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LU Set for First Meet at Renovated Facility

March 30, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Freshman Shelley Parker is one of the favorites in Saturday morning's women's pole vault.

Freshman Shelley Parker is one of the favorites in Saturday morning's women's pole vault.

Meet Schedule

Performance List (Updated on 4/1 at 9:15 p.m.)

A bit of extra excitement and anticipation surrounds the Liberty Collegiate Invitational, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. In addition to being the Flames' first home meet of the 2010 outdoor season, the two-day event will serve as Liberty's inaugural track & field competition at the newly renovated facility.

Fans attending the meet will be able to utilize Osborne Stadium's 1,000 permanent seats, which debuted during Liberty's 2009 men's and women's soccer seasons. They should also enjoy the forecasted warm, sunny conditions, as they watch athletes from 19 different universities compete. Participating teams feature Big South squads Radford and VMI, as well as Davidson, East Tennessee State, Elon and Sacred Heart.

The meet will get underway Friday at 1 p.m., when the gun goes off for the decathlon 100-meter dash. The first five decathlon events, the first four heptathlon disciplines and the invitational section of the men's discus are the only events slated for Friday.

Saturday's full day of activity begins at 9 a.m., with the women's javelin, women's hammer and men's 5K. The women's hammer will be one of several throwing events held at Liberty's brand-new Campus East throwing cage.

Mapping Out the Multis
Both the decathlon and heptathlon feature past Liberty Collegiate Invitational champions, and both competitions promise intriguing matchups.

Redshirt junior Geren Woodbridge is the top seed among the 11 decathlon entrants, with a personal-best score of 6,968 points. He is coming off of an indoor season which saw him claim his second straight Big South heptathlon crown.

Woodbridge's top competition figures to come from Penn State's Anya Uzoh and Baldwin-Wallace's Steven Price. Uzoh placed third in last season's Penn Relays decathlon, while Price took the decathlon title at the 2008 Liberty Collegiate Invitational.

In the heptathlon, Courtney Hartman of Bridgewater is back to defend her 2009 championship. The two-time NCAA Division III All-American could be challenged by Lady Flames Krystle Matthews and Christina Mitchell. Matthews was the 2008 Big South indoor pentathlon champion, while Mitchell will be making her heptathlon debut.

Welcome Back, Watson
Redshirt senior Jaime Watson will compete this weekend, for the first time since running the 800 at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships on March 12. She is entered in Saturday afternoon's 800-meter run, where Watson will set her sights on the facility (2:07.95) and program (2:08.00) records. 

Watson could also help pull classmate Rebekah Ricksecker to an ECAC qualifier. Ricksecker's season-best time of 2:11.93 is less than a half-second off the ECAC standard, 2:11.44.

Observations from Osborne
Spectators in the Osborne Stadium seating area on Saturday will not only be able to take in all of the running events, but will also have a prime viewing location for two of the meet's most anticipated field events, the men's long jump and men's javelin.

The long jump, scheduled for a noon start, features Davidson assistant coach Allen Simms. An All-American during his collegiate career at USC, his entry mark is nearly 25 feet. The field of 32 competitors also includes both the 2009 Big South outdoor long jump champion—Liberty's Anthony Bryant—and the 2010 Big South indoor long jump titlist—VMI's Ademola Titcombe. Not to be overlooked are two other Flames—Aaron Johnson and Oronde Vassell—who have already qualified for the IC4A meet this season.

The men's javelin, listed to start at 12:45 p.m., promises a battle between Liberty teammates Ryan Bell and Elliot Galeone. Bell, the school record holder at 217-10, won this event a year ago. However, 2008 Liberty Collegiate Invitational javelin champion Galeone has been the Flames' top javelin thrower so far in 2010. He currently ranks No. 23 nationally at 214-5.

Talking Up the Throws
Fans venturing across the bridge to the throwing facility on Campus East should be in for a treat, beginning with Saturday's opening event, the women's hammer. Radford sophomore Aimee Veatch, the defending Big South hammer champion, is scheduled to compete. However, she could be challenged by Liberty newcomer Melinda Bendik, who has already broken the school record with a 175-4 heave.

After the women's event is completed, the men's hammer throwers will take over the cage. Headlining the field is Radford's Timothy Morse, ranked No. 10 in the nation at 208-0. Ryan Smith is the Flames' best hope in the event, owning an IC4A-qualifying mark of 174-6.

Bendik will return to the circle at 1 p.m. for the women's discus. The top seed in the event, the Lone Star State native will have her eyes set on the ECAC standard, 139-5. However, she can't forget about Elon's duo of Justine Robertson (2008 Liberty Collegiate Invitational champion) and Alyssa Girvin (2009 Liberty Collegiate Invitational champion).

Head-to-Head Headliners
The anticipated women's hammer showdown between Veatch and Bendik is just one of several individual battles to track at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational. The women's pole vault, 1,500 and 400 events also feature intriguing matchups.

The women's pole vault could be the top event to focus on during the early portion of Saturday's action, as it is scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. start. The spotlight figures to be on freshmen Shelley Parker of Liberty and Kate Collins of VMI. Parker defeated Collins at the Liberty Kickoff indoor meet, where both athletes made their collegiate debuts. However, Collins later won the Big South pole vault crown while Parker shared third place. Bridgewater's Christina Rhodes figures to be in the hunt as well, as the defending Liberty Collegiate Invitational champion and the 2010 ODAC indoor pole vault winner.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., attention will return to the track for a unique matchup between two of the Big South Conference's most talented women's distance runners, Liberty's Ashley Osborne and VMI's Hannah Granger. The last two Big South indoor 5K champions are both coming off of impressive performances.

Osborne clocked a 35:35 10K at the Raleigh Relays Friday night, briefly claiming the national lead in the event. The next day, Granger posted an impressive 5K victory at the Military Track & Field Championships, in a personal-best 17:29. Just two weeks before the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the duo will face off at a shorter distance than usual, 1,500 meters.

An hour and a half later, two familiar foes will reunite at their preferred distance, 400 meters. Liberty senior Chenoa Freeman won the 400 at the 2008 Liberty Collegiate Invitational, but was prevented from repeating a season ago by Robin Yerkes of Roanoke College. The duo's rubber match of sorts will take place at approximately 3 p.m.

Freeman clocked a personal-best 55.56 during the indoor season and claimed runner-up honors at the Big South Conference meet. Meanwhile, Yerkes' personal-best 56.04 helped her finish second at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Prominent Post-Collegiates
In addition to coaching Liberty's throwers, Clendon Henderson will attempt to win his fourth straight discus title at this meet during a special invitational section of the men's discus, Friday at 5 p.m. The fifth-place finisher at the 2009 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Henderson won the discus last weekend at the Raleigh Relays, with a 178-8 toss. Liberty redshirt junior Galeone, with a 154-5 season best, is also entered.

The meet will also feature a 2008 Olympian, sprinter Sherry Fletcher. Fletcher, who is slated to run both the 100 and 200-meter dashes on Saturday, represented Grenada in the 100 at the Beijing Olympic Games. She also captured the NCAA national title at 100 meters for LSU in 2007 and owns personal bests of 11.18 seconds for the 100 and 22.67 for the 200.