Liberty Indoor Track & Field Wins Two Events In The Virginia Tech Invitational

Despite competing without its head coach, Liberty indoor track and field overcame difficulties due to COVID-19 and performed well at the Virginia Tech Invitational Jan. 14-15. The team won two events and notched several other podium finishes. 

After Head Coach Lance Bingham could not travel to Virginia Tech because of COVID-19 protocols, the role of leading the athletes fell to Associate Head Coach Andrew McFadden. Under his guidance, the team recorded two first-place finishes as well as five other top three finishes. 

“(McFadden) did an incredible job leading our troops,” Assistant Coach Shawn Venable said after Saturday’s competitions. “Usually, he’s the number two guy, but he really stepped into that leadership role.”

Venable was not alone in his praise of McFadden’s coaching performance. Redshirt senior sprinter Brandon Letts also commended the success of the coaching staff.

“For what our assistant coaches did, I’m very thankful,” Letts said. “It was a great showing, and I’m glad (McFadden) hired such great stewards to lead us in a
great direction.”

One of the biggest highlights from the meet was the incredible running of redshirt senior sprinter Ryan Drew. Drew finished first in the men’s mile on the first day of competition with a staggering time of 4:04.71, setting a new record for the ASUN Conference and placing third in program history. 

Liberty’s success continued Saturday as freshman Kennedy Sauder provided the Flames with their second victory by finishing first in high jump. Sauder’s 7-1.5 clearance was enough to earn a victory for the Flames as well as tie the program’s record. 

While Drew and Sauder were alone winning their respective competitions, several other Flames set personal records and finished in the top three for their events. 

While competing in the 60, Letts recorded a time of 6.75 to finish third. His performance barely trailed his prelim run time of 6.74, which stands as the third best in program history. 

After the meet, Letts spoke about his excitement regarding his place in Flames history. 

“I was really surprised because we were training through the meet, so I just expected to come out here and be able to execute well,” Letts said. “But we I saw the time, especially as my first 60-meter of the year and as a Flame, I was really surprised, and I was grateful. I just had to thank God.”

Sophomore Maria Hostetler and redshirt senior Noel Palmer finished second and third respectively in the women’s mile, trailing only former Lady Flame Grace Dwyer, who competed independently. 

Anders Janes provided the Flames with a finish in silver for the unseeded pole vault with a 15-5 performance.

In the men’s 200, Flames sprinter Christian Lyon finished in third place with a time of 21.65. 

As this was the team’s first big meet, the Flames hope that this outing bodes well for what is to come as the season continues.

“As a first meet, we got to see where we are at,” Letts said. “We got the first meet jitters out, and now we can go back to training more confident. Or even if we weren’t as confident going in or perform as well, we have a place to say, ‘This is where I’m at, and this is where I want to be.’ Now we can fill in the gaps.”

Senior pole vaulter Taylen Langin stated her confidence in not only the team overall but also in her pole vault team as she and her teammates attempt to record new personal bests. 

“I think it’s going to be a really strong year,” Langin said. “Our pole vault squad is definitely looking the best we’ve looked since I’ve been at Liberty.”

As the team looks forward to the future, the coaching staff continually reminds the athletes that their goal is ultimately to serve God through competition. 

“One of the things that sets Liberty apart is our commitment to Jesus Christ and trying to honor him in all we do,” Venable said. “So, with the track team we talk about performances. Sometimes you do great, other times you struggle a little bit. But, whether it’s a great day or a frustrating day, we always want to honor him and use our gifts and abilities to point to the one that gave us our abilities.”

The team will compete next in the Brant Tolsma Invitational Jan. 20-22 as it continues to prepare for the ASUN Indoor Track Championships Feb. 25-26. 

Shields is the asst. sports editor. Follow him on Twitter

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