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Atkinson Ready for NCAA Indoor Championships

March 7, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Saturday Video Streaming (ESPN3)

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Liberty redshirt sophomore Jovaine Atkinson will compete in the men's 60 hurdles at the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, this weekend at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas.

Atkinson will race in the semifinals Friday at 7:55 p.m. Eastern. The final is slated for Saturday at 6:10 p.m. Eastern.

How to Keep Up with Atkinson
ESPN3 will broadcast both days of the meet, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday and at 5 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

ESPN2 will air taped coverage from the meet Sunday evening, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Live results will be provided by Flash Results.

About the Facility
Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, which first opened in 2009, is hosting the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships for the fourth time in 2018 (also 2009, 2011 and 2017).

Like the Liberty Indoor Track Complex, Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium features a six-lane, 200-meter hydraulically banked track.

Sam Chelanga raced at the facility in both 2009 and 2011, finishing as the NCAA men's 5K national runner-up both times. Chelanga's appearance at the 2011 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships marked the most recent time a Liberty men's athlete qualified for the meet prior to Atkinson.

NCAA Championship Event Capsule
Men's 60 Hurdles

Event Schedule: Semifinals – Friday at 7:55 p.m. Eastern, Final – Saturday at 6:10 p.m. Eastern

Liberty Competitor: Jovaine Atkinson (R-So., Spanish Town, Jamaica)

How He Got Here: As it turns out, Atkinson's very first race of the season was good enough to punch his ticket to College Station. He blazed a 60 hurdles time of 7.75 seconds during the Keydet Invitational prelims, Jan. 19 in Lexington, Va.

Atkinson later improved to 7.73 in the Big South prelims on Feb. 23 and to 7.71 in the Big South final on Feb. 24, setting Liberty, Big South all-time, Big South Championship and Liberty Indoor Track Complex records in the process.

Atkinson's time of 7.71 is tied with Kentucky's Daniel Roberts and California's Ashtyn Davis as the eighth-fastest qualifying mark among the 16 competitors at this weekend's meet.

Undefeated: Atkinson has won all nine of his 60 hurdles races this season, including preliminary heats and finals. He placed first in the event at the Keydet Invitational (Jan. 20), Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational (Feb. 3), Liberty Elite Invitational (Feb. 10) and Big South Championship (Feb. 24).

Making History: Atkinson is making his first NCAA national meet appearance this weekend and is Liberty's first-ever national qualifier in the 60 hurdles.

Last season, Atkinson became the first Flame to break 8.00 in the men's 60 hurdles. Before he arrived on campus, Ken Howell had owned the program record of 8.08 since 1999. Atkinson's first sub-8.00 clocking (7.94) came at the Liberty Kickoff on Jan. 21, 2017, and he has dropped under 8.00 eight more times since then.

Two weeks ago, Atkinson became the first runner in Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships history to sweep the men's 60 dash and 60 hurdles titles at the same meet. He won both races within a 45-minute span, clocking a personal-best time of 6.79 in the 60 final.

Hauling In the Hardware: Atkinson was named Big South Outstanding Men's Track Performer, joining Josh McDougal (2006, 2007, 2008) and Stephen Racanelli (2016) as the only Flames ever to win the honor indoors.

An aeronautics major with a 3.79 GPA, Atkinson was voted Big South Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming the first Flame to win the honor indoors since current associate head coach Clendon Henderson in 2008.

Atkinson was tabbed Big South Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week on Jan. 24, following his 60 hurdles time of 7.75 at the Keydet Invitational in his season opener.

Making Strides: Atkinson enjoyed a strong freshman indoor season in 2017, setting a program record in the 60 hurdles (7.94), winning the Big South 60 hurdles title and placing sixth in the IC4A final.

He has made a huge leap forward in 2018, with eight of his nine races being timed in 7.85 or faster, including five under 7.80.

Scouting the Competition: Florida sophomore Grant Holloway headlines the 16-member field. The defending national champion clocked an NCAA-record time of 7.42 seconds earlier this season and ranks No. 1 in the world for 2018.

Five of last season's top six finishers are back, including Holloway, third-place Chad Zallow of Youngstown State, fourth-place David Kendziera of Illinois, fifth-place Ruebin Walters of Alabama and sixth-place Ashtyn Davis of California.

Atkinson is one of seven conference champions in the field, along with Holloway (SEC), Zallow (Horizon), Davis (MPSF), Florida State's Trey Cunningham (ACC), Nebraska's Antoine Lloyd (Big Ten) and Illinois State's Jaylan McConico (Missouri Valley).

Zallow is the only other runner in the field who won his conference's 60 dash and 60 hurdles titles. Zallow also came out on top in the Horizon League 200 dash final.

Atkinson is one of three foreign-born competitors in the field, joining Walters (Trinidad & Tobago) and Georgia's Michael Nicholls (Barbados).

Holloway, McConico, Syracuse's Matt Moore and Kentucky's Daniel Roberts are the other four sophomores who will be competing in the 60 hurdles this weekend.

How the Event Will Progress in College Station: As long as Atkinson successfully completes a race this weekend, he will do no worse than a second team All-American.

The 16 men's 60 hurdlers will be divided into two heats of eight. The top two finishers in each heat and the next four fastest time qualifiers will advance to Saturday's event final. Last season, it took a time of 7.76 or faster to make the final.

All eight runners who qualify for the final are recognized as first team All-Americans and will be able to score points for their respective teams.

What's at Stake for Atkinson: Atkinson is the first Liberty male to qualify for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships since 2011 (Sam Chelanga – 3K and 5K).

He should become the Flames' first male All-American in track & field since Kolby Shepherd (2012 outdoor pole vault).

Atkinson will look to score the Flames' first points at this meet since 2011, when Chelanga was the men's 5K runner-up.

Chelanga was the Flames' most recent sophomore male to earn All-America honors, doing so in the indoor men's 5K and outdoor men's 10K in 2009.

If Atkinson can post a time faster than 7.71 seconds, he will break his own Liberty and Big South Conference records.