Liberty won its 11th consecutive Big South outdoor men's track & field team title on Friday.
For the third consecutive season, Liberty captured the men's and women's team titles at the 2017 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which wrapped up Friday at Bagwell-Settle Track. The Flames and Lady Flames won by a combined 240 points, taking 16 first-place finishes, including 13 on Friday.
The Liberty men's squad racked up 279 points, far outdistancing runner-up Campbell (130 points) for the Flames' largest margin of victory at this meet since 2001. Liberty has now won 11 straight Big South men's outdoor titles and 22 championships in the meet's 24-year history.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames defeated runner-up Campbell by a score of 253-162, scoring their most points at this meet since 1999. Liberty's third consecutive women's title was its 16th all-time Big South outdoor crown.
Senior Stephen Racanelli had a hand in three victories (men's 200, 400 and 4 x 400 relay) on Friday, earning Big South Men's Outstanding Track Performer honors. Sophomore Denzel Pratt shared the Big South Men's Outstanding Field Performer award after winning the men's javelin with a Bahamian national record throw of 232-0.
Brant Tolsma swept the Big South Men's and Women's Coach of the Year awards, making him a 67-time Big South Coach of the Year. He has now led Liberty track & field and cross country teams to 94 Big South team championships in his 31 years with the Flames.
Kat Bouton and Luke Jelen, who recently got engaged and both of whom will graduate on Saturday, were the Flames' representatives on the Big South All-Academic Teams.
Liberty's 13 Friday event victories came in the men's 200 (Racanelli), 400 (Racanelli), 110 hurdles (Jovaine Atkinson), 400 hurdles (Ryan Davis), 4 x 400 relay (Michael Todd, Jahquez Durham, Bradley Prentice, Racanelli), triple jump (Darrel Jones), pole vault (Carson Waters) and javelin (Pratt) and the women's 400 (Tanner Ealum), 800 (Delaney McDowell), 5K (Anna Van Wyk), 4 x 400 relay (Ealum, McDowell, Nicole Leonzo, Olivia Behymer) and shot put (Dasiana Larson).
They joined Zach Davis (decathlon), Brenna Smith (women's javelin) and Kylie Polsgrove (heptathlon), who captured event titles during the meet's first two days.
The successful, sun-drenched day also saw Mary Witmer lower her own program record for the women's 400 hurdles to 59.84 seconds.
Men's Day Three Recap The Liberty men's squad, which entered Friday's competition with just a 10-point advantage, scored points in bunches. The Flames won eight events on the day, scoring 23 or more points in four of them.
Liberty's highest-scoring event was the men's 110 hurdles, where the Flames pulled down 28 points. Prior to Friday, Liberty had not won a Big South men's 110 hurdles title since 2004 (Micah Brinkley) and had recorded only one top-three finish in the event since 2010.
That all changed in a big way, when the Flames went 1-2-3 and took four of the top five spots. Atkinson won the 110 hurdles in 14.26 seconds, followed by Ryan Davis (second, personal-best 14.55), Samson Moore (third, 14.85) and Blake Kohring (fifth, 15.32).
The Flames added 24 more points in the men's 400 hurdles, paced by Ryan Davis. The senior clocked a season-best time of 51.80 to join Marlon Tanner (1997-99) as the only three-time Big South men's 400 hurdles champions in meet history. Davis was followed across the finish line by Moore (third, season-best 53.79), Michael Fairfax (fourth, personal-best 53.99) and Kohring (sixth, personal-best 54.55).
Pratt spearheaded a 27-point haul for Liberty in the men's javelin. The sophomore's winning heave of 232-0 in round three broke the Bahamian national record of 229-9 which had stood since 1991. Pratt climbed to No. 2 in program history, No. 5 in Big South annals and No. 19 nationally this season.
Pratt needed a big throw to win, as freshman teammate Samuel Arter followed in second place at 220-1, adding 10 feet to his previous best. Arter, in his first year of javelin throwing, has moved into fourth place all-time at Liberty and the 10th spot on the Big South all-time list.
Freshman Alexander Hoffsmith threw 207-11 to finish in fourth place, while Zach Davis ended up fifth at 185-6 in his 12th and final event of the meet.
Adjacent to the javelin runway, Liberty scored 23 points in the men's pole vault. Waters made it over 16-4.75 to win by a foot and a half and claim the Flames' 16th Big South men's pole vault title in 24 years. Reilly Stroot (third, 14-11), Zach Gilroy (fourth, 14-5.25) and Ryan McCann (seventh, 13-11.25) also scored points for the Flames.
Liberty's final field event title on the day came in dramatic fashion. Jones triple jumped 51-1 on his sixth and final attempt, overtaking Gardner-Webb's Jalin Lawson by six centimeters for victory. Aklesso Agama added his sixth career All-Big South medal with a third-place finish, jumping a season-best 49-2.25. Jonny Saintil reached 46-9.5 for seventh.
Racanelli started his successful day with a season-best 400 time of 47.89, joining Mike Decker (1999-2001) as the only Flames ever to win the event three years in a row. Durham closed out Liberty's first 1-2 finish in the Big South men's outdoor 400 since 2001 with his 48.10 clocking.
Eighty minutes later, Racanelli (21.41) and Durham (21.79) added another 1-2 finish in the men's 200 final. Liberty's first men's 200 title at this meet since 2002 (Guifaly Christolin) was the ninth Big South individual crown of Racanelli's career, ranking him fourth in program history. Greg Edwards tacked on an eighth-place finish with his 200 time of 22.62.
Todd, Durham, Prentice and Racanelli later punctuated Liberty's team victory by winning their first 4 x 400 relay title since 2001 in a time of 3:14.93. Racanelli's anchor leg netted his 16th career All-Big South recognition.
Liberty also fared well in the men's 4 x 100 relay, as Ryan Davis, Brad Smalley, Edwards and Durham ran a time of 41.64 seconds for second place.
Todd led the Flames' trio of 800 finalists with a runner-up finish in 1:51.43. Prentice came in fourth at 1:52.27, while Andrew Crowell's season-best time of 1:54.81 was good for sixth place.
Zach Davis closed out his career as a 12-time All-Big South performer, thanks to his 6-8.25 high jump clearance for third place. Teammates Markus Ballengee and Anthony Colangelo shared sixth place at 6-2.25.
Two nights after finishing third in the men's 10K, James Zentmeyer claimed the same place in a steamy men's 5K with a 15:10.72 effort. Stanley Langat (fourth, 15:17.66) and Jack Tidball (sixth, 15:46.41) also scored points in the event.
Jelen's personal-best 1,500 time of 3:53.09 produced a fourth-place finish.
Edwards equaled his 100 personal best of 10.83 seconds, coming in seventh in a speedy final.
Women's Day Three Recap The 400 (22 points) was the Lady Flames' highest-scoring event on the day, led by Ealum's victory. The freshman ran a time of 54.65 to complete a sweep of the Big South indoor and outdoor 400 crowns. She was followed by Behymer (second, personal-best 54.99) and Leonzo (fifth, 57.49). Behymer's effort made her the seventh Lady Flame ever to dip under 55 seconds, including the third this season.
McDowell took home her first Big South outdoor 800 title to go along with a pair of indoor crowns, crossing the finish line in 2:10.55. Freshman teammate Brooke Turner added a fifth-place finish with a 2:13.30 effort.
In the very last race of the meet, Ealum, McDowell, Leonzo and Behymer teamed up for a dominating victory in the 4 x 400 relay. Their time of 3:42.31 produced a winning margin of six seconds as Liberty repeated its title from 2016.
After finishing second to Campbell's Joan Maritim in four different Big South finals this year (cross country, indoor mile, indoor 3K and indoor 5K), Van Wyk got the upper hand on Maritim in the women's 5K final. The redshirt freshman outraced the event's defending champion over the last two laps to win by nine seconds in 17:42.69. Terrill Zentmeyer (fourth, 18:30.19) and Kammi Kurtz (seventh, 18:45.29) added seven more points in the 12.5-lapper.
Larson completed a sweep of the Big South women's indoor and outdoor shot put championships, producing the four longest throws of the competition, including her winning effort of 45-10. Fellow junior Holly Arey scored in her fourth event of the meet, throwing 39-1 for seventh place.
Witmer came in second in the women's 400 hurdles final while improving her school record from 59.92 to 59.84. Polsgrove followed in sixth place in 1:03.11, completing her 10th and final event of the week.
Janae Jones finished as the triple jump runner-up with a 40-9.5 leap, earning her ninth All-Big South honor.
Dana Mercer, Ealum, Behymer and Leonzo ran a season-best 4 x 100 time of 46.52 seconds to place second.
Van Wyk preceded her 5K victory with a 1,500 runner-up finish in a time of 4:36.91, while Hannah Scherlacher's 4:44.24 effort placed fourth.
Freshmen Katie Dodson (fourth place, personal-best 14.07) and Jaiden Mulder (seventh, season-best 14.27) both moved up on Liberty's women's 100 hurdles list. Dodson now ranks No. 6 in program history, while Mulder sits at No. 10.
Ealum finished fourth in the women's 200, posting a time of 24.96 out of lane one. Mercer added a sixth-place finish (25.17) to go along with her sixth-place showing (12.14) in the 100 final.
Up Next In an effort to qualify more athletes to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, Liberty will take a group of competitors to the Aggie Last Chance, Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. Events will begin at 9 a.m. inside Aggie Stadium. Qualifiers to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will be officially announced on Thursday.
Final Men's Team Standings 1) Liberty – 279 2) Campbell – 130 3) High Point – 105 4T) Charleston Southern – 92 4T) Gardner-Webb – 92 6) Winthrop – 73 7) UNC Asheville – 41
Final Women's Team Standings 1) Liberty – 253 2) Campbell – 162 3) High Point – 120 4) Charleston Southern – 102 5) Gardner-Webb – 52 6) Winthrop – 48 7) Radford – 47 8) UNC Asheville – 33
Men's Outstanding Track Performer Stephen Racanelli, Liberty
Women's Outstanding Track Performer Janai Scott, Campbell
Men's Outstanding Field Performer (Tie) Denzel Pratt, Liberty AJ White, Gardner-Webb
Women's Outstanding Field Performer Sabina Allen, Campbell
Men's Freshman of the Year Matthew Harding, UNC Asheville
Women's Freshman of the Year Janai Scott, Campbell
Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year AJ White, Gardner-Webb
Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Kelsey Rea, Campbell
Men's All-Academic Team Lorne Jenkins, Campbell Jacob Moore, Charleston Southern AJ White, Gardner-Webb Vinny Todaro, High Point Luke Jelen, Liberty Chase Stevens, UNC Asheville Michael Hajduk, Winthrop
Women's All-Academic Team Kelsey Rea, Campbell Danielle Burnett, Charleston Southern Elise Moffatt, Gardner-Webb Jamie Schnuck, High Point Kat Bouton, Liberty Courtney Rice, Radford Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville Taryn DeLeon, Winthrop
Men's Coach of the Year Brant Tolsma, Liberty
Women's Coach of the Year Brant Tolsma, Liberty