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Liberty Kickoff to Open Flames' 2018 Home Schedule

January 24, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Markus Ballengee will compete in the heptathlon, Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Kickoff.

Markus Ballengee will compete in the heptathlon, Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Kickoff.

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Liberty Indoor Track Complex

@Liberty_XCTF Twitter

The 13th Liberty Kickoff will open the Flames' 2018 home schedule, Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex.

The meet, which will feature approximately 1,200 athletes from 40 colleges and universities, is set to begin Friday at 12:30 p.m. with the pentathlon 60-meter hurdles. Saturday's events will commence with the men's weight throw at 9 a.m. Admission is free to all spectators.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available during both days of competition.

Additionally, periodic updates will be posted to the Liberty Track & Field/Cross Country Twitter account, @Liberty_XCTF.

Scouting the Competition
Liberty will square off against Big South Conference foes Gardner-Webb and Radford, along with future conference member Hampton. Other notable entrants include Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, James Madison, North Carolina A&T, Virginia, Virginia Tech and William & Mary.

Many events will feature a large number of competitors, led by the 200-meter dash. The one-lap event is scheduled to include 100 men's entrants and 104 women's sprinters.

About the Facility
The 169,000-square-foot Liberty Indoor Track Complex is highlighted by a six-lane, 200-meter, hydraulically banked oval. The facility, which includes permanent seating for approximately 1,500 spectators, also boasts ample space for athletes. Competitors are availed a sizeable mezzanine area which sits above an eight-lane, 100-meter warm-up straightaway.

Other amenities in the facility include a 6,000-square-foot weight room, a 3,000-square-foot training room and underwater treadmill, a coaches' hospitality room with windows that overlook the track, a concessions area, a press box, a scoreboard with live results, ample restrooms, locker rooms and office space.

The Liberty Indoor Track Complex opened in January 2017 and has seen records broken ever since. Most recently, national high school records were set in the boys' 300, girls' 5K and girls' 4 x 200 relay at last weekend's VA Showcase meet.

The Flames will host four meets at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex this season, also including the fourth annual Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational (Feb. 2-3), the second annual Liberty Elite Invitational (Feb. 10) and the 2018 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships (Feb. 23-24).

The Liberty Indoor Track Complex is located beneath the LU monogram off of Candlers Mountain Road. The road leading back to the facility may be found directly across the street from the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel's address is 3777 Candlers Mountain Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Liberty Kickoff History
This weekend's meet will be the 13th edition of the Liberty Kickoff, the Flames' longest-running home indoor track & field competition. The event will take place in January for just the third time, with the first being the inaugural Liberty Kickoff, Jan. 28-29, 2005. That meet was the first to be contested at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Last year's Liberty Kickoff, which was held Jan. 20-21, 2017, marked the Liberty Indoor Track Complex's first-ever collegiate competition.

The list of meet record holders includes two of Liberty's three track & field/cross country NCAA Division I national champions, Heather (Sagan) Zealand (meet record holder in the women's mile and 3K) and Josh McDougal (meet record holder in the men's 3K and 5K). It also features U.S. Olympic hurdler Bershawn "Batman" Jackson, who set the meet record in the men's 500 last season.

All About Atkinson
Redshirt sophomore Jovaine Atkinson was named Big South Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week after opening his season in impressive fashion. The Jamaica native won the men's 60 hurdles title at the Keydet Invitational after clocking a time of 7.75 seconds in the prelims. That effort shattered his own program record (7.94), tied the Big South Conference record and currently ranks No. 7 nationally.

Atkinson will not hurdle this week but will instead focus on the men's 60-meter dash (Saturday, 10:30 a.m.), where he will look to improve upon his 7.11 personal best. Atkinson will have plenty of competition, with 23 runners seeded at 6.90 or faster.

Look Out for Larson
Dasiana Larson opened her senior season with fourth-place finishes in the Keydet Invitational women's shot put and weight throw competitions, earning Big South Women's Indoor Field Athlete of the Week honors. She qualified for the ECAC meet in both events, improved her indoor personal-best shot put mark to 45-3 and moved to the top of the 2018 Big South women's weight throw list at 60-4.

Larson will compete in both events again this weekend, including Friday's weight throw (4:30 p.m.) and Saturday's shot put (noon). The meet could provide a bit of a Big South preview, as the conference's top four weight throwers (Larson, Liberty's Catherine Oyarzun, Gardner-Webb's Natasha Akbarizadeh and Gardner-Webb's Petra Jakelijic) and top three shot putters (Gardner-Webb's Sarah Mitchell, Larson and Liberty's Holly Arey) are all entered.

What's Next for Waters?
After matching his career best (17-0.75) at the National Pole Vault Summit and winning the Keydet Invitational men's pole vault to begin his season, senior Carson Waters will be back in action Saturday at 1 p.m.

He will square off against former Big South champion Austin Miller, former Wake Forest standout Michael Cyphers and Virginia's Sam Young, last year's sixth-place ACC pole vaulter.

Keeping Up with Kirwa
Junior Azaria Kirwa is set to race for the first time since earning All-America honors with a 25th-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in November. He will compete in the mile on Saturday at 11:15 a.m., aiming to lop time off of his 4:17.10 personal best.

Batting 1,000
Liberty mid-distance standouts Colin Schultz, Bradley Prentice and Michael Todd are part of a loaded men's 1,000 field, set to race the five-lapper Saturday at 2:55 p.m. Schultz owns the program record at 2:23.01 and held the facility standard until it was lowered to 2:24.64 last weekend.

Virginia Tech will be well-represented, led by All-America 1,500 runners Neil Gourley and Vincent Ciattei and NCAA 800 national qualifier Patrick Joseph. Lipscomb's Ryan Speer, the reigning Atlantic Sun indoor and outdoor men's 800 champion, is also entered.

Multi Event Madness
The heptathlon and pentathlon will dominate much of Friday's schedule, and Liberty owns the top seed in each, thanks to sophomore Markus Ballengee and junior Kylie Polsgrove. Ballengee, the 2017 Big South heptathlon runner-up as a freshman, will face reigning MEAC heptathlon champion Todd Townsend of North Carolina A&T. Defending Big South pentathlon and heptathlon champion Polsgrove will match up against 2017 CAA heptathlon runner-up Nicolette Serratore from James Madison.

Fresh Faces
Numerous Liberty athletes are expected to make their track & field debut in a Flames uniform this weekend, including Victoria Ballard (women's 60, 200), Natalee Cole (women's 800), Ty'Asia Dansbury (women's 400), Kimone Green (women's 400, 500), Lauren Hirneisen (women's 1,000), Clara Lynch (women's mile), Mary Kate McElroy (women's mile), Nikayla Hoyte (women's 60, 200), Tiffany Jeffcoat (women's 60 hurdles), Naomi Mojica (women's shot put, weight throw), Miranda Moss (women's triple jump), Noel Palmer (women's 3K), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (men's 800), Samuel Proctor (men's mile), Kelly Shaffer (women's 3K), Alyssa Smalley (women's triple jump) and Heidi Smith (women's 1,000).

Perlaza Zapata's debut is especially anticipated, as he competed for Colombia in the men's 4 x 400 relay at the Rio Olympics in 2016. His 800-meter race is slated for Saturday at 2:15 p.m., and he is also expected to run a leg of the Flames' 4 x 400 relay Saturday at 5:40.

Big South's Best
After opening their 2018 season at last weekend's Keydet Invitational, four Liberty athletes rank No. 1 in the Big South Conference for their respective events.

They include Jovaine Atkinson (men's 60 hurdles, 7.75), Darrel Jones (men's triple jump, 49-3.75), Dasiana Larson (women's weight throw, 60-4) and Carson Waters (men's pole vault, 16-7.25).

Looking Ahead
Liberty will remain at home next weekend for the fourth annual Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational (Feb. 2-3). Meanwhile, Azaria Kirwa is slated to run the 3K at the Camel City Invitational, Feb. 3 at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C.