Taylor Courtney will compete in the men's 400 hurdles at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second straight season.
Meet Schedule Live Results Meet Informational Webpage Link to Declared Athletes and Start Lists Event by Event "Brackets" @LibertyFlames Twitter Page Flotrack's Coverage Page Jacksonville Weather Hodges Stadium Information For the first time since 2008, the Liberty track & field team will compete in Florida, Thursday through Saturday. This trip to the Sunshine State will take 10 Flames student-athletes to Jacksonville, for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The three days of competition at North Florida's Hodges Stadium will determine the qualifiers for the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. At both the Jacksonville and Austin, Texas venues, 48 athletes will compete in each individual event and 24 teams will run in each relay. The top 12 qualifiers in each event will earn a berth into the 2012 NCAA Division I Championships, set for June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa. Redshirt senior pole vaulter Kolby Shepherd will look to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, Liberty's other nine athletes will each be in search of their first career trip to the NCAA national meet. Liberty's stay in Jacksonville will begin Thursday at 1 p.m., when Ryan Smith competes in the men's discus and Mychelle Cumings throws the women's shot put.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames Live video streaming and live results will both be available throughout the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, with links found at the top of this release and on UNFOspreys.com. LibertyFlames.com will be on hand in Jacksonville, providing live interactive blog coverage of all 10 Liberty athletes' events. LibertyFlames.com will also supplement the blog with periodic updates on @LibertyFlames, the department's official Twitter page. Finally, Flotrack.org will post video highlights and interviews throughout the meet.
Weather Report As to be expected at this time of year, the weather is forecasted to be steamy in Jacksonville this week. The high temperature should reach about 90 degrees all three days of the meet, with abundant sunshine and a very small chance of rain.
NCAA Preliminary Round Event Capsules (Organized Chronologically)
Men's Discus Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 1 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Ryan Smith (R-Jr., Winder, Ga.) Entry Mark/Seed: 169-11 (51.79m)/No. 48 of 48 How He Got Here: After entering the season with a personal-best discus mark of 145-10, Smith has made remarkable improvements in the event. He threw a season-best 169-11 on April 21 to capture his first Big South discus title. Smith was not included on the initial list of 48 discus qualifiers for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. However, he was added to the field after a late scratch. This will be Smith's first time throwing the discus at this meet. Field Breakdown: The men's discus field in Jacksonville features two throwers who placed in the top eight at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Central Michigan's Alex Rose placed fifth nationally a year ago, while Michigan State's Lonnie Pugh took eighth place. USF senior Jared Thomas is the only discus thrower in the East Region who has gone over the 200-foot mark this season, notching a season best of 201-0. He is picked by Track & Field News to place seventh in Des Moines, in an event dominated by the West Region. Road to Des Moines: Each of the 48 throwers will receive three attempts, with the top 16 performers earning three more attempts apiece. At the conclusion of the competition, the discus throwers with the top 12 marks will advance to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a discus throw of 174-3 placed 12th. Last year, the 12th and final Des Moines qualifier threw 178-1.
Women's Shot Put Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 1 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Mychelle Cumings (Fr., Madison, Tenn.) Entry Mark/Seed: 51-2.75 (15.61m)/No. 25 of 48 How She Got Here: Cumings has enjoyed a stellar freshman season, sweeping the Big South indoor and outdoor shot put championships. The Co-Big South Women's Freshman of the Year for outdoor track & field broke the outdoor school record three times. Most recently, her record-breaking 51-2.75 put notched a fourth-place finish at the ECAC meet. Field Breakdown: The women's shot put is a relatively wide-open event, with only five of last year's 12 national qualifiers from the East Region slated to compete in Jacksonville. Highlighting the entrants is Tennessee senior Annie Alexander, who placed third nationally in both 2009 and 2011. Fellow senior Chinwe Okoro of Louisville is the No. 1 seed at 57-0.75 (17.39m). Cumings will see some familiar competitors in Jacksonville, as the top five finishers from the ECAC shot put are all entered. The list includes ECAC champion Michelle Anumba of Duke, the No. 3 seed at 56-4.5 (17.18m). Road to Des Moines: All 48 shot putters will take three attempts, with the top 16 throwers advancing to finals. After each of the 16 finalists takes three more throws, the top 12 competitors will punch their tickets to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a shot put of 51-6.5 punched a national ticket. Last year, it was significantly tougher, as the 12th-place shot putter reached 53-3.5.
Women's Javelin Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Christina Mitchell (R-Jr., Monroe, Va.) Entry Mark/Seed: 146-1 (44.54m)/No. 34 of 48 How She Got Here: Heretofore known primarily for her ability in the multi events, Mitchell has made large strides in the javelin in 2012. The redshirt junior has bolstered her personal best from 134-8 to a school-record 146-1. Mitchell captured the Big South javelin title and placed 12th at the ECAC Championship. Field Breakdown: It will be interesting to see how the women's javelin competition unfolds in Jacksonville, with nine of the top 11 seeds belonging to freshmen and sophomores. Tulane senior Ana Ruzevic placed fourth nationally in the event in 2011 and is projected by Track & Field News to come in seventh this time around. Mitchell will be joined by one other Big South thrower in the field. Coastal Carolina Danielle England, one of 14 freshman entrants, placed fourth in the Big South javelin competition last month. Road to Des Moines: As with the other throwing events, all 48 javelin throwers will receive three attempts. At that point, the field will be culled to 16 finalists. After three more rounds of throws, the top 12 throwers will qualify for Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: The 12th-place women's javelin thrower stretched the tape to 148-4 in 2010, before improving to 151-4 last season.
Men's 400 Hurdles Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 4:30 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Friday at 7:30 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Taylor Courtney (R-Jr., Manheim, Pa.) Entry Mark/Seed: 52.46/No. 40 of 48 How He Got Here: Courtney will run the 400 hurdles at this meet for the second straight year, thanks to his personal-best 52.46 clocking which won the event at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational on April 7. Courtney appeared en route to his first Big South 400 hurdles title before a fall on the final straightaway relegated him to fifth place. Field Breakdown: Seven of the 12 400-meter hurdlers who advanced from the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet to Des Moines a year ago are back in 2012, led by Michigan sophomore Ali Arastu and USF senior David Aristil. Arastu, the region's top seed at 49.43 seconds, is picked by Track & Field News to finish fifth nationally in this event. Aristil has recorded top five national finishes each of the last two years, placing fifth in 2010 and fourth in 2011. Road to Des Moines: Six first-round heats will be contested Thursday afternoon, with the top three runners in each heat and the next nine fastest times advancing to the quarterfinals. Friday evening's quarterfinal round will feature three heats. The top three finishers in each quarterfinal section and the next three fastest times will move on to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, men's 400 hurdlers needed a time of 50.79 or faster to qualify for the national meet. Last year, the 12th and final Des Moines time qualifier ran 51.17 seconds.
Women's 1,500 Event Schedule: First Round – Thursday at 6 p.m.; Quarterfinal – Saturday at 6:45 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Jennifer Klugh (Sr., Centerburg, Ohio) Entry Mark/Seed: 4:24.16/No. 45 of 48 How She Got Here: Klugh was Liberty's most unlikely NCAA Preliminary Round qualifier for the third straight season. Her personal-best 1,500-meter clocking of 4:24.16 from the Duke Twilight on May 6 ranked No. 76 in the East Region at the end of the regular season. However, Klugh received her third consecutive NCAA Preliminary Round invitation after 31 runners ahead of her scratched. Klugh has enjoyed a successful senior season at a variety of distances. She set new outdoor personal bests in the 800 (2:14.21), 1,500 (4:24.16), 3K (9:41.33) and 5K (17:25.87), winning Big South titles in the 1,500 and 5K. Field Breakdown: Villanova's Sheila Reid won the NCAA national title at 1,500 meters in 2011 but will focus on the 5K this season. Despite her absence, the East Region still boasts a strong field of contenders in the 1,500. Stony Brook's Lucy Van Dalen won the NCAA indoor national championship in the mile this season, while Georgetown's Emily Infeld captured the indoor national title in the 3K. Track & Field News projects Infeld to place second in the national 1,500 final, with Van Dalen following in fourth place. Nearly a quarter of the 48-member field is from two schools, Florida State and Georgetown. Six Seminoles and five Hoyas will run the women's 1,500 in Jacksonville. Road to Des Moines: Four heats of 12 competitors will be run Thursday evening, with the top five placers in each section and the next four time qualifiers earning a spot in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal round, set for Saturday evening, will feature two 12-member heats. The top five finishers in each race and the next two fastest times will punch their Des Moines tickets. What it Historically Takes to Advance: The final women's 1,500-meter time qualifier in 2010 clocked a time of 4:19.87. Last year, it was not quite as tough, with a time of 4:21.08 advancing to Des Moines.
Men's Hammer Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 10 a.m. Liberty Competitor: Ryan Smith (R-Jr., Winder, Ga.) Entry Mark/Seed: 194-11 (59.42m)/No. 33 of 48 How He Got Here: As in the discus, Ryan Smith has made significant improvements in the hammer this season. He has boosted his personal best from 184-10 to 194-11. That mark came at the Big South meet, where he placed second. Smith is the first Liberty men's hammer thrower to qualify for the NCAA Division I Preliminary Round meet in its three years of existence. Field Breakdown: The men's hammer is a strong event in the East Region, featuring seven of Track & Field News' top 10 national picks. Leading the way are the publication's projected national champion, Conor McCullough of Princeton, and its pick for second place, Alexander Ziegler of Virginia Tech. McCullough is the national leader in the event at 242-10 and is undefeated so far in 2012. Meanwhile, Ziegler is the defending national champion in the men's hammer. The Hokie junior owns a best mark of 240-1 this season. Smith will be joined in the field by the Big South men's hammer champion, Gardner-Webb sophomore Carson Sears. Sears is seeded No. 9 in the region, thanks to a season-best mark of 211-6. Road to Des Moines: Each of the 48 men's hammer throwers will receive three attempts, after which the field will be trimmed to 16 finalists. After each of the finalists takes three more throws, the top 12 throwers will advance to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: It has taken almost the same distance to place in the top 12 in the men's hammer each of the past two years. In 2010, the magic distance was 202-3. Last season, it was 201-8.
Women's Discus Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 3 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Mychelle Cumings (Fr., Madison, Tenn.) Entry Mark/Seed: 167-0 (50.91m)/No. 20 of 48 How She Got Here: Prior to this season, only one Liberty women's discus competitor had ever thrown over 150 feet. Cumings has done so in six consecutive meets, including a school-record 167-0 toss at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational on April 7. Cumings won the Big South discus championship and placed seventh at the ECAC meet. She is one of only five freshmen in the East Region who qualified for the NCAA Preliminary Round meet in both the women's shot put and discus. Field Breakdown: Just like Thursday's women's shot put competition, the duo of Louisville's Chinwe Okoro and Tennessee's Annie Alexander could battle for top honors in the discus. Okoro is the region's No. 1 seed at 191-1. Meanwhile, Alexander is forecasted by Track & Field News to match her third-place national finish from 2011. Road to Des Moines: The 48 women's discus competitors will take three throws apiece, before the field is narrowed down to 16 finalists. After the finalists take their last three attempts, the top 12 throwers will move on to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a throw of 162-11 earned the coveted 12th place in the women's discus at this meet. Last year, a 12th-place finish required a 166-9 heave.
Women's High Jump Event Schedule: First Round – Friday at 5 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Mia Aghaji (R-Sr., Chester, Va.) Entry Mark/Seed: 5-9.25 (1.76m)/No. 38 of 48 How She Got Here: Aghaji's best high jumping of the season happened April 20 at the Big South meet. That afternoon in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the redshirt senior cleared a career-best 5-9.25 on her first attempt. The effort placed her second in the event, moved her up to No. 2 in program history and enabled her to high jump at the NCAA Preliminary Round meet for the first time. Field Breakdown: The women's high jump is a strong event in the East Region, as eight different jumpers who will compete in Jacksonville have recorded top eight national finishes in either the NCAA indoor or outdoor women's high jump finals during their careers. Topping the performance list are Boston University junior Allison Barwise and East Carolina sophomore Tynita Butts, who have both cleared 6-1.5 this season. Barwise's effort came at the ECAC meet. Alabama's Krystle Schade was the NCAA national high jump runner-up indoors this season, while Connecticut's Natasha McLaren came in third at the same meet. Aghaji will square off with Big South rival Kierra Gabe of Coastal Carolina in Jacksonville. Gabe, whose season-best clearance is also 5-9.25, was the Big South indoor and outdoor women's high jump champion this year. Road to Des Moines: The 48 women's high jumpers will be divided into two groups, which will high jump simultaneously at different pits. The competition will continue until all competitors have attempted at least one bar height and there are 12 or fewer jumpers remaining overall. At this point, ties will be broken and jump-offs will be conducted if necessary, determining the 12 Des Moines qualifiers. What it Historically Takes to Advance: Each of the last two years, a 5-10 high jump clearance has been sufficient to qualify for the national meet, depending on an athlete's number of misses up to that point.
Men's 3,000 Steeplechase Event Schedule: Quarterfinal – Friday at 8:50 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Josh MacDonald (So., San Leandro, Calif.) Entry Mark/Seed: 8:56.65/No. 20 of 48 How He Got Here: MacDonald has lowered his steeplechase time significantly this season, taking his 9:15.37 personal best from 2011 all the way down to 8:56.65. That time came while MacDonald finished second in the Big South steeplechase final. The California native then went on to place fifth at the Penn Relays and third in the IC4A final. Field Breakdown: MacDonald will be part of a very strong field of men's steeplechase competitors in Jacksonville. Nine of last year's 12 national qualifiers are back, and seven of Track & Field News' top eight national picks hail from the East Region. Princeton senior Donn Cabral highlights the 48-member field. The two-time national steeplechase runner-up raced to an American collegiate record time of 8:19.14 last Friday in California. Cabral will face off against a cadre of talented Big 10 steeplechasers, led by conference champion Craig Forys of Michigan. Five Indiana Hoosiers will also run the steeplechase in Jacksonville, including Andrew Poore, who came in third nationally in 2011. The Big South will be well represented in the steeplechase Friday evening, with High Point Panthers Jacob Smith and Dakota Peachee joining MacDonald in the field. Smith was the Big South champion with a time of 8:54.56. Road to Des Moines: Three heats of the steeplechase will be contested Friday evening. The top three finishers in each heat and the next three fastest times will all earn a spot in Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, 8:44.36 was the final steeplechase time qualifier to the national meet. A year ago, an 8:46.62 effort advanced to Des Moines as a time qualifier.
Men's Pole Vault Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 11 a.m. Liberty Competitor: Kolby Shepherd (R-Sr., Dublin, Ga.) Entry Mark/Seed: 16-10 (5.13m)/No. 33 of 48 How He Got Here: After pole vaulting at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Kolby Shepherd has been limited by injury in 2012. However, he was still able to win his third Big South outdoor pole vault title. Most recently, Shepherd vaulted a season-best 16-10 to place third at the IC4A Championship. Shepherd, who owns a pole vault personal best of 17-7.25, is seeking his first 17-foot clearance since the IC4A indoor meet on March 3. Field Breakdown: Six pole vaulters who have recorded NCAA top eight finishes during their career will compete in Jacksonville on Saturday. Highlighting the list is South Carolina senior Marvin Reitze. The Gamecock, who has cleared 18-1 this season, was the 2012 NCAA indoor runner-up and is picked by Track & Field News to place fourth outdoors. Shepherd has pole vaulted against Virginia Tech many times during his career, and will see four Hokies on Saturday. Two of them, Joe Davis and Hunter Hall, joined Shepherd in qualifying for Des Moines last season. Road to Des Moines: The 48 pole vaulters will be split into two groups of 24, which will compete simultaneously at two different pits. Once all vaulters have competed at a height and there are 12 or fewer competitors left when the bar is moved up, the competition will be halted. At that point, the 12 Des Moines qualifiers will be determined and a jump-off will be conducted if necessary. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a 17-2.75 clearance was required for national qualification in the men's pole vault. Last year, one vaulter got to Des Moines by getting over 16-10.75 on his first attempt. For Shepherd, his Des Moines ticket was punched by a first-attempt clearance at 17-0.75.
Women's Hammer Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 2 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Melinda Bendik (R-Sr., Odessa, Texas) Entry Mark/Seed: 201-3 (61.35m)/No. 8 of 48 How She Got Here: Bendik has been a top performer in the hammer throughout her senior campaign, breaking the school record four times. Her most recent record toss, which landed at 201-3, won the ECAC hammer title on May 12. Bendik also won her first Big South hammer championship on April 19. Bendik is Liberty's highest-seeded performer at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, at No. 8. She has defeated two of the throwers seeded ahead of her head to head this season, including No. 3 Victoria Flowers of Connecticut at the ECAC meet and No. 6 Brieanna Kennedy of LSU at the Texas Relays. Bendik threw the hammer at the 2010 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, placing 33rd with a throw of 171-2 in Greensboro, N.C. Field Breakdown: The women's hammer competition could be somewhat wide open in Jacksonville, with only five of last year's 12 national qualifiers returning. Nikola Lomnicka of Georgia is the most decorated thrower in the field, as she was the 2010 national champion in this event and placed third last year. Ohio State sophomore Alexis Thomas is the East Region's No. 1 seed at 212-0. Three Big South throwers will compete in the hammer in Jacksonville, also including Coastal Carolina's Shantelle Patterson and Campbell's Jessica Dunston. Road to Des Moines: All 48 entrants will take three hammer throws. Then, the top 16 throwers will earn three more throws during finals. At the conclusion of the competition, the first 12 women's hammer throwers will qualify for Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a throw of 185-1 was sufficient to place in the top 12 at this meet. Last year, only women's hammer throwers who reached 191-3 or longer advanced to Des Moines from Bloomington, Ind.
Women's Triple Jump Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Mia Aghaji (R-Sr., Chester, Va.) Entry Mark/Seed: 42-1.25 (12.83m)/No. 17 of 48 How She Got Here: Aghaji is coming off of her best-ever triple jump performance, which saw her sail out to a school-record 42-1.25 and earn a runner-up finish at the ECAC meet. Aghaji, who also won her third straight Big South outdoor triple jump title, is one of only three women at this meet competing in both the high jump and triple jump. Aghaji will triple jump at the NCAA Division I Preliminary Round meet for the second year in a row. In 2011, she jumped 40-1.5 to tie for 28th place. Field Breakdown: Five of the triple jumpers Track & Field News expects to finish in the top eight in Des Moines will be in action on Saturday, including Southern Miss senior Ganna Demydova. The publication's projected 2012 national champion placed third nationally in 2011 and has jumped 46-0.5 so far this season. Florida State's Michelle Jenjie was the 2012 national indoor runner-up, while Michigan State freshman Tori Franklin came in third at the same meet. April Sinkler of Clemson, who is projected to finish No. 6 nationally in the triple jump, is also high jumping and long jumping in Jacksonville. Road to Des Moines: The 48 triple jumpers will take three attempts apiece, which will be used to determine the 16 finalists. After the finalists each jump three more times, the top 12 triple jumpers will earn a berth in the Des Moines field. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, a triple jump of 41-8.5 was required to make the top 12. Last year, a 41-2.5 leap was good for 12th place in the East Region.
Men's High Jump Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 5 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Kyle Wheeler (Fr., Wilson, Texas) Entry Mark/Seed: 7-1 (2.16m)/No. 21 of 48 How He Got Here: Wheeler has made pretty steady progression in the high jump during his first collegiate outdoor season, improving his season best from 6-8.75 to 6-10.75 to 6-11.75 to 7-1. The Big South Freshman of the Year's 7-1 clearance came on his first attempt, while winning the Big South title on April 20. Later in the competition, Wheeler had a couple near misses at 7-2.25. Field Breakdown: A talented field of men's high jumpers is set to compete in Jacksonville, including six of Track & Field News' projected top eight finishers in Des Moines. The publication tabs Indiana's Derek Drouin, the 2010 national champion, to capture his second career outdoor national title this year. Ricky Robertson of Mississippi has finished as the national runner-up each of the past two years and is the region's top seed at 7-7.25. Florida's Dwight Barbiasz and Indiana's Darius King shared runner-up honors at the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Road to Des Moines: The high jumpers will be separated into two groups of 24, who will compete simultaneously at two different pits. After all 48 entrants have contested at least one height and 12 or fewer jumpers remain in the competition, jumping will cease. The 12 Des Moines qualifiers will then be determined using tiebreakers and jump-offs if necessary. What it Historically Takes to Advance: In 2010, five high jumpers advanced to the national meet with 6-11 clearances. Things were a bit tougher a year ago, as two athletes cleared 7-0.25 but were on the outside looking in.
Men's Shot Put Event Schedule: First Round – Saturday at 5 p.m. Liberty Competitor: Ryan Smith (R-Jr., Winder, Ga.) Entry Mark/Seed: 59-9.75 (18.23m)/No. 16 of 48 How He Got Here: Smith's best-ever outdoor shot put mark, 59-9.75, came on his sixth and final throw at the IC4A Championship on May 13. That effort earned a third-place finish in the competition. The redshirt junior also kept his Big South streak going, as he has now won all six conference men's shot put titles he has competed for in his career, including three apiece indoors and outdoors. Smith hopes the third time is the charm, as he will throw the shot put at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the third consecutive year. The Georgia native has not been far away from the top 12 either of the past two years, placing 16th in 2010 and 18th a year ago. Smith will also aim for his first outdoor 60-foot shot put, after joining the 60-foot club indoors with a 60-1.75 heave at the Big South meet in February. Field Breakdown: Penn State senior Joe Kovacs, one of eight national qualifiers who returns in 2012, tops the field of Jacksonville entrants. He has shot putted 68-5 this season and is Track & Field News' pick to finish third in Des Moines. Auburn's Stephen Saenz, whose season best is 64-2.5, was the East Region's top finisher at the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, where he came in fourth. Smith waged a spirited shot put competition with Monmouth senior Vincent Elardo and Cornell freshman Stephen Mozia at the IC4A meet, with Elardo winning on his last throw and Mozia placing second. All three of them figure to be in the hunt for one of the 12 national-qualifying berths on Saturday. Smith, who will be competing in his third event in three days, is the only NCAA Division I men's thrower in the nation who will compete in the shot put, discus and hammer this weekend. Road to Des Moines: All 48 shot putters will take three attempts before the field is narrowed down to 16 finalists. After each of the 16 competitors makes three more throws, the top 12 performers will move on to Des Moines. What it Historically Takes to Advance: Both years of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet have seen similar throws required to place in the top 12. In 2010, 58-7.25 advanced a shot putter to the national meet, while a 58-5.25 put did the trick last season.
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