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Indoor Track Season to Kick Off Today

December 2, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Kolby Shepherd is part of a deep men's pole vault field at the season-opening Liberty Kickoff.

Kolby Shepherd is part of a deep men's pole vault field at the season-opening Liberty Kickoff.

Liberty Kickoff performance list

The gun will go off for the first heat of the men's heptathlon 60-meter dash at 1 p.m. this afternoon at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center, officially beginning the 2009-10 indoor track season. Liberty will welcome athletes from eight local Division I teams to town for the sixth annual Liberty Kickoff meet, which continues through Thursday night.

The 12-time defending Big South champion Flames and the seven-time conference champion Lady Flames will compete against Elon, High Point, James Madison, Radford, Virginia, Virginia Tech, VMI and Winston-Salem State at the meet.

Liberty head coach Brant Tolsma, in his 24th year with the Flames, is looking forward to the meet for a couple reasons, "It will be nice if we can get some early ECAC and IC4A qualifiers this weekend. However, the main purpose of this meet is to give our track & field athletes something to look forward to this semester."

Most of the Flames' cross country runners, including newly-crowned national champion Sam Chelanga (R-Jr., Nairobi, Kenya), will sit out this meet. However, Liberty fans will get a chance to see quite a few of Liberty's top returnees and promising newcomers in action during the next two days.

Admission is free at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center, where action begins with the start of the men's heptathlon at 1 p.m. this afternoon. Tomorrow, the women's pentathlon starts at noon, while the men's heptathlon resumes at 12:30. Field events commence at 3:30 p.m., and running events get underway at 5 p.m. A full meet schedule may be found at the bottom of this release.

Men's Meet Preview
Top Returning Flames
Jacey Bailey
(Jr., Tamarac, Fla.), the second-fastest sprinter in program history at 60 meters (6.85), will step up to the 400-meter dash at this meet, for the first time in his collegiate career.

Clarence Powell (Jr., Marianna, Fla.) will keep busy at the meet, as the Sunshine State native is entered in the long jump, high jump and triple jump. He placed second in all three events at last season's Liberty Kickoff and went on to earn all-conference honors in the high jump and triple jump.

Kolby Shepherd (Jr., Dublin, Ga.), who battled injuries during the 2009 outdoor track & field season, has now returned to full health. He will compete in his specialty event, the pole vault, in which he is already a three-time Big South champion.

Geren Woodbridge (R-Jr., Allentown, Pa.) is the defending Big South indoor heptathlon champion. In his most recent competition, Woodbridge finished as the IC4A decathlon runner-up. This week, he hopes to open his season with a strong heptathlon score.

Promising Newcomers
Joseph Cash (Fr., Raphine, Va.), part of the Flames' promising young group of multi-event athletes, will contest the heptathlon over the next two days. Last season, he helped Riverheads High School win the VHSL Group A state title, placing in the top six at the state meet in five different events.

Roderick Spruel (Fr., Fredericksburg, Va.) is Liberty's top entrant in the 60 and 200-meter dash events. He was the 2009 VHSL Group AA state runner-up at 100 meters, while competing for Chancellor High School.

Events to Keep an Eye On
60-Meter Dash – Spruel will battle a high-quality field, headlined by Dennis Boone. Competing unattached on Thursday, Boone was a NCAA Division II national champion in the 100 and 200-meter dashes while competing at St. Augustine's. Defending Liberty Kickoff champion Paul Williams of Winston-Salem State and High Point's Justin Conaway are also expected to contend.

Pole Vault – Shepherd will face some stiff competition, in the form of numerous current and former Virginia Tech vaulters. Headlining the deep field are 2009 NCAA indoor pole vault national runner-up Yavgeniy Olhovsky and 2009 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championship finalist Brian Mondschein. Both athletes are entered at 18-0.5, which is superior to Mondschein's facility record of 17-6.5.

Women's Meet Preview
Top Returning Lady Flames

Dacia Bushman (Jr., Castalia, Iowa) and Jennifer Klugh (So., Centerburg, Ohio) are both coming off successful cross country seasons. They finished 2-3 at the Big South meet, helping the Lady Flames reclaim the conference team title. Both will contest the 5K Thursday evening.

Chenoa Freeman (Sr., Lincoln, Del.) and Jaime Watson (R-Sr., Ravenna, Mich.) rank as the top two indoor 400-meter runners in program history, and both runners are scheduled to compete in the 400 this week. Watson claimed last year's Liberty Kickoff 400-meter dash title in an impressive time of 56.01.

Krystle Matthews (Jr., Chesapeake, Va.) won the 2008 Big South pentathlon championship, before slipping to fourth place last season. She aims to return to the top in 2010, and will compete in the pentathlon Thursday.

Christina Mitchell (So., Monroe, Va.) made a successful debut at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championship, winning the conference high jump crown last season. She will not only high jump at the season opener, but is also slated for the 60-meter hurdles.

Promising Newcomers
Melinda Bendik
(Jr., Odessa, Texas) competed at South Plains College the last two seasons. As a sophomore, she finished second at the NJCAA national meet in the hammer and fourth in the discus. Bendik will make her Liberty debut in the shot put and weight throw.

Shelley Parker (Fr., Lynchburg, Va.) attended nearby Brookville High School, where she captured indoor and outdoor VHSL Group AA state pole vault titles as a junior and senior. She will vault for the first time as a Lady Flame on Thursday.

Marianne Wheeler (Jr., Wilson, Texas) was Bendik's teammate at South Plains, where she recorded a trio of top-six finishes in the high jump at the NJCAA national meet. Wheeler enters the Liberty Kickoff with a personal best of 5-7.

Events to Keep an Eye On
5,000-Meter Run
– Bushman and Klugh will be joined in the 25-lap event by Rebekah Ricksecker (R-Sr., Laurel, Del.), who will be competing unattached. Ricksecker, a two-time Big South outdoor 1,500-meter champion, is back for her final season after taking a redshirt a year ago.

High Jump – Mitchell and Wheeler are part of a talented field, which also includes 2009 Big South outdoor high jump champion Christina Fenske of High Point. Also entered is James Madison's Jessica O'Brien, who owns a 5-8.75 personal best.

2009 Liberty Kickoff Time Schedule
Wednesday, December 2
1 p.m. – Men's heptathlon 60
1:30 p.m. – Men's heptathlon long jump
2:30 p.m. – Men's heptathlon shot put
3:30 p.m. – Men's heptathlon high jump

Thursday, December 3
Noon – Women's pentathlon 60 hurdles
12:30 p.m. – Men's heptathlon 60 hurdles, Women's pentathlon high jump
1:15 p.m. – Men's heptathlon pole vault
2:30 p.m. – Women's pentathlon shot put
3:30 p.m. – Women's pentathlon long jump, Men's weight throw
4:15 p.m. – Women's pole vault
4:30 p.m. – Women's pentathlon 800, Women's triple jump, Men's long jump
4:45 p.m. – Women's weight throw
5 p.m. – Women's 60 hurdles prelims
5:15 p.m. – Men's 60 hurdles prelims, Women's high jump
5:30 p.m. – Men's 60 prelims
5:40 p.m. – Women's 60 prelims
5:55 p.m. – Men's 60 hurdles final
6:05 p.m. – Women's 60 hurdles final
6:10 p.m. – Men's 60 final
6:15 p.m. – Women's 60 final, Women's long jump, Men's triple jump, Men's shot put
6:20 p.m. – Men's mile
6:30 p.m. – Women's mile
6:40 p.m. – Men's 400
6:45 p.m. – Men's pole vault
7 p.m. – Women's 400
7:15 p.m. – Men's 800
7:25 p.m. – Women's 800
7:30 p.m. – Women's shot put, Men's high jump
7:35 p.m. – Men's 200
7:50 p.m. – Women's 200
8:05 p.m. – Men's 5K
8:25 p.m. – Women's 5K
8:50 p.m. – Men's 4 x 400 relay
9 p.m. – Women's 4 x 400 relay
TBA – Men's heptathlon 1,000