Hosting the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships for the first time at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex, the Flames and Lady Flames put on quite a show for the home fans on Friday. Liberty won five event titles on the day and jumped out to the lead in both the men's and women's team standings.
The Lady Flames posted four first-place finishes, including two (high jump, pentathlon) by Kylie Polsgrove, who racked up 28 points herself on a busy day. Naomi Mojica captured the women's shot put title, while Liberty put an exclamation point on a fantastic Friday with victory in the distance medley relay. As a result, the two-time defending champion Lady Flames own a 77-36 advantage over second-place Campbell through six women's events.
Carson Waters made it back-to-back Big South men's pole vault titles, helping post the Liberty men's squad to the lead through five events. The Flames, who have won the men's team title at all 20 previous editions of this meet, sit in front of Campbell by a 52-36 score after day one.
The host team also broke some records on Friday, including four by redshirt sophomore Jovaine Atkinson in the men's 60 hurdles prelims. His time of 7.73 seconds set a new Liberty, Big South, meet and facility record and is tied for No. 6 in the NCAA this season.
The Lady Flames' distance medley quartet of Alyssa Karle, Tanner Ealum, Delaney McDowell and Anna Van Wyk also came in under the previous meet record with their winning time of 11:55.53.
During the final weekend of qualification for the IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, Liberty notched five new IC4A-qualifying marks and four new ECAC qualifiers.
Women's Day One Recap Polsgrove competed in eight events on Friday and excelled in all of them. She successfully defended her Big South pentathlon title by 320 points with a final score of 3,608, finishing just 28 tallies away from Riley Brandon's meet record of 3,636 from 2015. Polsgrove joined Brandon (2014-15) as the only Lady Flames to win back-to-back Big South pentathlons and gave Liberty its 10th Big South pentathlon gold medal in 13 years.
Polsgrove led the pentathlon from start to finish, topping the field of 11 pentathletes in the 60 hurdles (season-best 8.89), high jump (5-5.75) and long jump (17-7.5). She also hurled the shot put an indoor personal-best 34-6.75 and summoned a 2:35.09 800 just minutes after qualifying for Saturday's 60 hurdles final.
While Polsgrove was competing in the pentathlon long jump, she hopped across the infield to nab a runner-up finish in the women's long jump. Her indoor personal-best leap of 18-1.75 came on her final attempt of the competition. Freshman teammate Hannah Andrews followed in sixth place with a season-best 17-5.5 effort.
Wrapping up her afternoon, Polsgrove edged teammate and defending champion Erin Zappia in the women's high jump. Both Lady Flames cleared 5-6, but Polsgrove won the tiebreaker on misses and punched her ECAC ticket as a Big South event champion. The 5-6 effort equaled Polsgrove's indoor personal best in the event.
Liberty's women's shot putters pulled down 20 points, paced by Mojica's dominating victory. The freshman's top mark of 51-1.75 won the event by nearly four feet. Defending indoor and outdoor champion Dasiana Larson placed third with an indoor personal-best mark of 45-9, while fellow senior Holly Arey took fifth at 43-0.75.
After claiming the Big South women's distance medley title in 2014 and 2016, the Lady Flames continued their recent tradition of winning in even years, blowing out runner-up Campbell by more than 20 seconds. The fourth-fastest quartet in program history saw Karle clock 3:42.19 for 1,200 meters, Ealum split 54.60 for her 400-meter leg, McDowell give Liberty the lead for good by clocking a 2:14.11 800 and Van Wyk remove all doubt with her 5:04.64 1,600-meter anchor leg.
Lady Flames freshmen performed well in the women's 5K, led by Noel Palmer. She ran near the front of the pack throughout all 25 laps before finishing just two seconds behind Campbell freshman Shanley Koekemoer. Palmer's runner-up time of 17:21.80 hit the ECAC qualifier.
Fellow rookie Mary Kate McElroy's 18:10.80 effort was good for ninth place, putting her less than four seconds away from placing during the collegiate 5K debut for both Palmer and McElroy.
Fifteen of the 17 Lady Flames who competed in running event prelims on Friday successfully qualified for Saturday's finals, including a full quotient of four apiece in both the 400 and 800.
Kimone Green (24.24, No. 2 all-time at Liberty) and Ty'Asia Dansbury (24.45, No. 4 all-time at Liberty) qualified 1-2 in the women's 200. Dansbury's ECAC-qualifying 400 time of 56.51 paced four Lady Flames among the five fastest qualifiers in that event.
Freshman Alexis Wilson's personal-best 60 time of 7.69 earned her a trip to the ECAC meet.
Men's Day One Recap Waters and High Point's Carter Clasper both pole vaulted 16-2.75, but Waters won by having zero misses up through that clearance. The Sunshine State native is Liberty's first back-to-back men's pole vault titlist since Kolby Shepherd won three in a row between 2008-10.
Reilly Stroot vaulted a personal-best 15-3 for fourth place, with Ryan McCann making it over 14-3.25 for the sixth position.
Brad Smalley led three Flames in the top five of the men's long jump, with his indoor personal-best mark of 23-5.25. He qualified for the IC4A meet in the process, as did fourth-place Darrel Jones at 23-1.25. Chukwuma Maduka followed in fifth place by reaching a new personal best of 22-9.25 in a competition where fifth and eight were separated by only 0.75 inches.
The Liberty men's distance medley relay squad of Andrew Crowell, Michael Todd, Bradley Prentice and Nick Doan came in third in a race which featured numerous lead changes. The Flames' time of 10:01.73 ranks No. 4 in program history and earned their way to the IC4A meet.
Crowell led off in 3:06.63 before Todd gave the Flames the lead with a stellar 48.21-second 400-meter leg. Prentice extended the advantage with his 1:53.46 800. Doan ran a solid 4:13.44 anchor but could not quite hold off hard-charging Campbell and High Point.
Samuel Proctor pulled out a fourth-place 5K finish in 14:49.96, while Augostine Lisoreng was eighth at 15:19.72.
William Partridge heaved the shot put a season-best 49-10.75 to capture fourth place in the event.
Through Friday's four heptathlon events, Liberty sophomore Markus Ballengee leads defending champion Pablo Romero of High Point by 324 points. Ballengee's score of 3,125 is 180 points ahead of where he was at this stage of his Liberty and Big South-record 5,523-point heptathlon at the Liberty Kickoff earlier this season.
Ballengee won the heptathlon 60 (personal-best 7.10), shot put (43-0.5) and high jump (6-8.25) on Friday. His high jump clearance, which added two inches to the Commonwealth native's previous best, met the IC4A standard.
Competing in just his second heptathlon, Liberty's Jeremy Davis is currently in third place at 2,734 points. He won the heptathlon long jump with a personal-best 22-6.5 effort and also established new personal bests in the shot put (35-7.5) and high jump (5-8.5).
Like their female counterparts, the Flames fared extremely well in track prelims on Friday with all but one of their 17 competitors moving through to Saturday's finals.
In addition to his record-breaking performance in the men's 60 hurdles prelims, Atkinson headlined the Flames' impressive showing in the men's 60 dash prelims. Liberty won all three heats of the event, thanks to Atkinson (IC4A-qualifying 6.82, No. 2 in program history), Travis Henderson (personal-best 6.89) and Maduka (6.93).
Liberty also put three 200 runners under the 22-second mark, including Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (21.69), Henderson (personal-best 21.83) and Jahquez Durham (indoor personal-best 21.88).
Perlaza Zapata (48.08) and 2017 champion Durham (49.06) posted the two fastest times during the men's 400 heats.
Up Next The 2018 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships will resume Saturday at noon with the heptathlon 60-meter hurdles. The women's weight throw, women's triple jump and men's high jump will be the day's first field events, each beginning at 1 p.m. Running events will commence with the women's mile at 2 p.m.