Meghan Burggraf (right) and Corinn Bedell (left) finished first and second in the women's 400 on Thursday.
Liberty won 16 events and notched nine IC4A/ECAC-qualifying marks on Thursday, the final day of competition at the 10th annual Liberty Kickoff inside the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Fred Fulton was one of numerous Liberty newcomers to make impressive debuts, as the Messiah College transfer won both the men's shot put and weight throw and qualified for the IC4A meet in each event. He was the lone Flame to win a pair of individual event titles on Thursday.
Men's Meet Recap Fulton started out his day by winning the men's weight throw with a mark of 57-8.5, claiming the No. 5 spot on Liberty's all-time list. Teammate David Scouten followed in second place at 55-10.25, with both Flames punching their IC4A tickets during the season opener. Later, with the men's shot put title already wrapped up, Fulton unleashed a throw of 57-1.5 on his sixth and final attempt. That effort won the event by nearly eight feet, exceeded the IC4A standard and put Fulton fourth in program history for the event. Freshman Aklesso Agama made an auspicious collegiate debut, winning the men's triple jump with an IC4A-qualifying leap of 48-7.25 which ranks third on the Flames' all-time list. He was also the top collegiate performer in the long jump, thanks to a leap of 22-5.25. Cody Bingham used a strong second day to take top honors and qualify for the IC4A meet in the heptathlon, finishing with 5,020 points. Meanwhile, freshmen Zach Davis (4,512 points) and Zach Gilroy (4,421) placed third and fourth, respectively. Gilroy paced all of the heptathletes in both the pole vault (14-10.75) and 1,000-meter run (2:52.14) to move up in the final standings. ConRoy Smith recorded an IC4A qualifier in the 60-meter dash for the second straight season, winning the Division I final in a time of 6.90 seconds. Liberty was also victorious in three other men's running events, including the 200 (freshman Stephen Racanelli in 22.73 seconds), 800 (John Sherret in 1:57.56) and the mile (Jacob Onifer in 4:25.17). Onifer came from behind to edge Eastern Mennonite's Alec Thibodeaux on the final lap in one of the day's most exciting finishes. At 14-11, sophomore Ken Ritchey was the top collegiate performer in the men's pole vault. He trailed only former Liberty All-American Kolby Shepherd's winning clearance of 15-5.
Women's Meet Recap The women's triple jump was projected to be one of the Lady Flames' strongest events this season, and that was certainly the case on Thursday. Sophomore Janae Jones jumped 39-9.25 and freshman Oasis Hernandez went 39-3.75, sweeping the top two places in the event and both qualifying for the ECAC meet in the process. Hernandez already ranks No. 5 on Liberty's all-time list after her first collegiate competition. Hernandez was victorious in the women's long jump, with her 18-7 effort tying the Kansas native for seventh place in program history. Liberty went 1-2-3 in the women's shot put, led by senior Rachel Barnes' winning and ECAC-qualifying throw of 44-11.5. She now ranks second to teammate Mychelle Cumings on Liberty's all-time indoor shot put list. Jocelyn Williams, who had won the weight throw and qualified for the ECAC meet on Wednesday, was the shot put runner-up. Her mark of 42-3.25 moved the redshirt junior up to seventh in program history. Meanwhile, Jennifer Nicholson rounded out the Lady Flames' podium sweep with her third-place finish at 41-10.75. Defending Big South champion Kristen Willeford completed the Lady Flames' strong day in the field events with her winning high jump clearance of 5-5. The Lady Flames showcased their depth in the 400 by placing first and second in both the 400 and 500 and boasting the top two teams in the 4 x 400 relay. Coming back off of a redshirt season, Meghan Burggraf edged teammate Corinn Bedell to win the 400 title, 58.93 to 59.09. Freshman Mary Witmer then won the 500 over Mary Echols, 1:18.61 to 1:21.20. Witmer claimed the No. 7 spot in program history during her first collegiate race. Liberty's winning 4 x 400 relay quartet of Bedell, Witmer, Jones and Burggraf crossed the finish line in 3:57.06. The Lady Flames' "B" team of Hernandez, Echols, Abigail Flower and Ansley Gebben followed in the runner-up position, in 3:59.31. Flower had earlier won the women's 60-meter dash title in 7.72 seconds. Teammate Rajon Stinnett-Perry took first place in the 200 with an indoor personal-best time of 26.39.
Liberty's next meet will be the Flames' second of three home indoor competitions this season, the Liberty Open. The two-day event will be contested Jan. 17 and 18 at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.