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Flames Finish Eighth at NCAA East Regional Championships, Parker Ties for Fifth in High Jump

May 26, 2007  Gainesville, Fla.  RSS
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Sophomore Matt Parker tied for fifth in the men's high jump on Saturday, clearing a personal-best 6-11 in the process.

Sophomore Matt Parker tied for fifth in the men's high jump on Saturday, clearing a personal-best 6-11 in the process.

The Liberty men's track & field team recorded its best-ever finish at the NCAA East Regional Championships, taking eighth place in the meet at James G. Pressly Stadium at Percy Beard Track in Gainesville, Fla., which wrapped up Saturday. Matt Parker was Liberty's top finisher on the meet's second day, tying for fifth place in the men's high jump. 

The Flames' previous highest finish at the regional championships had been a tie for 25th place in 2005. Liberty was also the top finisher from the Commonwealth of Virginia, edging Virginia Tech by a point. The Flames' 25.5 points eclipsed their point total from each of the four previous regional meets combined, 21.5. Defending national champion Florida State took the men's team title for the third-consecutive year, tallying 91 points to outdistance host Florida by 35 markers. 

On the women's side, Virginia Tech won its first-ever regional title, defeating two-time defending meet champion South Carolina, 89-62. 

Parker (So., Rome, N.Y.) was tantalizingly close to qualifying for the NCAA National Championships in the first men's event of a hot, sunny afternoon, losing a jump-off with South Florida junior Errol Blackmon for the fifth and final automatic qualifying position. Parker cleared the opening height of the competition, 6-9, on his first attempt and then jumped a personal-best 6-11 on his second effort to earn his way into the jump-off. 

In the jump-off, Blackmon cleared the sixth height, 6-9, to punch his ticket to Sacramento. Parker had momentarily appeared to win the competition at 6-10, but the crossbar fell to the ground as the sophomore began to exit the pit. As one of the top 12 finishers at the regional meet, Parker will be a candidate for at-large selection to the national meet. 

Jon Hart (Jr., Wyomissing, Pa.) threw 54-0 on his second shot put effort, placing him 24th overall in the event. Classmate Clendon Henderson (Jr., Meadow, Texas) also competed in the shot put Saturday evening, but fouled on all three of his attempts. Hart had qualified for the national meet in the hammer throw on Friday, with Henderson having done the same in the discus throw. 

Junior Piper Newby (Hayden Lake, Idaho) kicked off the Lady Flames' day two action with a bang, eclipsing her own school 3,000-meter steeplechase record by 2.7 seconds, under the lights in Gainesville. Her official clocking of 10:35.19 placed second in the middle of three sections and was the 14th-fastest time overall at the regional meet, out of 39 runners. Newby started at the back of the pack for the first two laps, but steadily worked her way through the field, enabling her to finish behind only Florida State's Lydia Willemse. 

The women's 4 x 400 relay quartet of Marie Williams (Jr., Tampa, Fla.), Tra' Screen (So., Lynchburg, Va.), Charlene Hibbert (Jr., Mississauga, Ontario) and Chenoa Freeman (Fr., Lincoln, Del.) ran a 3:44.21 in the final event of the meet. The time was good for sixth place in the second section and 13th place overall. 

Hart, Henderson and Josh McDougal (Jr., Peru, N.Y.) will now prepare for the NCAA Division I National Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The official field of qualifiers for the national meet, to be held June 6-9 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif., will be announced by the NCAA Tuesday.