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Liberty Track to Compete in Austin, Raleigh

March 27, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Tanner Ealum will be one of Liberty's busiest athletes at the Texas Relays. (Photo by Taylor Jones)

Tanner Ealum will be one of Liberty's busiest athletes at the Texas Relays. (Photo by Taylor Jones)

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For the first time this season, Liberty will split its track & field squad between two different meets. The Flames' sprinters, throwers and multi-event athletes will compete in the 91st Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays Built By The Home Depot, Wednesday through Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Liberty's jumpers and distance runners will take part in the Raleigh Relays, Friday and Saturday at Paul Derr Track in Raleigh, N.C.

Kylie Polsgrove will be the first Liberty athlete to compete this week, beginning the Texas Relays heptathlon Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

The Raleigh Relays will get started Friday at 9 a.m. with the first of the women's 5K's seven sections.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
The Longhorn Network will broadcast 13.5 hours of the Texas Relays, including the following time slots (all times listed are Eastern): Wednesday (7-8:30 p.m.), Thursday (5:30-9 p.m.), Friday (10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. & 8-9:30 p.m.) and Saturday (2:30-6:30 p.m.).

The ACC Network Extra/ESPN3 will broadcast coverage from the Raleigh Relays beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon.

Live results will be available throughout both the Texas Relays (PrimeTime Timing) and Raleigh Relays (Flash Results).

Weather Report
Wednesday's weather in Austin is expected to be unsettled, with an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms. However, sunny weather is forecasted for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the temperature reaching the low 80s each day.

High temperatures in Raleigh are forecasted for the mid 60s during both days of the Raleigh Relays. Rain showers are possible on Friday, but sunshine will be abundant on Saturday.

Scouting the Competition
Liberty will face some stiff competition at the Texas Relays. In the heptathlon, Kylie Polsgrove will face Arkansas' Taliyah Brooks, who just won the NCAA pentathlon national title earlier this month. Naomi Mojica will clash with NCAA national leader Jessica Woodard of Oklahoma in Section A of the women's shot put. Meanwhile, Denzel Pratt will meet Ioannis Kyriazis of Texas A&M in Section A of the men's javelin. Kyriazis, the 2017 NCAA men's javelin national champion, placed sixth in the event at last summer's IAAF World Championships.

The Raleigh Relays typically produce some of the fastest distance times on the East Coast. Looking back to 2017, the meet's winning efforts included 4:18.25 (women's 1,500), 15:35.55 (women's 5K), 33:36.26 (women's 10K), 10:07.46 (women's steeplechase), 3:42.33 (men's 1,500), 13:43.53 (men's 5K), 28:38.06 (men's 10K) and 9:02.34 (men's steeplechase).

Looking Back
Liberty is competing in the Texas Relays for the first time since 2016. That year, current junior Delaney McDowell helped the Lady Flames break a long-standing program record in the women's 4 x 800 (8:56.96) and qualify for the women's 4 x 400 final. On the men's side, current junior Denzel Pratt posted a seventh-place finish in Section A of the men's javelin.

The women's 4 x 800 is one of five current Liberty records which were set at the Texas Relays. Assistant coach Clendon Henderson set the program records in the men's shot put (61-3) and discus (204-3) in 2008, the same year Brandon Hoskins established the Flames' decathlon record at 7,800 points. Finally, the women's sprint medley relay record (3:53.34) was set during the 2014 Texas Relays.

Azaria Kirwa highlighted Liberty's appearance at the 2017 Raleigh Relays, placing eighth in the men's 10K with a personal-best time of 29:05.57 which ranks No. 3 in program history.

Liberty has posted some impressive performances in the Raleigh Relays distance events over the years. Sam Chelanga's winning men's 10K time of 28:15.64 at the 2011 Raleigh Relays still stands as the Raleigh Relays and Paul Derr Track record for the event. Additionally, six of the top 10 women's 10K performers in Lady Flames history notched their fastest time at the Raleigh Relays, spanning from Tammi Green in 1999 to Ednah Kurgat in 2015.

Rating the Relays
Appropriately for the meet's name, Liberty is entered in five relay events at the Texas Relays, including the men's 4 x 200, men's 4 x 400, men's sprint medley, women's 4 x 400 and women's sprint medley.

Liberty ranks No. 1 in the Big South in both the men's (3:11.24) and women's (3:44.84) 4 x 400 relays this season. All three of the men's relays the Flames will contest in Austin have long-standing program records. The 4 x 400 (3:07.28) and sprint medley (3:22.19) standards date to 1997, while the Flames' 4 x 200 standard (1:24.23) was set in 2001.

Liberty has not set a men's outdoor program relay record since 2004 (4 x 800). Conversely, the Lady Flames' outdoor 4 x 100, 4 x 200, 4 x 400 and 4 x 400 standards have all been achieved since the start of the 2016 season.

Alejandro Perlaza Zapata is expected to compete in all three of the Flames' relays this weekend. He posted an impressive 45.13-second split for the 4 x 400 anchor leg at the FSU Relays on Friday.

Multi-Event Madness
Kylie Polsgrove (heptathlon) and Markus Ballengee (decathlon) will be Liberty's first athletes to compete this week, as the multi events get the Texas Relays started on Wednesday. Both will be looking to build upon strong indoor seasons.

Polsgrove pushed her pentathlon personal best to 3,702 points, winning the Big South title and finishing second at the ECAC meet. Her top heptathlon score is 5,184, but the junior would reach 5,255 if she matched her personal bests in all seven events. Last season, a score of 5,551 points was required to qualify for the NCAA national meet.

Ballengee set a Liberty and Big South heptathlon record (5,537 points) while capturing the IC4A championship. The sophomore appears ready to shatter his decathlon best of 6,840, as his event personal bests add up to a score of 7,657 points. In 2017, a score of 7,471 was sufficient to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The Texas Relays are known for strong competition in the multi-events. Last season, nine decathletes scored over 7,200 points and 10 heptathletes finished with 5,500+ points.

Dynamic Duo
The women's javelin pair of Brenna Smith and Paige Demetriades represents Liberty's strongest 1-2 punch in any event thus far in 2018.

Demetriades hurled the javelin 156-4 at the season-opening CSU Spring Break Invitational, earning Big South Women's Field Athlete of the Week honors and ranking No. 25 nationally.

On Friday, Smith broke her own Liberty women's javelin record with a 159-3 heave at the FSU Relays, putting her at No. 18 in the nation.

Both Lady Flames will throw the javelin at the Texas Relays, including Smith in Section B Thursday at 6:15 p.m. and Demetriades in Section A Friday at 12:30 p.m.

Go the Distance
Colin Schultz headlined a successful FSU Relays by Liberty's mid-distance/distance crew, clocking a personal-best 1,500 time of 3:46.19. That effort ranks No. 4 in program history and No. 11 in the NCAA East Region this season. The redshirt senior will look to improve his time at the Raleigh Relays on Friday. Last season, Schultz won his heat of the Raleigh Relays 1,500 in 3:48.99, setting what was then a personal best.

Kammi Kurtz (17:39.26), Mary Kate McElroy (17:49.64) and Greer Wilson (17:55.42) all broke 18 minutes in the FSU Relays women's 5K on Friday, giving the Lady Flames three sub-18:00 runners during the same outdoor season for the first time since 2015. Kurtz will race the distance again on Friday in Raleigh, along with freshman teammate Noel Palmer. Palmer will be making her outdoor 5K debut, coming off a 16:44.58 effort in the ECAC indoor 5K on March 3.

Big South's Best
After two weekends of outdoor competition, Liberty ranks No. 1 in the Big South Conference in the following events.

Men's 200 – Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (21.13)
Men's 1,500 – Colin Schultz (3:46.19)
Men's 110 Hurdles – Markus Ballengee (14.42)
Men's 400 Hurdles – Branson Rolle (52.50)
Men's 4 x 100 Relay – Henderson, Perlaza Zapata, Edwards, Smalley (41.29)
Men's 4 x 400 Relay – Durham, Todd, Rolle, Perlaza Zapata (3:11.24)
Men's Pole Vault – Carson Waters (16-0.75)
Men's Triple Jump – Darrel Jones (47-5.75)
Men's Shot Put – William Partridge (53-10.25)
Men's Javelin – Denzel Pratt (211-5)
Women's 200 – Kimone Green (24.42)
Women's 400 – Tanner Ealum (55.91)
Women's 4 x 100 Relay – Wilson, Green, Dansbury, Dowling (46.19)
Women's 4 x 400 Relay – Dansbury, Green, McDowell, Ealum (3:44.84)
Women's Pole Vault – Jessie Glynn (13-3.5)
Women's Shot Put – Naomi Mojica (50-0)
Women's Hammer – Dasiana Larson (193-9)
Women's Javelin – Brenna Smith (159-3)

Punching Tickets to Tampa
The 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will be contested at USF Track & Field Stadium, May 24-26 in Tampa, Fla. The East Region's top 48 performers in each event (other than the heptathlon and decathlon) will compete at the meet, looking to qualify for the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Based upon what it took to qualify for last year's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, the following Flames and Lady Flames have posted 2018 marks which could send them to Tampa in May.

Paige Demetriades – Women's Javelin (156-4)
Jessie Glynn – Women's Pole Vault (13-3.5)
Dasiana Larson – Women's Hammer (193-9)
Naomi Mojica – Women's Shot Put (50-0)
Denzel Pratt – Men's Javelin (211-5)
Branson Rolle – Men's 400 Hurdles (52.50)
Colin Schultz – Men's 1,500 (3:46.19)
Brenna Smith – Women's Javelin (159-3)

Up Next
Liberty will travel to Columbia, S.C., for the Gamecock Invitational, slated for April 7 at Sheila & Morris Cregger Track. The meet will mark the Flames' second visit to the facility, which opened in 2017.