Olivia Charnuski set Liberty's school record in the women's hurdles with her 13.65 clocking at Thursday's Liberty Twilight Qualifier.
Watch video footage of the men's 800 (courtesy of VMIKeydets.com, 31 MB file size) Liberty's Olivia Charnuski and Melinda Bendik each broke school records, providing two of many notable performances at Thursday's Liberty Twilight Qualifier, contested at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. Charnuski broke the Liberty women's 100-meter hurdles record which had stood for 21 years, with her wind-aided 13.65 clocking in the prelims. Meanwhile, Bendik eclipsed her own women's hammer standard, after reaching 181-6 on her winning toss. The one-day meet also featured five other individual event victories by Liberty athletes, three new IC4A qualifications by the Flames and a trio of facility records. One of the facility records came in the meet's headline event, the men's 800-meter run. The top four finishers all shattered the existing standard of 1:49.60, set by Liberty's Chuck Lyngaas at the 1997 Liberty Twilight Qualifier. Leading the way was Virginia freshman Robby Andrews, as the reigning NCAA Division I indoor national champion at 800 meters staved off the hard-charging Felix Kitur of VMI, 1:47.73 to 1:47.78. Add in the 1:48.36 clocking by third-place Lance Roller from Virginia, and three of the top nine men's 800-meter times in the NCAA this season were posted during Thursday's memorable two-lapper. Other Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex records went to Josh Scott of St. Augustine's in the men's 400 (45.99) and Sintayehu Taye of Virginia in the men's 1,500 (3:46.20).
Women's Meet Recap Charnuski, who had not run faster than 14.18 in the 100-meter hurdles during her two seasons with the Lady Flames, obliterated her previous best by more than a half second on Thursday. Aided by a 2.8 m/s tailwind, the Canadian ran nearly stride-for-stride with post-collegiate athlete Samaiyah Islam of the Real Deal Track Club in her preliminary heat. Delethea Quarles' hand-timed 13.5 effort in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1989 Penn Relays had existed as the Liberty standard for 21 years to the day, until Charnuski's breakthrough performance. Charnuski's time would have set an all-time Big South record as well, but the wind reading must be 2.0 m/s or less to establish official conference records. Charnuski chose to forego the final, after learning that she had jumped all the way up to No. 33 on the East Region performance list. In her stead, teammate Krystle Matthews finished as the women's 100-meter hurdles runner-up behind Islam, in a new personal-best time of 14.58 seconds. Bendik's 181-6 heave in the women's hammer won the event by more than 17 feet and added 27 inches to the school mark the junior had most recently set at the Merrill Lynch Track Classic on April 10. Bendik had earlier captured the women's discus title as well, with a winning throw of 141-3. She finished as a double winner in the discus and hammer competitions at both of Liberty's home outdoor meets this season. Chenoa Freeman, one of several Liberty seniors competing in their final home meet on Thursday, posted a pair of impressive performances. She won the women's 400-meter dash comfortably, over Cynetheia Rooks, a four-time All-American while at LSU, in a time of 55.05. Freeman also teamed up with Melanie Sims, Charnuski and Alyssa Pegues to clock a season-best 46.59 in the 4 x 100 relay, earning a third-place finish. Another Lady Flame senior, Erin Hudson, also closed out her home career with a bang. She cleared a career-best 11-1.75 in the women's pole vault, placing seventh in the event and becoming the seventh Liberty women's vaulter ever to crack the 11-foot barrier. Also starring for Liberty in the women's pole vault was freshman Shelley Parker. She was successful at 11-7.75 and tied Bridgewater's Chrissy Rhodes for third place in the final standings. The Lady Flames put a pair of triple jumpers past the 39-foot mark in the same meet for the first time since 1999, taking third and fourth place in the event. Mia Aghaji reached a season-best 39-4, while Pegues landed at an outdoor personal-best 39-1.75. Pegues, a sophomore, is the fifth Liberty women's triple jumper ever to go past 39 feet at an outdoor meet.
Men's Meet Recap The Liberty men's squad fared exceptionally well in the field events on Thursday, led by a 1-3-5-7 finish in the men's long jump, which saw four Flames jump over 24 feet. Clarence Powell recorded a 24-7.25 on his sixth and final attempt, matching the top mark of Campbell's Diego Lawrence. Powell was then awarded the victory, on the basis of a longer second jump than Lawrence (24-6.25 to 24-0.75). Third-place Oronde Vassell also saved his best jump for last, stretching the measuring tape to a career-long 24-5.5 on the senior's final home attempt. The distances for fifth-place Aaron Johnson (24-2.5) and seventh-place Kevin Reddington (24-1) also established new personal bests. Liberty now boasts five of the top 36 men's long jump performers in the East Region this season. Elliot Galeone successfully defended his Liberty Twilight Qualifier title in the men's javelin, spearheading a 1-3-4 finish by the Flames. Galeone's winning throw sailed 204-10. Ryan Bell placed third at 197-5, while teammate Geren Woodbridge uncorked a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying 194-5 throw for fourth place. Galeone also finished second behind Liberty assistant coach Clendon Henderson in the men's discus. Galeone's best mark of the day, 169-5, fell exactly 10 feet shy of his coach's winning throw. Redshirt freshman Ryan Smith recorded personal bests in both of his throwing events, on his way to a victory in the shot put and a runner-up finish in the hammer. Smith's best effort in the shot put, 57-0.25, landed nearly five feet beyond the best mark of runner-up Cody Davis from VMI. Smith later heaved the hammer 183-3 at the Campus East throwing venue, climbing up to fifth place on Liberty's all-time performance list in the event. Chris Johnson punched his ticket to the IC4A meet in the men's triple jump, hop, skip and jumping his way to a career-best 48-1.25 and third place. Reddington ended up fifth in the event, also setting a new personal best at 47-3.75. Liberty's Kolby Shepherd, redshirting this season, pole vaulted 16-8.75 to put himself into a jump-off with Virginia Tech's Hunter Hall. Shepherd then cleared 16-10.75 on his first try during the jump-off to seal the victory. With all of the fireworks taking place at the front of the pack in the men's 800-meter run, many spectators may have missed Liberty's other new IC4A-qualifying performance of the evening. Sophomore Isaac Wendland crossed the line fifth, while slicing more than two seconds off of his previous best time with a 1:50.22. Wendland is now the second-fastest 800-meter runner in program history, trailing only Lyngaas' aforementioned 1:49.60 from the 1997 Liberty Twilight Qualifier. The Flames finished first in both men's relays, highlighted by a season-best 40.76 effort in the 4 x 100. That relay quartet included Roderick Spruel, Andre Washington, Vassell and Jacey Bailey. Washington then came back to lead off for the victorious 4 x 400 squad, under the lights. He was joined by Drew Edwards, Chris Herbst and Taylor Courtney in clocking a 3:18.43.
Liberty will send seven mid-distance and distance runners to Stanford, Calif., for Saturday evening's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. Current Big South Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Week Jaime Watson will be the first Lady Flame to take the track, competing in section 1 of the women's 800-meter run at 8:02 p.m. Eastern.