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Liberty Sweeps 2017 Big South Indoor Team Titles

February 26, 2017  Winston-Salem, N.C.  RSS
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Liberty swept the men's and women's team titles for the second consecutive season at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Liberty swept the men's and women's team titles for the second consecutive season at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

For the second straight season, Liberty swept the men's and women's team titles at the 2017 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, which wrapped up Sunday at the JDL Fast Track.

Liberty made it a perfect 20 for 20 in winning men's team titles all-time at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, but it was not easy. The Flames had to come from behind on Sunday to defeat runner-up Campbell by a 205-170 count, marking Liberty's second smallest margin of victory in meet history.

Liberty won four men's events on Sunday, scoring 26 or more points in three of them (200, 400 and 60 hurdles). As a result, the Flames extend the longest active conference championship streak in NCAA Division I men's indoor track & field for another season.

The Lady Flames outscored second-place Campbell by 33 points (207-174), earning their second straight title and their 12th indoor championship overall. Liberty scored points in all 11 of Sunday's events, winning five of them.

Liberty's individual award winners included Carson Waters (Men's Outstanding Field Performer), Tanner Ealum (Women's Freshman of the Year), Brant Tolsma (Co-Men's and Women's Coach of the Year), Audrey Rabe (Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Women's All-Academic Team) and Zach Davis (Men's All-Academic Team).

Ealum's Freshman of the Year honor made it five straight Big South Track & Field Championships (including indoor and outdoor) which have seen a Lady Flame capture the honor.

Rabe, a global studies aviation major with a 4.0 GPA, becomes the Lady Flames' first track & field Scholar-Athlete of the Year since current assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker swept the indoor and outdoor awards in 2010.

Tolsma is now a 65-time Big South Coach of the Year after coaching his 91st and 92nd Big South Championship-winning teams during his 31 years at Liberty.

Men's Day Two Recap
Liberty took over the lead for good early in Sunday's slate of running events, outscoring Campbell 54-15 in back-to-back events (60 hurdles and 400).

Redshirt freshman Jovaine Atkinson won the 60 hurdles title in 8.03 seconds, with defending champion Ryan Davis taking second place in a photo finish with Campbell's Chigozie Atavwigho, equaling his personal best of 8.26. Personal-best efforts by Markus Ballengee (fourth place, 8.35) and Blake Kohring (fifth, 8.37) closed out the Flames' 27-point haul.

For the third straight year, Liberty went 1-2-3 in the men's 400 final. Jahquez Durham led the way at 48.78, joining Leonard Robbins (2012) as the only Liberty freshman ever to win the event at this meet.

Two-time defending champion Stephen Racanelli took second place in 49.05, while Jeff Jacobs came in third for the second year in a row with an IC4A qualifier of 49.38. Spencer Jamison's sixth-place finish in 50.64 made it the second straight 20-point event for the Flames.

About an hour and a half later, many of the same sprinters came back to rack up 26 more points in the men's 200 final. Racanelli was victorious in 22.07 seconds, becoming the first Big South athlete to win three straight 200-meter titles since Charleston Southern's Cornelius Tyler between 2008-10. Racanelli is now a seven-time Big South individual event champion for his career, becoming the eighth Liberty men's track & field athlete ever to win at least seven titles.

Teammate Greg Edwards took the 200 runner-up spot at 22.40, followed by Durham (fourth, 22.52) and Ryan Davis (sixth, 22.91).

Liberty then punctuated its team victory by winning the 4 x 400 relay for the third year in a row and the fifth time in six years to close out the meet. The Flames' quartet of Durham, Michael Todd, Jacobs and Racanelli clocked a winning time of 3:20.38.

Zach Davis earned his 10th career All-Big South medal by finishing as the men's high jump runner-up for the second straight season at 6-9.5. Anthony Colangelo made a successful Liberty track & field debut, high jumping 6-6.25 for fourth place.

Darrel Jones triple jumped 48-6.75 for second place in the event, marking the junior's fourth All-Big South effort in five career triple jump competitions at the conference meet. Freshman teammate Andre Wright added a fourth-place finish with his 47-4.5 effort.

Another Liberty freshman, Ballengee competed in five events on Sunday including the final three heptathlon disciplines. He closed out the heptathlon with personal-best marks in the pole vault (14-1.25) and 1,000 (2:53.08), ending up second overall with 4,842 points.

Defending Big South heptathlon champion Zach Gilroy moved up to third in the final standings. He scored a season-best 4,433 points, thanks in large part to pacing all of the heptathletes in the pole vault at 14-9. Caleb Rider chipped in a sixth-place finish with his 3,778 points.

Colin Schultz enjoyed an impressive afternoon, pulling down third-place finishes in both the mile and 800 for the first two All-Big South honors of his career. The redshirt junior clocked a personal-best mile time of 4:11.62, moving into seventh place in program history. Cameron Francis followed in seventh with his 4:17.17 mile.

Schultz then clocked 1:53.12 for his third place in the 800. He was followed across the finish line in rapid succession by fellow Flames Bradley Prentice (fourth, 1:54.91), Andrew Crowell (fifth, 1:55.18) and Todd (sixth, 1:55.33).

Ryan Davis also finished fourth in the men's 60 final at 7.00 seconds in one of his three running event finals on the day.

Women's Day Two Recap
Janae Jones was the lone Liberty athlete to break a school record on Sunday, adding 4.25 inches to her own women's triple jump standard with her winning leap of 41-0.5. Jones claimed her first indoor triple jump title, to go along with two Big South outdoor triple jump crowns (2014 and 2015). The Commonwealth native also became the Lady Flames' first indoor champion in the event since Mia Aghaji in 2011.

Mary Witmer, best known as a 400 hurdler, entered the triple jump for just the second time in her four-year college career on Sunday. Unexpectedly, she ended up reaching 37-8 for fifth place in the event, helping to clinch the Lady Flames' team title late in the meet. Witmer also claimed the No. 10 spot in program history in the process.

The Lady Flames' other field event victory came courtesy of Erin Zappia in the high jump. The junior cleared a season-best 5-7.75 for her first Big South title and the first by a Lady Flame since Kristen Willeford was victorious at the JDL Fast Track in 2013.

Kylie Polsgrove (fifth place, 5-4.5) and Brittany Small (sixth, 5-4.5) added points for the Lady Flames on the high jump apron.

Ealum had a hand in two event victories on the day, beginning with the Alaska native's dominating performance in the 400. She won the event by more than a second in a time of 55.45, becoming the Lady Flames' first freshman ever to claim the Big South indoor women's 400 crown.

Ealum later sped to an impressive 54.50-second anchor leg split, helping the Lady Flames run away with the 4 x 400 relay title in a season-best time of 3:46.28. Liberty's team, which also included Nicole Leonzo, Witmer and Delaney McDowell, won by seven seconds. Leonzo was the lone holdover from the Lady Flames' 2016 Big South 4 x 400 championship team, as Liberty won back-to-back titles in the event for the first time since 2004 and 2005.

Two hours earlier, McDowell had successfully defended her 800-meter conference title in 2:12.25. The sophomore is Liberty's first repeat champion in the event since Jaime Watson won three in a row spanning 2008 and 2010. Freshman Brooke Turner added a fourth-place finish, clocking a season-best and ECAC-qualifying time of 2:15.13. She also moved into eighth place all-time at Liberty with her performance.

One event later, Ealum earned another visit to the All-Big South podium with her third-place 200 dash finish in 24.93 seconds.

Redshirt freshman Anna Van Wyk placed second to Women's Outstanding Track Performer Joan Maritim of Campbell in both of her races on Sunday, including the mile and 5K. Van Wyk has now placed as the runner-up in all four of her Big South races this year, also including cross country and Saturday's 3K.

Van Wyk's mile time was 5:10.51. She was joined among the scorers by Hannah Scherlacher (fifth, 5:14.35) and Alyssa Karle (seventh, personal-best 5:16.94).

By the end of the 5K, Van Wyk had made 48 circuits of the track during the two-day meet. But the Minnesota native held up for a time of 17:16.50, recording an ECAC qualifier and claiming the No. 8 spot in program history.

Kammi Kurtz came in eighth in the 5K in 18:13.42. For both Van Wyk and Kurtz, it marked their collegiate 5K track debuts.

After winning the women's shot put on Saturday, Dasiana Larson came in second in the weight throw on Sunday with a mark of 58-7.

Just as she did in the shot put competition, Holly Arey demolished her personal best in the weight throw. The junior's 55-11.5 effort added more than three feet to her previous best, claiming fourth place in both the event and all-time at Liberty. Catherine Oyarzun also achieved a new personal best (52-5), finishing seventh.

In the 60 hurdles, Katie Dodson clocked 8.82 for fourth place, while Polsgrove was sixth in 8.99 during the Big South pentathlon champion's eighth and final event of the weekend.

Dana Mercer scored Liberty's lone point in the women's 60, coming in eighth in 7.83 seconds.

Up Next
Liberty will wrap up its indoor season at the 2017 IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. The three-day meet will be contested Friday through Sunday at the Boston University Track & Field Pavilion in Boston, Mass.

Final Men's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 205
2) Campbell – 170
3) High Point – 92.5
4) Charleston Southern – 68
5) Winthrop – 52.5
6) Gardner-Webb – 47
7) UNC Asheville – 26

Final Women's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 207

2) Campbell – 174
3) High Point – 97.5
4) Charleston Southern – 63
5) Winthrop – 43.5
6) Radford – 36
7) Gardner-Webb – 28
8) UNC Asheville – 12

Men's Outstanding Track Performer
Amon Terer, Campbell

Women's Outstanding Track Performer
Joan Maritim, Campbell

Men's Outstanding Field Performer
Carson Waters, Liberty

Women's Outstanding Field Performer
Marthaline Cooper, Winthrop

Men's Freshman of the Year
Matthew Harding, UNC Asheville
Amon Kemboi, Campbell

Women's Freshman of the Year
Tanner Ealum, Liberty

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Hunter Koike, UNC Asheville

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Audrey Rabe, Liberty

Men's All-Academic Team
Lorne Jenkins, Campbell
Jacob Moore, Charleston Southern
Christopher Lile, Gardner-Webb
Vinny Todaro, High Point
Zach Davis, Liberty
Hunter Koike, UNC Asheville
Mike Hajduk, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Kelsey Rea, Campbell
Danielle Burnett, Charleston Southern
Natasha Akbarizadeh, Gardner-Webb
Jamie Schnuck, High Point
Audrey Rabe, Liberty
Jessica Shelton, Radford
Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville
Taryn DeLeon, Winthrop

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Michael Kelly, Campbell

Women's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Michael Kelly, Campbell