The host Flames won nine events at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier, Wednesday at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. Three of Liberty's individual event titles went to seniors during the team's final home meet of the 2017 outdoor season.
Aklesso Agama (men's long jump), Luke Jelen (men's 800) and Audrey Rabe (women's pole vault) were Liberty's senior champions. They were recognized along with Ryan Davis, Zach Davis, Zach Gilroy, Spencer Jamison, Blake Kohring, Stephen Racanelli, Nicole Bishop, Kat Bouton, Lindsey Bray, Kaitlyn Hutchins, Janae Jones, Dana Mercer, Catherine Oyarzun, Jessie Proehl, Hannah Scherlacher, Mary Witmer and Terrill Zentmeyer during the meet's Senior Night recognition.
Anna Van Wyk (women's 1,500), Carson Waters (men's pole vault) and Erin Zappia (women's high jump) were also victorious in their final tuneup for next week's Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Zappia produced arguably the home team's top performance of the day, high jumping a personal-best 5-8.75 to punch her ticket to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
The Flames won a trio of relays on Wednesday, including the men's 4 x 100 (Ryan Davis, Brad Smalley, Greg Edwards, Jahquez Durham), men's shuttle hurdles (Ryan Davis, Markus Ballengee, Samson Moore, Jovaine Atkinson) and women's 4 x 400 (Scherlacher, Brooke Turner, Elizabeth Hutton, Maggie McDermott).
The warm, sunny weather contributed to numerous impressive performances on the day, headlined by Muhammad Halim's facility record 53-11 mark in the men's triple jump. The Olympian from the U.S. Virgin Islands now ranks No. 28 in the world for 2017.
Women's Meet Recap Zappia made clutch third-attempt clearances at both 5-8 (equaling her previous personal best) and 5-8.75 to win the women's high jump title and take over the Big South lead for 2017. The junior from Illinois moved into a tie for third place in program history and a share of fifth place in Big South Conference annals.
@libertytrackandfield Jr. @ezappi with a new #PersonalBest in the #HighJump with a clearance over 1.75 (5'8 3/4) to win the @libertyuniversity #Twilight! That mark put Erin tied for 23rd in the #NCAAD1 #EastRegion A post shared by Shawn Venable (@shawn_venable) on May 3, 2017 at 6:52pm PDT
@libertytrackandfield Jr. @ezappi with a new #PersonalBest in the #HighJump with a clearance over 1.75 (5'8 3/4) to win the @libertyuniversity #Twilight! That mark put Erin tied for 23rd in the #NCAAD1 #EastRegion
A post shared by Shawn Venable (@shawn_venable) on May 3, 2017 at 6:52pm PDT
Rabe, who is graduating after just three years on campus, cleared 12-0 for the first time in her collegiate career on Wednesday. That effort won the event and put her into a tie for sixth place on Liberty's all-time list. Mariel Finger followed in the runner-up spot at 11-6.25, while Lea Carter tied for third with an 11-0.25 clearance.
Van Wyk's 1,500 victory highlighted the Lady Flames' impressive day in the middle-distance events. Van Wyk clocked a personal-best time of 4:28.47 to defeat the reigning Big South 1,500 (High Point's Cozette Collin) and steeplechase (Natalia Ocasio) champions.
Three other Lady Flames followed Van Wyk in the top 10, and all three of them achieved new personal-best times. They included Alyssa Karle (fifth, 4:41.91), Zentmeyer (4:42.88) and Bouton (4:50.52).
Liberty added three top-10 finishes in the 800, led by Turner in fifth place at 2:13.78. Scherlacher's season-best time of 2:15.20 was good for sixth place, while Bouton ran a personal-best 2:18.00 for the 10th spot.
Scherlacher, Turner, Hutton and McDermott were the only 4 x 400 team to compete in either the men's or women's races on the day. Their official time was 4:06.86.
Earlier in the day, McDermott had placed third in the 400 at 59.14 seconds, while Mercer's outdoor personal-best 200 time of 25.01 earned the fifth spot in that event.
Holly Arey took fourth place in the women's discus with a 148-1 heave. Meanwhile, teammate Oyarzun threw the hammer 170-3 for fifth place.
Jaiden Mulder (14.84) and Kylie Polsgrove (14.99) placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the women's 100 hurdles final. They both ran significantly faster during the prelims, when the wind conditions were more favorable, as Mulder posted a season-best 14.59 while Polsgrove ran 14.60.
Men's Meet Recap Agama's final home meet was a memorable one. Due to injury, the senior had long jumped just once in 2017 prior to Wednesday. However, he produced an impressive mark of 23-8.25 into a headwind, defeating Big South leader Quemell Brave of Winthrop for the victory. Freshman teammate Andre Wright added a seventh-place showing at 22-2.5.
Jelen posted a personal-best 800 time of 1:54.08 to win the final home race of his career. Andrew Crowell's first outdoor 800 of the year resulted in a time of 1:54.84 for fifth place.
The quartet of Davis, Ballengee, Moore and Atkinson was aiming for a school record in the shuttle hurdles relay. However, they had to settle for a victory and the No. 2 time in program history, 58.98 seconds.
Liberty used the 4 x 100 grouping of Davis, Smalley, Edwards and Durham for the first time this season, and the combination produced a victory in 41.39 seconds.
Waters sailed up and over a season-best 16-10.25 to win the pole vault by 16 inches. Gilroy was the Flames' second-best vaulter on Wednesday, clearing a season-high 14-6.75 for fourth.
Racanelli ran an impressive 400 time of 48.85 out of lane one, while Kohring completed the 400 hurdles in a season-best 55.09. Both seniors' performances produced eighth-place finishes.
The remainder of Liberty's noteworthy performances were achieved by freshmen, portending a bright future for the Flames. Big South indoor 400-meter champion Durham ran a season-best 400 time of 47.99 for fifth place in the race and first place in the Big South for 2017.
Benjamin Klemmeck was the men's 5K runner-up in a personal-best time of 15:15.67, while classmate Michael Griffith placed 14th of 55 1,500 runners with his personal-best 3:58.49 effort. Both rookies made significant progress this season, as Klemmeck opened his year with a 16:02.44 5K, while Griffith's collegiate 1,500 debut was a 4:08.55 clocking.
Jacob Burke high jumped 6-2.25 for fifth place, with two of his classmates sharpening up for next week's Big South decathlon competition.
Ballengee paced the Flames in both the discus (11th, personal-best 130-0) and javelin (eighth, 143-9) on the day. Chukwuma Maduka made it into the men's 110 hurdles final by clocking a personal-best time of 15.87 into a headwind.
Finally, Colin Schultz continued his outstanding redshirt season. Competing unattached, he dropped his 1,500 personal best to 3:46.28, finishing as the runner-up and missing the facility record by less than two-tenths of a second.
Up Next Liberty will attempt to defend its men's and women's team titles at the 2017 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The meet will be contested May 10-12 at Bagwell-Settle Track in Charleston, S.C.