The Liberty women's squad celebrates its first Big South indoor team title since 2012.
The Liberty men's and women's squads both captured team titles in dominating fashion at the 2016 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, which concluded Saturday at Virginia Tech's Rector Field House.
The Liberty men's team racked up 258 points, outdistancing runner-up High Point by 110 tallies for its largest margin of victory at this meet since 2002. The Flames, who have been victorious at all 19 editions of the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, extend the longest conference championship streak in NCAA Division I men's indoor track & field.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames scored 178.5 points, putting them 69.5 markers clear of three-time defending champion Coastal Carolina (109 points) for their first title since 2012 and 11th indoor championship overall. It marked Liberty's largest margin of victory in meet history.
At the meet's conclusion, the Flames garnered a number of individual awards. Liberty's honorees included Stephen Racanelli (Men's Outstanding Track Performer), Michael Todd (Men's Freshman of the Year), Delaney McDowell (Women's Freshman of the Year), Brant Tolsma (Men's Coach of the Year), David Scouten (Men's All-Academic Team) and Erin Zappia (Women's All-Academic Team).
Racanelli joins Josh McDougal (2006, 2007 & 2008) as the only Flames ever to earn Men's Outstanding Track Performer honors at this meet. Todd and McDowell gave Liberty its first-ever sweep of the Men's and Women's Freshman of the Year honors at this meet.
Tolsma continues to add to his incredible career numbers. He has now guided Liberty to 87 Big South team championships and won 60 Big South Coach of the Year awards during his 30 years with the Flames.
Women's Day Two Recap The Lady Flames punctuated their team championship with a record-breaking performance in the meet's final race, the 4 x 400 relay. The quartet of Corinn Bedell, Nicole Leonzo, Ansley Gebben, Erin Edmond clocked a time of 3:42.64, winning the event by more than six seconds and shattering both the program and meet records.
Liberty was neck-and-neck with Campbell at the final exchange before Edmond produced a sizzling 54.45 split to bring home the Lady Flames' first Big South victory in this event since 2008.
Three hours earlier, Edmond had raced to the Lady Flames' first Big South 400 title since Jaime Watson's crown in 2010. Her winning time of 54.84 has been bettered by only Watson in program history. Leonzo followed in third place in a season-best and Liberty freshman-record 56.18, moving up to fifth on Liberty's all-time list.
In between her efforts in the 400 and 4 x 400 relay, Edmond claimed the runner-up spot in the 200 dash final in a season-best 24.49 (No. 3 in program history).
Liberty scored 22 points in the 800 final after being held scoreless in the event a year ago, thanks to champion McDowell (personal-best 2:09.98), runner-up Gebben (personal-best 2:10.80) and fifth-place Alexis Taylor (personal-best 2:14.54). The trio now ranks third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in program history, while McDowell becomes the Lady Flames' first freshman ever to capture the Big South indoor 800 title and improves her own Liberty freshman record.
For the second straight day, Ednah Kurgat won an event out of the slow section. After capturing Friday's 3K championship, the sophomore took top honors in the mile on Saturday with a personal-best and ECAC-qualifying time of 4:50.82. Kurgat now trails only 2002 NCAA Division I national champion Heather Sagan on Liberty's all-time mile list.
Freshman Torree Scull added a fourth-place finish in the mile in a personal-best 4:58.39, becoming the eighth Lady Flame ever to crack the 5:00 barrier in the event and notching an ECAC qualifier.
Redshirt senior Mychelle Cumings was the Lady Flames' lone field event champion on the day, taking home her fourth Big South women's indoor shot put crown. At 51-1, Cumings won the event by more than seven feet to become the first four-time women's shot put champion in meet history. Cumings, who is now a nine-time Big South champion, is just the second Lady Flame ever to win four Big South indoor titles in the same event (also Kena Butts, high jump, 2003-06).
Sophomore teammate Dasiana Larson placed fifth in the shot put at 42-0.75 after recording the same placement in Friday's weight throw competition.
Another sophomore, Erin Zappia, garnered her first career All-Big South notation with a runner-up finish in the high jump. She cleared the same height (collegiate-best 5-8) as champion Shenelle McKay of Campbell but placed second on misses. Zappia moves into a tie for third place in program history as both she and McKay tied the meet record.
Kate Flower lowered her 60 dash personal best to 7.68 for third place in the event, an ECAC qualification and sole possession of fifth place in Lady Flames history. Teammate Dana Mercer came in fifth at 7.76 seconds.
Freshman Aryn Embretson was the lone Lady Flame to score points in the 5K, crossing the line in 18:40.56 for sixth place.
Men's Day Two Recap Liberty won eight of the 11 men's events contested on Saturday, and Racanelli had a hand in three of the victories. The junior began by successfully defending his 400 dash title and leading a 1-2-3 Flames sweep of the event for the second straight year.
Racanelli won in an indoor personal-best time of 47.92, while Ryan Davis was the runner-up for the second year in a row in a personal-best 48.62. Jeff Jacobs completed the podium sweep in third place (personal-best 48.98), and all three Flames have now punched their IC4A tickets in the event.
Andrew Garrett added a sixth-place finish (personal-best 50.37), giving the Flames 27 total points in the men's 400.
Racanelli is also now a back-to-back Big South 200 champion, thanks to his season-best time of 21.59. Freshman teammate Greg Edwards was sixth in a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying time of 22.24 seconds.
The Flames' quartet of Davis, Todd, Jacobs and Racanelli claimed Liberty's second straight 4 x 400 relay crown and fourth in the past five seasons with a season-best time of 3:17.08. The Flames owned a slight lead over High Point before Racanelli's 47.97 anchor split removed all doubt.
Todd headlined the Flames' 25-point haul in the men's 800 by becoming the first Liberty freshman ever to capture the Big South indoor 800 title. The Alaska native's personal-best time of 1:52.43 broke the meet record and moved him up to fourth in program history, as he became Liberty's first victor in this event since 2007.
Andrew Crowell (personal-best 1:53.67, No. 8 in program history), Colin Schultz (1:54.74) and Bradley Prentice (1:56.41) followed in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, for the Flames.
Prior to last season, Liberty had not recorded a top-three finish in the men's 60 hurdles since 2009. On Saturday, both Ryan Davis and Blake Kohring stood on the awards podium with Davis occupying the top step. Davis' winning time of 8.26 seconds set a new personal best and moves the redshirt sophomore into No. 6 in program history. Kohring's personal-best 8.40 clocking netted third place for his first career All-Big South notation.
Fred Fulton joined Ryan Smith (2012) as the only Flames ever to sweep the Big South men's shot put and weight throw titles at the same meet. After winning the weight throw on Friday, Fulton claimed the Flames' ninth Big South shot put victory in 10 years with a season-best mark of 55-3.5 on Saturday.
David Scouten chipped in a fourth-place shot put finish, on the strength of a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying throw of 53-10.5.
Sophomore Darrel Jones won a competitive men's triple jump with a personal-best leap of 50-5.5 in round two, withstanding a 50-4.5 measurement by High Point's Will Narramore in the sixth and final round. Jones fell just one centimeter shy of matching the program record, while both he and Narramore eclipsed the meet record which had stood since 1999.
Defending triple jump champion Aklesso Agama came in third at a season-best 49-10, while redshirt freshman Jonny Saintil was fifth with a leap of 47-5.75.
Despite top seed Zach Davis focusing on individual events this weekend, Liberty was still able to claim three of the top four spots in the heptathlon. Junior Zach Gilroy led the way with the Flames' first Big South championship in this event since 2011. His season-best score of 4,820 was helped by a 15-5 pole vault clearance Saturday morning, which equaled Gilroy's career best.
Lewis Williams came in second with 4,505 points, running a personal-best 60 hurdles time of 9.25 and matching his best-ever indoor pole vault height of 14-1.25.
Competing in his first-ever multi-event, freshman Caleb Rider placed fourth with a score of 4,364 points. His strong second day included a 13-9.25 pole vault clearance and a victory in the heptathlon 1,000 (2:50.41).
Jeremie Bourget (14:55.31) and Azaria Kirwa (14:59.86) posted a 2-3 finish in the men's 5K. For Bourget, it was his third career All-Big South honor at the 5K distance. Distance teammate Cameron Francis produced a fourth-place mile finish (4:21.22), improving two places from 2015.
Liberty will next send a sizeable squad to Boston for the 2016 IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. The meet is slated for Friday through Sunday (March 4-6) at the Boston University Track & Field Pavilion.
Final Men's Team Standings 1) Liberty – 258 2) High Point – 148 3) Campbell – 87 4) Gardner-Webb – 53 5) Winthrop – 43 6) Charleston Southern – 35 7) UNC Asheville – 32
Final Women's Team Standings 1) Liberty – 178.5 2) Coastal Carolina – 109 3) Campbell – 108 4) Winthrop – 55 5) Charleston Southern – 52 6) High Point – 49 7) Gardner-Webb – 42 8) Radford – 37.5 9) UNC Asheville – 32
Men's Outstanding Track Performer Stephen Racanelli, Liberty
Women's Outstanding Track Performer Lilla Juhasz, Campbell
Men's Outstanding Field Performer Will Narramore, High Point
Women's Outstanding Field Performer Marthaline Cooper, Winthrop
Men's Freshman of the Year Michael Todd, Liberty
Women's Freshman of the Year Delaney McDowell, Liberty
Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Paul O'Donoghue, High Point
Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Jamie Schnuck, High Point
Men's All-Academic Team Lorne Jenkins, Campbell Jacob Moore, Charleston Southern Christopher Lile, Gardner-Webb Paul O'Donoghue, High Point David Scouten, Liberty Caleb Smith, UNC Asheville Mike Hajduk, Winthrop
Women's All-Academic Team Lilla Juhasz, Campbell LaQuestis Scott, Charleston Southern Kyla van Graan, Coastal Carolina Merideth Byl, Gardner-Webb Jamie Schnuck, High Point Erin Zappia, Liberty Cara Myrtle, Radford Sarah Heisner, UNC Asheville Taryn DeLeon, Winthrop
Men's Coach of the Year Brant Tolsma, Liberty
Women's Coach of the Year Michael Kelly, Campbell