to compete in a meet. We're looking forward to seeing where people are at this point in the season."

Liberty's distance runners, including NCAA national cross country runner-up Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya), will not be in action this weekend. However, the Flames' sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers are scheduled to compete.

The Flames and Lady Flames enter the meet, and the 2008-09 season for that matter, from different perspectives. The men's squad is the 11-time defending Big South indoor track & field champion and returns a talented, veteran group of athletes this year. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames finished second to Coastal Carolina a season ago, and will rely heavily upon a sizable and talented crop of newcomers. A Liberty Kickoff preview follows.

Men's Meet Outlook
Storylines to Watch
Senior Leadership:
The Flames boast three senior captains this season—Phil Leineweber (New Freedom, Pa.), Daniel Newell (Roanoke, Va.) and Matt Parker (Rome, N.Y.). All three have enjoyed success, both from a team perspective and individually, during their four years at Liberty. Leineweber, Newell and Parker will all be in action at the Liberty Kickoff.

Stellar Sophomores: Liberty also features an extremely talented sophomore class, headlined by Chelanga. Other sophomore standouts who will be making their season debut at the Liberty Kickoff include sprinter Jacey Bailey (Tamarac, Fla.), 2008 Big South Freshman of the Year Clarence Powell (Marianna, Fla.), Big South indoor and outdoor pole vault champion Kolby Shepherd (Dublin, Ga.) and multi-event athlete Geren Woodbridge (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Thrower Elliot Galeone (White Hall, Md.) also joins the class, after taking a redshirt last season.

Featured Events
Heptathlon (Begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. and resumes Thursday at 12:30 p.m.): Newell is the favorite in a field of five heptathletes, who will get the meet started at 1 p.m. The 2006 Liberty Kickoff heptathlon champion is coming off a strong junior campaign, which included the IC4A decathlon title. Woodbridge will also compete, as will Parker. Normally a high jump/hurdle specialist, Parker will try his hand at the multi-event.

Pole Vault (Thursday, 6:45 p.m.): Shepherd will open his sophomore campaign against a talented group of Virginia Tech vaulters. Included in the field is Yavgeniy Olhovsky, the pole vault runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Women's Meet Outlook
Storylines to Watch
Solid Seniors: Despite the prevalent youth throughout the Liberty roster, several talented, experienced seniors will lead the way this season. The list includes sprinter Andrea Beckles (Lynchburg, Va.), 400/800 specialist Jaime Watson (Ravenna, Mich.) and multi-event athlete Marie Williams (Tampa, Fla.), returning from a redshirt season. Watson has been posting some impressive workouts and appears poised for a great senior campaign, according to Tolsma.

Numerous Newcomers: Liberty's roster includes 21 true freshmen, many of whom will make their collegiate debuts on Thursday. Some of the top new faces to keep an eye on include sprinter/hurdler Olivia Charnuski (Elmira, Ontario), who finished ninth in the 100-meter hurdles at Canada's Olympic Trials last summer, sprinter/jumper Alyssa Pegues (Warner Robins, Ga.) and versatile athlete Melanie Sims (Cleveland Heights, Ohio).

Featured Events
60-Meter Hurdles (Thursday – Prelims at 5:15 p.m., Finals at 5:55 p.m.):
Charnuski and Sims are both expected to be among the top challengers for Virginia's duo of Ayla Smith and Lauren Echko in the women's first running event of the meet, the 60-meter hurdles. Rachel Houseknecht (So., Hughesville, Pa.), looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued freshman season, will also toe the line for the Lady Flames.

400-Meter Dash (Thursday, 7 p.m.): Watson and Chenoa Freeman (Jr., Lincoln, Del.) are the fastest two entrants in the women's 400-meter dash, and both will attempt to post fast early-season marks. Last year, Watson and Freeman swept the top two places at the Liberty Kickoff, paced by Watson's 57.20 clocking.

Men's Double Heptathlon
Tolsma will not only be coaching the Liberty athletes today and tomorrow, but he will also be competing himself. The 23rd-year coach will be one of three participants in a double heptathlon, which will run simultaneously with the Liberty Kickoff heptathlon and pentathlon.

Tolsma, the world record holder for his age group in the one-day double decathlon, is aiming for an age group (55-60) world record in the double heptathlon.