Alejandro Perlaza Zapata took first place in the Virginia Challenge men's 400 on Friday. (Photo by Taylor Jones)
Liberty junior Alejandro Perlaza Zapata raced to victory in the Virginia Challenge men's 400, Friday at Lannigan Field. The meet's opening day also saw Darrel Jones triple jump a personal-best 51-5 while the Lady Flames' 800 duo of Tanner Ealum and Delaney McDowell each punched their NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round tickets.
Men's Day One Recap Perlaza Zapata is now five-for-five in winning 400-meter titles during his collegiate career, but this one did not come easily. The Rio Olympian needed a season-best time of 46.19 to hold off Brycen Spratling (46.27), a 10-time All-American during his time at Pittsburgh. Perlaza Zapata now ranks No. 3 all-time at Liberty and No. 4 in Big South Conference history. Only 15 NCAA Division I men's runners had clocked a time faster than 46.19 this season, entering the weekend.
Teammate Jeff Jacobs raced to an outdoor personal-best time of 48.48 for sixth place in the afternoon sections of the men's 400.
Jones' 51-5 triple jump effort placed the senior second overall and first among collegiate entrants. He trailed only Nigerian Olympian Olu Olamigoke in the competition while climbing to No. 3 in Big South history and into the NCAA's top 25 this season. Jones' big jump, which came in round five, improved upon his previous best of 51-3 from last year's Virginia Challenge.
Jonny Saintil's season-best 47-10 triple jump was good for fifth place in the event's afternoon section and was just two inches shy of his outdoor personal best.
Carson Waters pole vaulted 16-3.25 for fifth place in the event's invitational section. Earlier in the day, Ryan McCann's third-attempt clearance at a personal-best 15-9.5 won the men's pole vault open section.
Nick Doan made a successful 3,000-meter steeplechase debut. The redshirt sophomore clocked 9:08.34 for 17th place in the event and ninth in Flames history.
Bradley Prentice posted an 800 time of 1:50.83 for second place in his heat and eighth out of 38 overall.
Travis Henderson finished ninth in the men's 100 dash, running 10.83 into a headwind.
Chukwuma Maduka is well on his way to obliterating his decathlon personal best of 5,056 after notching an opening-day score of 3,544 for sixth place. His shot put of 44-11 established a new personal-best by more than six feet. Maduka's day also featured a season-best 22-0.25 long jump and a 6-2.75 high jump clearance.
Women's Day Two Recap Prior to Friday, only two Lady Flames (Jaime Watson and Meghan Burggraf) had ever broken 2:08 in the 800. That number doubled in Charlottesville, as Ealum (2:07.28) and McDowell (2:07.31) both shaved more than a second off their previous personal-best times.
Ealum took the pace out aggressively, clocking 61.55 seconds for the opening lap. The reigning Big South 400-meter champion held on to win the heat and place fourth overall, staving off McDowell, the defending Big South 800-meter champion, who came in second in the heat and fifth overall. McDowell has traditionally run well at this meet, as her fastest times of 2016 (2:08.59) and 2017 (2:08.76) also came at the Virginia Challenge.
Closing out the day's 11 hours of competition, Greer Wilson finished 20th in 36:42.38 in her 10K debut for the Lady Flames. The Australia native now ranks No. 8 on Liberty's all-time list.
Cortney Dowling's season-best 56.32 effort took 13th place in the women's 400 invitational.
Jessie Glynn pole vaulted 12-2, sharing the 10th position in the women's pole vault invitational section.
Up Next Liberty will wrap up both the Virginia Challenge and Duke Invitational on Saturday. Louis Paone will be the first Flame to compete in Charlottesville, racing in the Virginia Challenge men's steeplechase at 10:45 a.m. Meanwhile, Jeremiah McCants will get Liberty's Saturday at the Duke Invitational started with the men's triple jump at 11 a.m.