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4th Annual Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational Set for Friday & Saturday

January 31, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Darius Dixon (far right) is pictured here competing in his lone 400-meter race for the Flames, on Dec. 5, 2013.
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Liberty will play host to 16 other NCAA Division I track & field squads at the fourth annual Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational, Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex.

The meet, named in memoriam of former Flames sprinter Darius Dixon, is set to begin Friday at 3 p.m. with the men's weight throw. Saturday's events will commence with the women's long jump, men's long jump and women's pole vault, all of which are slated for 10 a.m. start times. Admission is free to all spectators.

One notable Flames athlete will not be competing in Lynchburg this weekend. All-American distance runner Azaria Kirwa will compete against Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo and others in the Camel City Elite Men's 3K Saturday at 2 p.m. at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available during both days of competition. In addition, Blue Ridge Timing will provide a virtual scoreboard option, enabling fans to see what is currently being displayed on the Liberty Indoor Track Complex scoreboard during the meet. This new feature is available for both web and mobile platforms.

Fans can follow Azaria Kirwa's 3K in Winston-Salem via video streaming (Runner Space +PLUS subscription required) and live results. 

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

Scouting the Competition
Five of the Big South Conference's eight track & field teams (High Point, Liberty, Radford, UNC Asheville and Winthrop) are slated to compete, along with future conference member Hampton.

The field also includes Power Five schools Maryland and South Carolina. The Gamecock women's squad is currently ranked No. 14 nationally.

Remembering Darius
Darius Dixon, a promising freshman sprinter from Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Va., opened his Liberty track & field career by competing in the 200 and 400-meter dash events at the Liberty Kickoff on Dec. 5, 2013. Two days later, he was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 18.

In his memory, Liberty will hold a Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational meet for the fourth straight year. The inaugural Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational was contested on Dec. 3-4, 2014 at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.

A special recognition ceremony and the national anthem will take place on Saturday at 12:35 p.m., directly prior to Dixon's signature event, the 400-meter dash.

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, Virginia Tech's Rachel Pocratsky ran the seventh-fastest women's 1,000-meter time (2:41.98) in collegiate history during last weekend's Liberty Kickoff.

The Flames will host four meets at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex this season. Still to come are 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.

400-Meter Focus
Appropriately for the Darius Dixon meet, the men's and women's 400-meter dash events both promise intrigue and strong competition, beginning Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

After excelling in the men's 800 and 4 x 400 relay last weekend, Olympian Alejandro Perlaza Zapata is slated to make his Liberty 400-meter debut on Saturday. On the women's side, two-time Southland Conference 400-meter champion Kimone Green and seven-time South Dakota state champion Cortney Dowling are both expected to run their first 400s for the Lady Flames.

Powerful Pole Vaulting
Saturday's schedule will be highlighted by some high-level pole vaulting, beginning with the women's pole vault at 10 a.m. and continuing with the men's invitational pole vault at 1 p.m.

The women's competition features a trio of post-collegiate competitors (McKenzie Johnson, Marissa Kalsey and Jill Marois) who will take aim at the facility record of 14-0. It will also include a matchup between the reigning Big South champion (Liberty's Jessie Glynn) and two talented Big South freshmen. High Point's Nathalie Elliott cleared a school-record 12-9.5 last weekend, while Liberty's Rachel Milnes got over a Flames freshman-record 12-5.5.

On the men's side, Liberty senior Carson Waters (17-0.75 personal best) is one of eight competitors seeded at 17 feet or higher. Austin Miller, who raised the facility record to 17-10.5 at last weekend's Liberty Kickoff, will return along with fellow post-collegiate vaulters Chris Pillow, Chase Brannon, Scott Houston, Jacob Blankenship, Hunter Arnold and Michael Cyphers.

Hurdle Highlights
Last season, Liberty won the Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational men's shuttle hurdles relay in a school-record time of 32.88 seconds. If the Flames hope to defend their title, Friday at 6:30 p.m., they will have to take down a South Carolina squad traditionally known for great hurdlers like Allen Johnson and Terrence Trammell.

On Saturday, the Flames' Jovaine Atkinson will race the 60 hurdles for the first time since winning the event and setting a school record of 7.75 at the season-opening Keydet Invitational. He will square off against South Carolina's Isaiah Moore, who placed eighth in the men's 110 hurdles final at the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Keeping Up With Kirwa
Azaria Kirwa is part of an elite field of collegiate and professional runners set to compete in the Camel City Elite Men's 3K, Saturday at 2 p.m. in Winston-Salem, N.C. Kirwa's competitors are headlined by Paul Chelimo, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the men's 5K. He will also square off against familiar Big South foes Amon Kemboi and Lawrence Kipkoech of Campbell.

Kirwa got his 2018 season off to an encouraging start at last weekend's Liberty Kickoff, dropping his mile personal best to 4:11.87. This week, he will look to improve upon his 3K best of 8:12.03. Kirwa placed third in the Big South and sixth in the IC4A at the 3K distance a year ago.

Record Breakers
Liberty took down three school records during Saturday's events at the Liberty Kickoff, including the men's heptathlon (Markus Ballengee, 5,523), women's 1,000 (Delaney McDowell, 2:49.95) and men's 4 x 400 relay (Jahquez Durham, Michael Todd, Jeff Jacobs, Alejandro Perlaza Zapata, 3:12.95).

Ballengee will focus on individual events this weekend, McDowell will step down to her customary 800-meter distance and the men's 4 x 400 relay squad could take another shot at lowering its record. The Flames should have plenty of competition in the relay from the likes of South Carolina, VCU and Norfolk State.

Big South's Best
Liberty swept all four Big South Conference weekly awards on Wednesday, as Alejandro Perlaza Zapata was named Big South Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week, Markus Ballengee was tabbed Big South Men's Indoor Field Athlete of the Week, Delaney McDowell was honored as Big South Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week and Kylie Polsgrove was named Big South Women's Indoor Field Athlete of the Week.

McDowell's award came two days after younger brother Keegan McDowell was recognized as Big South Men's Basketball Freshman of the Week for his recent performances for the Flames.

All four of the Flames' weekly award winners are scheduled to compete this weekend. Perlaza Zapata is slated for the men's 400 and 4 x 400 relay, Ballengee is entered in the men's 60 hurdles, shuttle hurdles relay, 4 x 400 relay, long jump, pole vault and shot put, McDowell is set to run the women's 800 and Polsgrove is signed up for the 800, shuttle hurdles relay and high jump.

Big South's Best, Part 2
With just two weekends of competition remaining before the 2018 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, numerous Liberty athletes rank No. 1 in the conference for their respective events.

They include Jovaine Atkinson (men's 60 hurdles, 7.75), Markus Ballengee (men's heptathlon, 5,523), Olivia Behymer (women's 400, 56.98), Jeff Jacobs (men's 400, 49.78), Darrel Jones (men's triple jump, 50-3.25), Dasiana Larson (women's weight throw, 63-0), Naomi Mojica (women's shot put, 50-0.5), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (men's 800, 1:52.40), Kylie Polsgrove (women's pentathlon, 3,670), Carson Waters (men's pole vault, 16-7.25) and Erin Zappia (women's high jump, 5-7).

Liberty also tops the Big South list in both the men's (3:12.95) and women's (3:45.45) 4 x 400 relays.

Competing for College Station
At season's end, the nation's top 16 performers in each event will be invited to compete at the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. The meet is slated for March 9-10 in College Station, Texas.

At this juncture of the season, Jovaine Atkinson is tied for No. 7 nationally in the men's 60 hurdles (7.75), while Markus Ballengee ranks No. 14 in the men's heptathlon (5,523).

Looking Ahead
Liberty will remain at home for the third consecutive weekend, playing host to the second annual Liberty Elite Invitational on Feb. 10. Meanwhile, men's distance runners Azaria Kirwa, Samuel Proctor and Colin Schultz will race at the Iowa State Classic, Feb. 9-10 in Ames, Iowa.