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Liberty Wraps Up First-Ever ECAC Title

March 4, 2018  Boston, Mass.  RSS
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The Lady Flames celebrate the first ECAC team championship in program history.

The Lady Flames celebrate the first ECAC team championship in program history.

Liberty's first-ever ECAC women's team title highlighted a show-stopping Sunday for the Flames at the 2018 IC4A and ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Boston University Track & Tennis Center. The Liberty men's squad finished as the IC4A team runner-up on a day which included three event victories and six program and Big South-record setting performances by the Flames.

The Lady Flames totaled 84.5 points during the three-day meet, putting them 17 points clear of defending champion Albany for their first ECAC team championship trophy, amongst a field of 44 women's squads which scored points.

Sophomore Tanner Ealum won the ECAC 500 title on Sunday in the fourth-fastest time in the world this year and the NCAA's fastest clocking for the calendar year 2018 (1:11.17), to go along with Dasiana Larson's ECAC weight throw victory from Saturday.

On the men's side, Liberty finished with 80.33 points, finishing a close second to UConn (85). This matches the Flames' best-ever showing at the IC4A indoor meet, as Liberty also took home the runner-up trophy in 2008 and tied for second in 2011.

Liberty won a trio of IC4A events for the first time at this meet, and junior Alejandro Perlaza Zapata had a hand in two of them on Sunday. He took top honors in the 400 dash and later joined Jahquez Durham, Michael Todd and Jeff Jacobs on the victorious 4 x 400 relay quartet. Markus Ballengee wrapped up his IC4A heptathlon crown on Saturday.

The Flames set school records in six events on Sunday, including all four of their relays, and each of the six marks also established new Big South Conference records.

Ealum's 1:11.17 clocking in the women's 500 and Perlaza Zapata's winning men's 400 time of 46.14 each shattered records. Liberty's record-setting relay quartets included the women's distance medley relay squad of Alyssa Karle, Ty'Asia Dansbury, Heidi Smith and Anna Van Wyk (11:44.49), the men's distance medley quartet of Andrew Crowell, Branson Rolle, Bradley Prentice and Colin Schultz (9:47.30), the women's 4 x 400 grouping of Dansbury, Cortney Dowling, Olivia Behymer and Ealum (3:41.09) and the previously mentioned men's 4 x 400 team (3:09.88).

Those marks brought Liberty's total number of program and Big South records at the meet to seven, also including Ballengee's heptathlon score of 5,537.

Women's Day Three Recap
Ealum's ECAC title at 500 meters marked the shortest event the Lady Flames have ever won at this meet. The Alaska native dominated the race, finishing more than two seconds in front of runner-up Katherine Arbogast from Elon with the fastest 500 time in the NCAA this season. Ealum improved upon her own Liberty and Big South records of 1:12.77 from Saturday's preliminary round.

Ealum later clocked a 53.8-second split on the anchor leg of the 4 x 400 relay, nearly helping the Lady Flames pull out victory. In the end, Liberty's 3:41.09 effort was good for second place, just .03 behind the winning team from Rhode Island.

Dansbury, Dowling, Behymer and Ealum took down the Big South record of 3:42.44 which Coastal Carolina had set in 2014. The Lady Flames' previous school record (3:42.64) had been established at the 2016 Big South Championship.

The Lady Flames' distance medley record time (11:44.49) placed fifth in the event and marked the second straight year Liberty has set the record at the ECAC meet. A completely different quartet clocked the previous Lady Flames record of 11:48.99 during the 2017 ECAC Championship.

Karle, Dansbury, Smith and Van Wyk reclaimed the Big South record from High Point, after the Panthers had run 11:45.81 at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex on Feb. 2.

The Lady Flames got runner-up finishes from both Kimone Green in the 200 (24.00) and Delaney McDowell in the 800 (2:09.96) on Sunday.

Naomi Mojica took third place in the shot put at 50-0.75, as she was the only freshman to place inside the event's top eight.

Dowling (season-best 55.19) and Behymer (56.14) warmed up their 4 x 400 relay legs by placing sixth and eighth, respectively, in the 400 final.

Men's Day Three Recap
After going 1-2-3 in last weekend's Big South men's 400 final, Liberty's quarter-mile trio of Perlaza Zapata, Durham and Jacobs showed up in a big way on Sunday. They totaled 17 points in the 400, consisting of Perlaza Zapata's victory, Durham's fourth-place showing (indoor personal-best 47.91) and Jacobs' seventh-place effort (48.59).

Perlaza Zapata's 46.14 effort bettered the Liberty and Big South records of 46.33 which Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Mike Decker had held since 2001 and is tied for 20th in the nation this season. Decker (2001) was also Liberty's last IC4A indoor 400 titlist prior to Sunday.

Liberty had never won an IC4A 4 x 400 relay, indoors or outdoors, before Durham, Todd, Jacobs and Perlaza Zapata did so. Perlaza Zapata's 45.4-second anchor leg carry helped the Flames hold off Rutgers for the title in the meet's final event.

The same Flames 4 x 400 quartet had set the program record of 3:12.95 on Jan. 27. Meanwhile, the previous Big South 4 x 400 standard of 3:09.89 by Charleston Southern had been in place since 2008.

Liberty's distance medley relay team captured fourth place with its time of 9:47.30. The records that Crowell, Rolle, Prentice and Schultz left in their wake were the old Big South standard of 9:50.65 (VMI at the 2008 IC4A meet) and the Liberty record of 9:51.54, which had been on the books for 20 years.

Earlier in the day, Schultz and Prentice had both nabbed runner-up finishes in individual events. Schultz's personal-best mile clocking of 4:04.94 left him only .02 behind IC4A champion Philo Germano from Syracuse.

Prentice sliced more than two seconds off of his previous best in the 1,000, running 2:24.39 for second place in the race and No. 2 all-time both at Liberty and in the Big South Conference.

Two years ago, Darrel Jones (triple jump) and Carson Waters (pole vault) each finished second at this meet as sophomores. On Sunday, both were runners-up as seniors.

Jones briefly took the lead in the triple jump competition with a 50-2 leap in round four, but he was overtaken by Rutgers' Tobi Tella (50-5.5) during the fifth round. Jones improved to 50-3.5 on his sixth and final attempt but ended up second.

Waters pole vaulted 16-6.75, putting him in a tie with Ryan Wilkes of Rhode Island and Eduard Winner of Manhattan for second place.

Travis Henderson added a team point with his eighth-place finish at 200 meters in 21.98 seconds.

Up Next
Jovaine Atkinson will compete in the men's 60 hurdles at the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas.

The semifinals are slated for Friday at 7:55 p.m. Eastern with the final on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. Eastern.

The rest of the Flames and Lady Flames will transition to the outdoor season, which will begin with the CSU Spring Break Invitational, March 16-17 in Charleston, S.C.