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Liberty Men, Women Win Team Titles at 2007 New Balance Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships Presented by UCS

April 21, 2007  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Flames and Lady Flames pose with their Big South team champion trophies.

The Flames and Lady Flames pose with their Big South team champion trophies.

For the first time since 2002, the Liberty men's and women's teams swept the team titles at the New Balance Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships Presented by UCS, which wrapped up Saturday afternoon at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. 

The Liberty men's team racked up 248 points to unseat defending meet champion Coastal Carolina by 74 markers. The Flames completed their first Big South "Triple Crown" since the 1999-2000 academic year. Liberty had previously captured conference team championships in men's cross country and men's indoor track and field this year. 

On the women's side, the Lady Flames won a close battle with Coastal Carolina, 245-231.5, to win their first conference title since 2003. The Chanticleers had won three Big South crowns in succession. 

Several Liberty athletes and head coach Brant Tolsma captured Big South honors at the meet's conclusion. Jon Hart (Jr., Wyomissing, Pa.) received the Big South Most Outstanding Field Performer distinction, Arlene Zelinskas (Sr., Dayton, Ohio) was the Big South Women's Outdoor Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Tolsma captured Big South Coach of the Year laurels for both men and women. 

Hart, who had set Big South meet records in the hammer on Thursday and in the shot put on Friday, picked up some more points for the Flames on Saturday. The Keystone State native placed fourth in the discus with a 152-0 effort and was sixth in the javelin, hitting 172-7 on his best throw. 

Zelinskas, who earned the same award a season ago and was additionally a member of the Big South All-Academic Team roster, kept busy on Saturday, participating in four events. She won the 400-meter hurdles in a time of 1:01.29, equaled the facility record in the high jump with her victorious leap of 5-8.75 and anchored the 4 x 100 relay team to a new conference, meet, school and facility-record time of 45.95 seconds. Joining Zelinskas on the relay were Andrea Beckles (So., Lynchburg, Va.), Charlene Hibbert (Jr., Mississauga, Ontario) and Tra' Screen (So., Lynchburg, Va.). The senior biology major also came in second in the 100-meter hurdles in 14.27 seconds and had previously finished as the long jump runner-up. All told, she contributed 38.5 points to the Lady Flames' team score. 

Tolsma has now guided Liberty to 52 Big South titles, including cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field, during his 21 years at Liberty. 

Four additional Liberty athletes established records during Saturday's third and final day of competition, Jaime Watson (So., Ravenna, Mich.) in the women's 800-meter run (2:10.50), Carol Jefferson (Jr., Schwenksville, Pa.) in the women's 5,000-meter run (17:20.06), Josh McDougal (Jr., Peru, N.Y.) in the men's 5,000-meter run (14:06.88) and Clendon Henderson (Jr., Meadow, Texas) in the men's discus (172-2). The men's 4 x 400 relay team of Josh Gilreath (Jr., Reidsville, N.C.), Phil Leineweber (So., New Freedom, Pa.), Travis Campbell (Sr., Candler, N.C.) and Tim O'Donnell (Jr., Hurst, Texas) also went under the existing meet record, running a 3:10.85 and finishing second to Charleston Southern in the event. 

Watson's 800-meter title was her second straight Big South title in the race and she improved upon her meet-record time from a year ago. She won by over two seconds, while teammate Rebekah Ricksecker (So., Laurel, Del.) also earned all-conference distinction with a third-place finish in a time of 2:15.70. 

Jefferson's meet record in the 5K was her second of the meet and it betters the mark of UNC Asheville's Mandy Becker, established in 1999. Jefferson also set the 10K record Thursday night. This marks the second consecutive year Jefferson has swept the Big South 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter titles at the conference meet. Joining Jefferson on the podium was junior Piper Newby (Jr., Hayden Lake, Idaho), who placed third in 17:41.06, helping the Lady Flames gain valuable points in the afternoon's penultimate event on the women's side. 

McDougal's win in the 5,000 meters set new meet and facility records and was his second victory of the day and his third triumph of the weekend. He won the 5K by nearly 52 seconds and came in under his own meet record from 2005 and the facility record, which had been owned by Winthrop's Jeff Green since 1994. McDougal won the 1,500-meter run earlier in the day, edging out runner-up Jordan McDougal (So., Peru, N.Y.), 3:51.22 to 3:52.05 and had won the 10,000 meters in a facility-record time, Thursday evening. 

Henderson, included on the Big South All-Academic Team, won the discus by nearly 15 feet and eclipsed the Big South Championship record by a single centimeter. The mark had belonged to Coastal Carolina's Nick Kenworthy since 2001. The Liberty junior now owns the Big South Conference overall and meet records as well as the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex standard, set a year ago as an unattached athlete. 

Other Liberty athletes winning event titles on Saturday included O'Donnell in the men's 400-meter hurdles in a time of 52.79 and Ricksecker in the women's 1,500-meter run in 4:33.41. 

Liberty's other second-place finishers were Beckles in the women's 100-meter dash in a 12.02 clocking, Matt Parker (So., Rome, N.Y.) in the men's 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.58, Campbell in the men's 800-meter run at 1:51.37 (the fastest time run by a Liberty male athlete since 1997), Brandon Hoskins (Jr., Garden City, Texas) in the men's pole vault with a clearance of 14-1.25, freshman Lacey Cunningham (Spring Hill, Kan.) in the women's javelin with a mark of 124-10 and the women's 4 x 400 relay team of Chenoa Freeman (Fr., Lincoln, Del.), Screen, Marie Williams (Jr., Tampa, Fla.) and Watson, which clocked a 3:49.56. 

Rounding out the Flames and Lady Flames' all-conference performers by garnering third-place finishes included O'Donnell in the men's 110-meter hurdles in 14.60, Williams in the women's 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:02.46, Ashley Osborne (So., Bristol, Va.) in the women's 1,500-meter run at 4:39.29, Donald Manns (Fr., Jacksonville, Fla.) in the men's triple jump with a leap of 46-6.25 and Elliot Galeone (Fr., White Hall, Md.) in the men's javelin with a top mark of 189-0. 

Liberty will return to action at the 113th running of the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia. The three-day meet will begin on Thursday. 

Most Outstanding Track Performer
Men – Michael Rhue, Charleston Southern
Women – Dionne Gibson, Charleston Southern 

Most Outstanding Field Performer
Men – Jon Hart, Liberty

Women – Tiffany Evans, Radford 

Freshman of the Year
Men – Josh Morgan, High Point
Women – Shanta Johnson, Coastal Carolina
Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Men – Kevin Sullivan, VMI
Women – Arlene Zelinskas, Liberty 

Men's All-Academic Team
James Hayes, Charleston Southern
Blair Paul, Coastal Carolina
Tamas Kovacs, High Point
Clendon Henderson, Liberty
Jordan Wynder, Radford
Joel Quirk, UNC Asheville
Kevin Sullivan, VMI
Justin Meade, Winthrop
Women's All-Academic Team
Dionne Gibson, Charleston Southern
Chasity Johnson, Coastal Carolina
Kate Atkinson, High Point
Arlene Zelinskas, Liberty
Shanna Harris, Radford
Emily Mase, UNC Asheville
Hatley Clifford, VMI
Amami Antia-Obong, Winthrop 

Coach of the Year
Men – Brant Tolsma, Liberty
Women – Brant Tolsma, Liberty