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Host Liberty Sweeps Big South Indoor Team Championships

February 24, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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It may have been the first time contesting the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex, but the host team enjoyed a familiar result. The Liberty men's squad captured its 21st straight team title, while the Lady Flames were victorious for the third year in a row and the 13th time in meet history.

The Lady Flames racked up their most points ever at this championship (224) and their 124.5-point margin of victory over Campbell was the largest by any women's squad in the meet's 21-year history. Liberty won nine women's events, equaling the 2011 Lady Flames for the team's most first-place finishes at a Big South Indoor Track & Field Championship.

On the men's side, Liberty posted 224 points to runner-up Campbell's 121.5. The Flames have now won all 21 men's team championships in meet history, extending the longest championship streak in any Big South sport and the longest active conference championship streak in NCAA Division I men's indoor track & field.

Liberty continued to enjoy a home track advantage at Big South Track & Field Championship events. The Flames are also eight-for-eight in sweeping the men's and women's outdoor conference crowns at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex.

Brant Tolsma, who has coached 96 Liberty men's and women's cross country and track & field teams to Big South titles, claimed both the Big South Men's and Women's Coach of the Year trophies. The 32nd-year Liberty head coach is now a 69-time Big South Coach of the Year.

Kimone Green was voted Big South Women's Outstanding Track Performer after having a hand in three of the Lady Flames' victories (200, 400, 4 x 400 relay). The senior transfer from Abilene Christian became the first Lady Flame to win the women's 200/400 double at this meet.

Fellow Jamaican Jovaine Atkinson earned both the Big South Men's Outstanding Track Performer and Big South Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. The first runner in conference history to win the men's 60 dash and 60 hurdles titles at the same Big South championship did so within a span of 40 minutes Saturday afternoon. The redshirt sophomore aeronautics major boasts a 3.79 GPA.

Senior Erin Zappia, an accounting major with a 3.83 GPA, earned recognition as a member of the Big South Women's All-Academic Team.

Atkinson recorded arguably the most impressive of the Flames' many record-breaking efforts during the two-day meet. His winning men's 60 hurdles time of 7.71 on Saturday set Liberty, Big South, meet and facility records and is tied for No. 7 nationally this year on the NCAA Division I list.

Green also set a program record with her 200 time of 23.98, one of five meet records the host team took down on Saturday. The other meet record setters included Atkinson (men's 60 hurdles), Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (men's 400, 46.87), Darrel Jones (men's triple jump, 50-11) and Delaney McDowell (women's 800, 2:08.84).

Green's winning 400 clocking (54.47) joined Atkinson's hurdles effort as the Flames' two new facility records on the day.

Women's Day Two Recap
Green got her busy and successful day started with victory in the 400 in a facility-record time of 54.47, climbing to No. 2 on Liberty's all-time list. Green is now a three-time conference champion in the women's indoor 400 during her career, as she claimed the 2015 and 2016 Southland Conference titles in the event while competing for Abilene Christian.

Green was joined on the 400 podium by freshman teammate Ty'Asia Dansbury, whose season-best 56.02 effort was good for third place. Olivia Behymer placed fourth (56.73) with Maggie McDermott in eighth (58.20).

Green's 200 time of 23.98 broke Abigail Flower's school record of 24.14 from 2015 and made her just the second Big South runner ever to dip under 24 seconds indoors. As in the 400, Dansbury added a third-place finish, crossing the line in 24.56.

For the first time in meet history, the Lady Flames have claimed three straight women's 4 x 400 relay titles. Green put Liberty in the lead for good on the leadoff leg, and the Lady Flames went on to win by almost 10 seconds in 3:43.95. Green, Dansbury, Behymer and Tanner Ealum comprised the fifth-fastest quartet in Liberty history.

Ealum had earlier run an 800 personal-best time of 2:10.48 but finished second to junior teammate McDowell, who won the event for the third straight year in an indoor personal-best and meet-record 2:08.84. McDowell joins former Liberty standouts Heather Sagan (2000-02) and Jaime Watson (2008-10) as the only runners ever to claim three straight women's 800 championships in meet history. The Lady Flames have now won 12 of 21 Big South women's indoor 800 titles all-time, the team's most in any event.

Behind McDowell and Ealum, Natalee Cole (sixth, personal-best 2:18.45) and Erin Hansel (seventh, 2:18.82) added to the Lady Flames' 23-point event.

Liberty collected 22 more points in the women's weight throw, spearheaded by Dasiana Larson's victory. The senior added more than a foot to her previous best, reaching 66-2.75 while joining Jocelyn Williams (2014) as Liberty's only Big South women's weight throw champions.

Classmate Holly Arey nabbed third place at 57-7.25, boosting her personal best by more than a foot and a half. Catherine Oyarzun (fourth, 57-6) and Naomi Mojica (eighth, 53-1.25) also collected points in the weight throw.

The Lady Flames put three women's pole vaulters on the Big South podium for the second straight year. Defending champion Jessie Glynn ended up second, equaling her indoor best of 12-5.5. Meanwhile, Rachel Milnes and Mariel Finger shared third place at 11-5.75.

After completing eight events on Friday, Kylie Polsgrove only had one to worry about on Saturday. The junior's personal-best time of 8.79 captured second place in the women's 60 hurdles final, giving her a total of 36 points at the meet, more than two complete women's teams scored on the weekend.

Katie Dodson added a third-place finish with her season-best hurdles time of 8.85, with Jaiden Mulder coming in fifth at 8.89.

Anna Van Wyk collected her ninth career All-Big South honor and her second of the meet with a third-place showing (5:04.34) in the women's mile. Teammates Heidi Smith (5:11.80) and Torree Scull (5:17.54) came in sixth and eighth, respectively.

Freshmen Alexis Wilson (sixth, 7.78) and Nikayla Hoyte (eighth, 7.84) both scored points in the 60 dash final.

Hannah Andrews, another freshman, triple jumped 35-5 for seventh place, while Alyssa Karle crossed the line eighth with her women's 3K time of 10:21.12, giving the Lady Flames points in all 17 events.

Men's Day Two Recap
After lowering the Liberty, Big South, meet and facility men's 60 hurdles records to 7.73 during Friday's prelims, Atkinson improved each of those marks to 7.71 on Saturday. Now a back-to-back Big South champion in the event, Atkinson remains undefeated in the hurdles in 2018 and likely sealed a berth in the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Freshman Branson Rolle came in third at 8.25, with Jeremy Davis taking fourth in 8.51 in the midst of his heptathlon competition.

Prior to Saturday, Liberty had not won a Big South men's 60 dash title since Guifaly Christolin did so in 2002. The Flames had not even recorded a top-three finish in the event since 2010. That changed in a big way, as Atkinson (personal-best 6.79) and Travis Henderson (6.92) went 1-2, with Atkinson posting the event's fastest winning time since 2012. Chukwuma Maduka came in eighth at 7.22.

While Atkinson won two events on Saturday, Perlaza Zapata did him one better with three titles, matching Green's triple of the 200, 400 and 4 x 400 relay.

For the fourth straight year, Liberty swept the three podium spots in the Big South men's 400 final. Perlaza Zapata's 46.87 effort led the way, taking down the meet record of Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Mike Decker (46.92) from 2001. Defending champion Jahquez Durham raced to second in an indoor personal-best 48.16, while Jeff Jacobs' season-best and IC4A-qualifying 48.83 earned his third consecutive third-place showing in the two-lap event.

Perlaza Zapata's 200 winning time of 21.24 scared Decker's school record of 21.23 while claiming the Flames' fourth straight Big South title in the event. Durham came in third with a personal-best time of 21.67 which passed assistant coach Andrew "Pete" McFadden for seventh place in program history.

Henderson's personal-best 21.80 was good for fourth, with Greg Edwards coming in sixth at 22.04 to wrap up a 24-point event.

Capping off the team title in style, the quartet of Durham, Michael Todd, Jacobs and Perlaza Zapata raced to their fourth straight Big South 4 x 400 championship by more than four seconds. The Flames' 3:13.90 clocking just missed the meet record of 3:13.67.

Jones recorded the five longest jumps of the men's triple jump competition, breaking his own meet record with a 50-11 measurement in round six. The senior captured his second indoor Big South triple jump title in three years.

Jonny Saintil matched his triple jump personal best of 48-2.75 for fourth place, with Markus Ballengee reaching 44-4 for eighth place in his collegiate triple jump debut.

Ballengee appeared well on his way to a heptathlon victory and a possible record-breaking score, but an untimely no-height in the pole vault followed his strong 8.20 clocking in the 60 hurdles on Saturday. Despite receiving zero points in the pole vault, Ballengee ended up fourth overall with 4,762 points.

Competing in just his second heptathlon, Davis stepped up for a runner-up finish with 4,947 points. Spurred on by a personal-best 13-3.5 pole vault clearance, Davis became one of the Flames' top 10 heptathletes all-time.

Liberty showcased its mid-distance prowess with a 2-3-4 finish at 800 meters. Todd made a strong bid for victory before ending up a close second to UNC Asheville's Matthew Harding in an indoor personal-best 1:51.34. Todd and Harding both eclipsed Todd's meet record of 1:52.43 from 2016. Colin Schultz came in third (1:52.52), with Bradley Prentice fourth (1:52.84).

Earlier in the day, Schultz had shaved more than three second off of his mile personal best. His time of 4:07.92 placed fifth in the speedy race and ranks No. 4 all-time for the Flames.

Redshirt freshman Jacob Burke's personal-best 6-6.25 high jump clearance garnered an All-Big South medal with a third-place finish. Rolle made it over a personal-best 6-4.25 for fourth, with Maduka jumping 6-2.25 for sixth place.

William Partridge improved his weight throw best to 59-1.75, taking third in the event and seventh all-time at Liberty.

Nick Doan's seventh-place effort in the men's 3K (8:40.25) enabled the Flames to match their female counterparts' feat of scoring points in each of the meet's 17 disciplines.

Up Next
Liberty will travel to Boston for the 2018 IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, Friday through Sunday at the Boston University Track & Tennis Center.

Meanwhile, the qualifiers for the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships will be announced on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Atkinson is expected to qualify in the men's 60 hurdles. The meet will be contested at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas, March 9-10.

Final Men's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 224

2) Campbell – 116.5
3) Charleston Southern – 92
4) High Point – 79
5) Winthrop – 49.5
6) Gardner-Webb – 49
7) UNC Asheville – 47

Final Women's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 224

2) Campbell – 99.5
3) High Point – 98.5
4) Radford – 82
5) Charleston Southern – 74.5
6) Gardner-Webb – 38
7) Winthrop – 29.5
8) UNC Asheville – 17

Men's Outstanding Track Performer
Jovaine Atkinson, Liberty

Women's Outstanding Track Performer
Kimone Green, Liberty

Men's Outstanding Field Performer
Jordan Smith, Gardner-Webb

Women's Outstanding Field Performer
Sabina Allen, Campbell

Men's Freshman of the Year
Houcine Bouchrak, High Point

Women's Freshman of the Year
Amelia Reynolds, Radford

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Jovaine Atkinson, Liberty

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Keaton Case, High Point
Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville

Men's All-Academic Team
Jovaine Atkinson, Liberty

Collin Cooper, Campbell
Blanton Gillespie, UNC Asheville
Justin Green, Charleston Southern
Joey Jennings, Winthrop
Alejandro Juan Torres, High Point
Carlos Williams, Gardner-Webb

Women's All-Academic Team
Natasha Akbarizadeh, Gardner-Webb
Keaton Case, High Point
LaTisha Chambers, Radford
Caroline Edmondson, Charleston Southern
Michaela Louw, Campbell
Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville
Olivia Paxton, Winthrop
Erin Zappia, Liberty

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Women's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty