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Flames Aim to Complete Big South Triple Crown

April 15, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Sophomore Kolby Shepherd is already a three-time Big South pole vault champion, winning the 2008 and 2009 indoor titles and the 2008 outdoor crown.

Sophomore Kolby Shepherd is already a three-time Big South pole vault champion, winning the 2008 and 2009 indoor titles and the 2008 outdoor crown.

Live Video Streaming (Big South EDGE)

Performance Lists & Heat Sheets

The 2009 New Balance Big South Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships are set to get underway Thursday morning at Cupp Stadium in Radford, Va. The Liberty men's squad enters the three-day meet as the two-time defending champion, while the Lady Flames will aim to improve upon their third-place finish from the 2008 championship.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's team, which has won 13 of the 15 Big South outdoor team championships ever contested, is shooting to complete its third straight Big South "Triple Crown." The Flames previously won the Big South men's cross country and indoor track & field team crowns this year.

Meanwhile, the Lady Flames will attempt to end Coastal Carolina's run atop the Big South standings. The Chanticleers have claimed four of the last five outdoor conference championships, with Liberty's victory at home in 2007 breaking up the string.

How to Follow the Action
Liberty fans unable to travel to Radford this weekend can track the meet's progress in a couple different ways.

First, the action from Cupp Stadium will be video streamed live via the Big South EDGE, for a small fee.

Second, LibertyFlames.com will be on hand all three days of the meet. For the second consecutive year, the website will feature a blog which will be updated throughout each day of competition.

Defending Champions
A trio of Liberty athletes return to defend their championships from the 2008 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which were held at Winthrop's Irwin Belk Track.

Daniel Newell (R-Sr., Roanoke, Va.) won the 2008 decathlon competition, while a pair of then-freshmen also triumphed at Winthrop. Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.) was victorious in the men's triple jump and Kolby Shepherd (So., Dublin, Ga.) took top honors in the men's pole vault.

Shepherd has won all three Big South pole vault competitions he has entered, claiming victory at the 2008 and 2009 conference indoor championships as well.

Top Seeds
Eight Flames and Lady Flames sit atop the Big South performance lists in their respective events, entering the conference meet.

On the women's side, Andrea Beckles (Sr., Lynchburg, Va.) owns the top 100-meter dash clocking (11.74), Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) is ranked first in the 5K (17:40.94) and freshman Alyssa Pegues (Warner Robins, Ga.) is the conference leader in the long jump (18-0.25).

Five Liberty men's competitors are the top-ranked performers in their events. The list includes Ryan Bell (Fr., New Wilmington, Pa.) with a 212-11 javelin, Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) with a 49-6.25 triple jump, Shepherd with a 15-7 pole vault, John Talbert (Fr., Newton, Kan.) with a 191-9 discus effort and Geren Woodbridge (R-So., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) with a decathlon score of 6,811.

NCAA Qualifiers
Liberty has a conference-high seven entries on the NCAA performance list so far this season, topped by Talbert's No. 6 ranking in the men's discus. The next closest Big South competitors are Coastal Carolina and High Point, which each have three performances listed.

The Flames' NCAA East Regional qualifiers include Beckles in the women's 100-meter dash, Bell in the men's javelin, Bryant in the men's high jump and triple jump, Matt Parker (Sr., Rome, N.Y.) in the men's high jump, Powell in the men's triple jump and Talbert in the men's discus.

Notable Debuts
The Flames' roster features several athletes who will either be making their outdoor season debut this weekend or competing in an event for the first time in a while.

Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya), who has already claimed NCAA national runner-up honors in cross country and the indoor 5,000-meter run during his first year at Liberty, will compete for the first time during the 2009 outdoor campaign. The Big South indoor mile titlist, Chelanga is entered in the 1,500 and 5,000.

Neither defending Big South decathlon champion Newell nor 2007 conference heptathlon champion Marie Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) has completed a multi-event competition so far this season. Both are entered this weekend.

Tim O'Donnell (R-Sr., Hurst, Texas) will run the 400-meter hurdles for the first time since May 25, 2007. He was the 2007 Big South 400 hurdles champion, but has battled numerous injuries during the last two seasons.

Osborne, who was a double winner at the Big South indoor meet, is entered in the 10,000-meter run for the first time since the 2007 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The Commonwealth native fared well that evening, pulling out a runner-up finish.

Events to Watch
The following four events figure to be among the meet's most competitive disciplines.

Women's 100-Meter Dash (Prelims: Friday at 5:05 p.m., Final: Saturday at 1:50 p.m.)—Beckles is the top seed at 11.74, but will face many talented challengers as she seeks her first Big South individual title. Also entered is defending champion Misha Morris of Charleston Southern, as well as the last three Big South indoor 60-meter dash titlists (UNC Asheville's Natalie Pearson, Coastal Carolina's Ikeiylah Brown and Coastal Carolina's Darriale Henley).

Men's Javelin (Thursday at 10 a.m.)—The very first event on the weekend schedule could be one of the most entertaining. Three throwers have gone over 200 feet already this season, including Bell and Elliot Galeone (R-So., White Hall, Md.). Bell and Galeone will attempt to give Liberty its first Big South javelin title since 2001. Their biggest obstacle could be Winthrop sophomore Jared Baird, who threw 210-10 to place third at the Sea Ray Relays last weekend.

Men's High Jump (Friday at 4:30 p.m.)—Last year, the men's high jump was not decided until a lengthy jump-off had been completed. The 2008 victor, Coastal Carolina's Jacques Watson, is back this season and currently ranks No. 3 nationally at 7-3.25. Liberty also features a pair of NCAA regional qualifiers, Bryant and Parker. Parker is the two-time defending Big South indoor high jump champion and sits No. 22 in the nation, with a top clearance of 6-11.5.

Men's Triple Jump (Saturday at 1 p.m.)—The men's triple jump, which will be the final field event to get started on Saturday, promises a three-way battle for top honors. Bryant owns the conference's best mark so far this season, a 49-6.25. Teammate Powell is the defending champion and conference record holder. Finally, Gardner-Webb's Jake Didion claimed the triple jump crown indoors and was voted Big South Men's Field Performer of the Year.

Keeping the Streak Alive
The Lady Flames have won the women's high jump at every Big South indoor and outdoor championship meet since the 2005 indoor contest. The streak of nine straight conference titles includes victories by Kena Butts, Arlene Zelinskas and current Lady Flames Mia Aghaji (So., Chester, Va.) and Christina Mitchell (Fr., Monroe, Va.).

Aghaji and Mitchell are both redshirting this season, leaving Williams as Liberty's best hope to prolong the streak. Williams has gone over 5-5 this year, which is higher than Aghaji's winning clearance of 5-3.25 from the 2008 outdoor championship.

Multiplying Their Chances
Liberty will start five former Big South multi-event champions this weekend, including three decathletes and two heptathletes.

In the decathlon, the Flames' lineup includes defending champion Newell, defending indoor heptathlon champion Woodbridge and three-time Big South titlist Clarence Murray (R-Sr., Birdsboro, Pa.). Murray won the decathlon in 2006 and took home indoor heptathlon championships in 2006 and 2007.

On the women's side, Williams won the 2007 heptathlon conference championship, before redshirting a season ago. She also claimed the 2007 and 2009 pentathlon titles. Teammate Krystle Matthews (So., Chesapeake, Va.) was victorious in the 2008 Big South pentathlon.

Keeping Busy
Williams and Woodbridge will be two of the meet's busiest competitors. In addition to the multi-event competitions, both athletes are entered in several individual events.

Williams could compete as many as 13 times over three days. Her schedule includes the seven heptathlon disciplines, as well as the possibility of 100 hurdles trials and final, 400 hurdles trials and final, high jump and the 4 x 400 relay.

Meanwhile, Woodbridge will add the javelin and pole vault to the 10 decathlon events.