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Liberty Track Ready for 2nd Conference Meet

March 6, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Katie Albright holds off High Point's Shauna Marsh to win a tightly-contested mile race at last weekend's Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Katie Albright holds off High Point's Shauna Marsh to win a tightly-contested mile race at last weekend's Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

The Liberty men's and women's indoor track & field teams are preparing for their second conference championship meet in as many weeks. The Flames and Lady Flames are bound for Boston, the site of the 2009 IC4A and ECAC Indoor Track & Field Championships, both of which will be contested Saturday and Sunday.

Coach Brant Tolsma's men's team, which captured its unprecedented 12th straight Big South indoor team championship last weekend in Clemson, S.C., will participate in the IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Boston University Pavilion. Last season, the Flames recorded their highest-ever finish at the meet, taking home the runner-up trophy.

Meanwhile, the Lady Flames will compete in the ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, across town at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. Liberty is coming off its fourth consecutive runner-up finish at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Lady Flames return a pair of top three finishers from last year's ECAC indoor meet, in 800-meter champion Jaime Watson (Sr., Ravenna, Mich.) and mile third-place finisher Katie Albright (So., Wake Forest, N.C.).

Liberty IC4A Men's Preview

Flames Competitors
Jacey Bailey (So., Tamarac, Fla.) – 55
Andrew Bartels (Sr., Grantham, Pa.) – Shot Put
Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) – High Jump, Triple Jump
Phil Leineweber (Sr., New Freedom, Pa.) - 500
Daniel Newell (R-Sr., Roanoke, Va.) – Heptathlon
Matt Parker (Sr., Rome, N.Y.) – High Jump
Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.) – High Jump, Triple Jump
Kolby Shepherd (So., Dublin, Ga.) – Pole Vault

Meet Outlook
Noticeably absent from the above list of Liberty men's competitors at the IC4A meet is Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya). Chelanga ran the 5,000 meters at the 2007 IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships and finished second behind former Liberty standout Josh McDougal, who is now one of Chelanga's coaches. Chelanga's stellar time of 13:46.39 in that race qualified him for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, where he finished fourth in the men's 5,000-meter final.

This year, Chelanga has automatically qualified for the national meet in the 5K, by virtue of his 13:19.79 clocking at the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 13. He also has a chance to make the field in the 3K, as Chelanga's season-best time of 7:57.85 sits No. 16 on the national list. After winning the mile at last weekend's Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, Chelanga will take this meet off, in order to gear up for the national meet and an anticipated rematch with Oregon's Galen Rupp.

Other Flames will attempt to qualify for the right to accompany Chelanga to the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, next weekend in College Station, Texas. Leading the way is Bryant, who is tied for No. 17 nationally with his Big South-record 7-1.5 high jump. He is one of three Liberty athletes entered in the men's high jump, along with Parker and Powell. Parker finished fourth in last year's IC4A high jump competition and, most recently, notched his second consecutive Big South indoor high jump title. The event gets underway Sunday at noon.

Like Bryant in the high jump, Newell has provisionally qualified for the NCAA national meet in the heptathlon. The senior ranks No. 34 in the nation in the multi event, as a result of his season-best score of 5,346 points. He placed fifth in the IC4A heptathlon a season ago and later won the decathlon championship at the IC4A outdoor meet. Newell will be the first Liberty athlete to get underway at the IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships, when he runs the heptathlon 60-meter dash at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Another fifth-place finisher from last year's IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships, Shepherd will seek his fifth straight victory in the pole vault this season, starting Saturday at noon. Last weekend, he successfully defended his Big South pole vault crown, topping out at 15-5.75.

Leineweber, in his final trip to the IC4A indoor meet, will attempt to make the final of the 500-meter run for the third year in a row. Last weekend, the Keystone Stater anchored the Liberty 4 x 400 relay squad to a come-from-behind victory and took second place in the open 400. He will run the 500-meter prelims Saturday at 2:50, attempting to make Sunday's final, scheduled for 1:20 p.m. Leineweber's career-best finish in the event is seventh place, at the 2007 championship.

Bartels, another senior from Pennsylvania, will make his IC4A debut appearance this weekend. The Big South shot put titlist with a career-best heave of 52-10.5 will throw the shot at the meet, commencing at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Liberty ECAC Women's Preview

Lady Flames Competitors
Katie Albright (So., Wake Forest, N.C.) – Mile
Andrea Beckles (Sr., Lynchburg, Va.) – 60, 200
Chenoa Freeman (Jr., Lincoln, Del.) – 400, 4 x 400
Brittany Heath (Jr., Freeport, Grand Bahamas) – 4 x 400
Christina Mitchell (Fr., Monroe, Va.) – High Jump, 4 x 400
Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) – 5K
Jaime Watson (Sr., Ravenna, Mich.) – 800, 4 x 400
Marie Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) – Pentathlon, 4 x 400

Meet Outlook
Watson has dominated the 800-meter run at the Big South level in recent years, winning a combined five conference titles in the event, including the indoor and outdoor meets. However, her performances at last year's IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships represent arguably the two best races of her career.

During last year's 800-meter run prelims, Watson ran a Big South-record time of 2:08.34. The next day, she became only the second Lady Flame running event athlete ever to win an ECAC final (the other is current assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand), traversing the track in 2:10.63.

As a result, Watson enters this year's meet as the defending champion. The Michigan native opens defense of her crown in the prelims, Saturday at 2:50 p.m. The final follows Sunday at 2:10 p.m.

Albright also excelled at the 2008 ECAC indoor meet, finishing third in the women's mile final. Her personal-best time of 4:53.77 from that race ranks No. 3 in program history. Albright will look to build upon her Big South mile championship this weekend, with the mile prelims scheduled for 1:40 p.m. Saturday and the final on tap for 1:45 p.m. Sunday.

One final mid-distance/distance specialist who has positive memories of last year's ECAC meet is Osborne. She raced to a school-record time of 9:49.55 in the 3,000-meter final a season ago. This time around, the Big South 3,000 & 5,000-meter titlist will focus on the 5K, which starts at 3:45 p.m., Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of school records, Beckles was Liberty's lone school record setter at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. She dipped under her own existing 60-meter dash standard during both rounds last weekend, including a 7.56 effort in the heats. Beckles will try to shave more time off her record at the ECAC championship, starting with the opening round at 1:25 p.m. Saturday.

Mitchell is the only true freshman from either Liberty's men's or women's team making the trip to Boston this weekend. She sailed over a personal-best 5-5 in the high jump to become Liberty's second consecutive freshman champion in the Big South indoor high jump competition. Mitchell will high jump again this weekend, beginning Saturday at 2:45 p.m.

Williams will be the very first Liberty athlete to begin competition in Boston, as the pentathlon starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the 60-meter hurdles. The senior, who is coming off her second Big South pentathlon championship, will look to improve upon her 11th-place effort in the 2007 ECAC pentathlon. She will also chase the NCAA provisional qualifying standard of 3,700 points.