Emotional start to season

Track and Field teams honor former teammate with 16 event victories at Liberty Open

Liberty University’s men’s and women’s track and field teams captured 16 event victories Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18, as hosts of the
Liberty Open.

Although the teams were focused on their performance in their first meet of the new year, the Flames and Lady Flames also competed in honor of their former teammate Darius Dixon, who was tragically killed in a car accident Dec. 7.

Dixon, a freshman who had competed in his first collegiate meet just a few days prior to his death, was remembered as Head Coach Brant Tolsma reflected on Dixon’s time with the team. Prior to the 400-meter dash, one of Dixon’s races, Tolsma told of the joy Dixon brought to his teammates and expressed his confidence in Dixon’s relationship with God.

The men’s team honored Dixon by bringing home nine wins on the weekend, including four on the track, while the women paid tribute to their former teammate by totaling seven victories, with five coming in the field.

On the track, redshirt senior Meghan Burggraf coasted to win in the 500-meter dash. She crossed the finish line at 1:16.67.

“(T)he first race back from Christmas break is kind of always, like, not sure how I’m gonna do, but I was really happy about it,” Burggraf said. “My legs were a little tight, but the Lord brought me through.”


Burggraf finished the race more than eight seconds ahead of the second-place runner.

“When I’m running, I can’t really tell where I am,” Burggraf said. “I didn’t really know how far ahead I was, but I just kept telling myself I need to keep pushing it, because you never know.”

Burggraf was later joined by Corinn Bedell, Mary Witmer and Ansley Gebben in a 13-sec victory in the 4×400-meter relay. The group finished the last event of the two-day meet
in 3:57.26.

During the men’s races on the track, junior John Sherret won the 800-meter run with a time of 1:55.64.

Freshman Stephen Racanelli added another victory for the Flames with a 22.52-second race in the 200-meter dash. Fellow freshman Colin Schultz wrapped up the 1,000-meter race in 2:32.78 for another Flames win.

The men then matched the women with the other 4×400-meter relay victory. Redshirt junior Tyler Weigandt joined Sherret, Racanelli and Schultz for the race, and the quartet finished in 3:28.55.

In the field, the Lady Flames captured wins in the pentathlon, triple jump and pole vault and swept the throwing categories.

Junior Riley Brandon won the pentathlon with 3,346 points. Teammates Jessica Harrison and Erika Jackson rounded out the top three, with second and third-place finishes, respectively. Each of the three athletes finished with new personal scoring records.

In the triple jump, sophomore Janae Jones won for the second straight meet. Her 39-0.25 jump beat out the competition by more than two feet.

After winning the Liberty Open as a senior in high school competing unattached last season, Brooke Shelton, currently a freshman at Liberty, brought home the pole vault victory for the Lady Flames. Her 11-3.75 vault edged out the second-place finisher by more than five inches.

Redshirt junior Jocelyn Williams started off the throwing competition for the Lady Flames with a victory in the weight throw. Although all of Williams’ throws were good enough to win the competition, her final throw of 62-6.5 was her best of the competition.


“I felt we had a really consistent series, and (I was) continually working up to throwing harder and harder, so it was a really great competition for me,” Williams said. “(T)he first throw for me was a decent throw, so after that, we were just working on trying to throw further and harder and working on technique.”

Her last heave tied her personal best and the Liberty record and outdistanced the rest of the field by more than nine feet. Williams currently ranks No.17 in the nation with the throw.

Williams then added a second-place finish in the shot put with a 42-3.25 toss, which again tied her personal best. She was joined by three Lady Flames, who combined to capture the top four spots in the event. Rachel Barnes and Jennifer Nicholson finished in third and fourth places with 41-10.75 and 40-7.5 throws, respectively. Junior Mychelle Cumings won the shot put for the Lady Flames with a 49-0.75 throw.

“I was honestly very nervous, becasue practice had just not been going all that great,” Cumings said. “… (But) I was just really at peace today, and just whatever happened, happened. … Everything seemed to be (going) well today, so I’m really blessed.”

In the men’s field competition, the Flames matched the Lady Flames with victories in pole vault, triple jump, shot put and weight throw. The Flames also added a win in the high jump.

Sophomore Patrick Donigan leaped to 6-2.25 for first place in the high jump. He was joined in the winner’s column by freshman Aklesso Agama, who won with a 47-0.75 jump.

In the pole vault, Harrison Allen and Cody Bingham took first and second, respectively. Both vaulted to 15-3, but Allen was awarded the win because he had fewer misses.

As was the case on the women’s side, the Flames swept the throwing events.

In the weight throw, redshirt sophomore David Scouten and junior Fred Fulton won first and second places with 58-8 and 53-6.5 throws, respectively.

Scouten added a second-place finish for the Flames in the shot put. His heave landed at 49-5.

“(My best weight throw) was just a really balanced throw. I was able to control it and throw far,” Scouten said. “(My shot put) was still an improvement from my last meet. I’m not where I wanna be yet, but I’m happy to improve each meet.”

Redshirt senior Jacob DeValve threw inches farther than Scouten to claim the victory in the shot put.

His best throw flew 49-7.5.

The Flames and Lady Flames will travel to Blacksburg, Va., to compete in the Hokie Invitational Friday and Saturday, Jan. 24-25.

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