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Ealum, Van Wyk, Witmer Among Saturday's Stars

February 11, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Anna Van Wyk clocked a 1,000-meter time of 2:51.47, breaking a school record which had stood since 1988.

Anna Van Wyk clocked a 1,000-meter time of 2:51.47, breaking a school record which had stood since 1988.

The host team's Saturday performances at the inaugural Liberty Elite Invitational included one school record, one facility record and five event victories. Redshirt freshman Anna Van Wyk took down a long-standing Liberty record in the women's 1,000 with her 2:51.47 effort, while freshman Tanner Ealum (women's 400, 4 x 400) and senior Mary Witmer (women's 500, 4 x 400) were each double event winners at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex.

The Lady Flames' 4 x 400 relay quartet of Nicole Leonzo, Witmer, Delaney McDowell and Ealum closed the meet in style, breaking the facility record with their winning time of 3:46.35. Liberty's other event victors included sophomore Azaria Kirwa in the men's 3K and junior Darrel Jones in the men's triple jump.

Liberty notched three new ECAC qualifications on the day, including Van Wyk (women's 1,000), Leonzo (women's 400) and Mariel Finger (women's pole vault).

Meanwhile, the Flames added seven IC4A-qualifying performances in six different events, including the 200 (Stephen Racanelli), 400 (Jahquez Durham), 800 (Michael Todd and Andrew Crowell), 3K (Kirwa), pole vault (Hudson Hall) and heptathlon (Zach Davis).

Arguably the day's top individual performance went to Stipe Zunic. Representing Nike, the Olympian from Croatia shattered his own men's shot put facility record with a 67-2.75 heave. Only nine men in the world have thrown the shot put that far in 2017.

Women's Day Two Recap
Van Wyk continued her incredible season, which has also included a Liberty Indoor Track Complex record in the mile (4:53.88) and a Liberty freshman record in the 3K (9:43.63). On Saturday, her first try at the 1,000 resulted in a third-place finish with a record-breaking time of 2:51.47.

Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Annie Fairchild had held the women's 1,000 program record of 2:52.4 since setting it on Feb. 13, 1988 at Virginia Tech, more than eight years before Van Wyk was born. Van Wyk also shattered the Big South 1,000 mark of 2:54.59 set by Liberty's Meghan Burggraf on Jan. 24, 2014.

In the other heat of the women's 1,000, Hannah Scherlacher posted a personal-best time of 3:03.94 to place fifth overall.

Liberty's other record-setting performance saw Leonzo, Witmer, McDowell and Ealum run 3.64 seconds faster than they did in the 4 x 400 at last week's Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup and become the fourth-fastest quartet in program history. The team was locked in a back-and-forth battle with Elon before Ealum scorched a 54.59-second anchor leg to pull away and win in 3:46.35

Earlier in the day, Ealum (season-best 56.27) and Leonzo (season-best 56.60) went 1-2 in the women's 400 and claimed the top two spots on the 2017 Big South list. Ealum climbed to No. 6 in program history for the event in the process.

Leonzo also posted an indoor personal-best 200 time of 25.10 for 13th place in the event and 10th in Liberty history.

Witmer dominated the women's 500, as her personal-best effort of 1:16.17 won the event by more than three seconds and moved her into third place all-time for the Lady Flames.

McDowell (sixth place, 2:14.11) paced two Lady Flames in the top 10 of the women's 800. Teammate Christieanna Apon clocked an indoor personal-best time of 2:17.81 for 10th place, giving Liberty four of the Big South's top 800 runners this season (also Tanner Ealum and Brooke Turner).

Moving to the field events, Dana Mercer nearly won the women's long jump title. Her best mark (18-7.25) matched that of Charlotte's Dejah Hayes. However, Hayes was awarded first place over Mercer when the tiebreaker reached the athletes' third-best marks of the day.

Janae Jones went over 40 feet in the triple jump for the third straight meet, coming in third with a 40-2.75 leap.

Finger punched her ECAC ticket in the women's pole vault by clearing a season-best 11-11.75 to share fifth place. Jessie Glynn ended up in a tie for ninth at 11-5.75.

Coming off of a personal-best 62-3 effort in Friday's weight throw competition, junior Dasiana Larson achieved a season best of 44-2.75 in the shot put on Saturday. She finished seventh in the event and now tops this season's Big South women's shot put list.

Erin Zappia made it over a season-high 5-5.75 in the high jump, claiming third place.

Other Lady Flames to place inside the top 10 included Kylie Polsgrove (ninth in the 60 hurdles, season-best 9.07), Brooke Turner (10th in the mile, 5:12.68) and Terrill Zentmeyer (10th in the 3K, 10:24.11).

Men's Day Two Recap
Darrel Jones triple jumped over 50 feet for the third straight meet to open his junior season. His winning leap of 50-4.75 put him ahead of Olympian Olu Olamigoke.

Kirwa's victory in the 3K came in a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying time of 8:15.92. That moves him into fourth place in program history. He was followed by Stanley Langat (fifth place, 8:30.90) and James Zentmeyer (seventh, personal-best 8:36.44).

Liberty showcased its depth in the sprints, especially at 400 meters. Four Flames finished inside the top nine, including Durham (third, season-best 48.65), Racanelli (fifth, 49.04), Jeff Jacobs (seventh, season-best 49.37) and Spencer Jamison (ninth, season-best 50.08). Durham now ranks No. 1 in the Big South this season, with Racanelli, Jacobs and Jamison joining him among the conference's top five performers.

In the 200, it was Racanelli claiming the Big South lead with his third-place finish in a season-best 22.05. Greg Edwards followed in seventh place at 22.26, while Jacobs' personal-best 22.34 clocking earned ninth place.

Todd (fourth place, season-best 1:53.05) and Crowell (eighth, season-best 1:54.42) each achieved their objective of dipping under the IC4A men's 800 standard on Saturday.

Back-to-back Big South Indoor Men's Field Athlete of the Week Carson Waters pole vaulted 16-8.75 for second place on Saturday. Redshirt freshman teammate Hall followed in eighth place, making it over a personal-best and IC4A-qualifying 15-9.

Zach Davis' IC4A qualification saw him finish second in the heptathlon with a personal-best score of 5,181. His personal-best 9.00 clocking in the 60 hurdles helped the senior start off his second day on the right foot and propel him toward the No. 4 spot on Liberty's all-time heptathlon list.

Freshman Markus Ballengee followed in third place with a heptathlon score of 4,805. His score was aided by a personal-best 13-11.25 clearance.

Ryan Davis had a strong all-around day for the Flames, coming in second in the 500 (1:05.32) and placing fifth in the 60 hurdles at a season-best 8.37.

Colin Schultz chipped in a third-place showing in the mile, running a personal-best time of 4:14.42 which ranks No. 8 in Liberty history.

Up Next
Liberty will now prepare for the 2017 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, slated for Feb. 25-26 at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Flames will be seeking their 20th consecutive Big South indoor championship, while the Lady Flames will aim to defend their title from 2016.