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Liberty Dominates in Big South Track Sweep

May 11, 2018  High Point, N.C.  RSS
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The Lady Flames set new women's meet records for points scored (289) and events won (15).

The Lady Flames set new women's meet records for points scored (289) and events won (15).

For the fourth year in a row, Liberty swept the men's and women's team titles at the 2018 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which concluded Friday evening at Vert Stadium. The Flames and Lady Flames finished first by a combined 230.5 points and won more than half of the three-day meet's events (24 of 42).

The Lady Flames set meet records for points scored (289) and event titles won (15). Their 139.5-point victory over runner-up High Point marked the largest separation between first and second place since Liberty topped Coastal Carolina by 143 points in 1999. Liberty's fourth straight championship was its 17th women's crown in the meet's 25-year history.

On the men's side, Liberty's margin of victory was 92 points (251.5 to 159.5) over Campbell. The Flames have now won a conference-record 12 straight championships and 23 titles in 25 years.

During a meet full of broken records, Alejandro Perlaza Zapata took down five of them (Colombian, Big South, Liberty, meet and facility) during a show-stopping men's 400 final. The Olympian's winning time of 44.86 seconds ranks No. 4 in the NCAA and No. 11 in the world this year. Perlaza Zapata had a hand in four of Liberty's six men's event victories on Friday, also including the 200, 4 x 100 and 4 x 400, earning Big South Men's Outstanding Track Performer honors.

Ty'Asia Dansbury also contributed to four Friday victories, including the women's 100, 200, 4 x 100 and 4 x 400. As a result, she was voted Big South Women's Freshman of the Year.

Brant Tolsma was named Big South Men's Coach of the Year and shared the women's award with UNC Asheville's Jesse Norman. Now a 71-time Big South Coach of the Year, Tolsma has guided Liberty track & field and cross country teams to 98 Big South team titles in his 32 years with the Flames.

Liberty was represented on the Big South All-Academic Teams by javelin standouts Brenna Smith and Samuel Arter.

Over the course of the three-day meet, Liberty athletes took down three Big South all-time records, eight school records, eight meet records and eight facility records.

A lion's share of the record setting happened on Friday. In addition to Perlaza Zapata's 400, Liberty's other records on the day came in the women's 800 (Tanner Ealum – 2:06.69 – meet and facility record), women's 400 hurdles (Kimone Green – 58.46 – school record), women's 4 x 100 relay (Alexis Wilson, Dansbury, Green and Cortney Dowling – 44.80 – school, meet and facility record), women's 4 x 400 relay (Green, Ealum, Dowling and Dansbury – 3:36.75 – school, meet and facility record), women's hammer (Dasiana Larson – 206-6 – school record), men's 1,500 (Colin Schultz – 3:43.58 – school record), men's 4 x 400 relay (Perlaza Zapata, Michael Todd, Jeff Jacobs and Jahquez Durham – 3:08.19 – meet and facility record) and men's triple jump (Darrel Jones – 51-10 – facility record).

The Lady Flames posted 10 first-place finishes on the meet's final day, including the 100 (Dansbury – 11.72), 200 (Dansbury – 23.70), 400 (Dowling – 54.65), 800 (Ealum – 2:06.69), 100 hurdles (Kylie Polsgrove – 14.05), 400 hurdles (Kimone Green – 58.46), 4 x 100 relay (Wilson, Dansbury, Green, Dowling – 44.80), 4 x 400 relay (Green, Ealum, Dowling, Dansbury – 3:36.75), pole vault (Jessie Glynn – 13-2.25) and hammer (Dasiana Larson – 206-6).

During the meet's first two days, Liberty women's athletes had been victorious in the high jump (Erin Zappia – 5-7.25), shot put (Naomi Mojica – 52-3.25), discus (Patria Vaimaona – 168-7), javelin (Smith – 152-5) and heptathlon (Polsgrove – 4,906).

Meanwhile, the Flames won six men's events on Friday. These included the 200 (Perlaza Zapata – 20.95), 400 (Perlaza Zapata – 44.86), 400 hurdles (Branson Rolle – 52.10), 4 x 100 relay (Henderson, Perlaza Zapata, Edwards, Durham – 40.30), 4 x 400 relay (Perlaza Zapata, Todd, Jacobs, Durham – 3:08.19) and triple jump (Jones – 51-10).

Liberty's first three men's victories of the meet had come in the pole vault (Carson Waters – 17-4.25), shot put (William Partridge – 55-1) and javelin (Denzel Pratt – 222-8).

During the first eight editions of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, Liberty had never qualified a relay team. On Friday, the Flames likely earned a trip to this year's meet in three different relays (women's 4 x 100, women's 4 x 400 and men's 4 x 400). Additionally, Durham punched his Preliminary Round ticket in the men's 400 with his 46.94 clocking.

Women's Day Three Recap
The Lady Flames put an exclamation point on a spectacular meet during their final event, the 4 x 400 relay. After each winning individual events earlier in the day, Green (54.0 split), Ealum (54.0 split), Dowling (55.01 split) and Dansbury (53.54 split) combined to run away with the Lady Flames' third straight 4 x 400 title by over 11 seconds.

Liberty's previous 4 x 400 record of 3:40.32 had been set at the 2017 Penn Relays, with Ealum the only holdover from that squad. Only two 4 x 400 quartets in Big South history have ever run faster than the Lady Flames did under the Vert Stadium lights.

Rewind about five hours, and the Lady Flames' 4 x 100 grouping of Wilson, Dansbury, Green and Dowling dominated the day's first running event and shattered the previous school record of 45.60 from the 2016 Big South meet. Like their 4 x 400 counterparts, the 4 x 100 squad now ranks No. 3 all-time in the conference.

For the seventh straight year, this meet saw a sweep of the women's 100 and 200 titles. This time, it was Dansbury doing the honors. The freshman needed a photo finish to edge Charleston Southern's Jasmine Pilgrim in the 100 (11.72 to 11.73) before winning the 200 by a wider margin (23.70 to 24.03). In both races, Dansbury set personal bests and established Liberty freshman records.

The Lady Flames had the three fastest freshmen in the women's 100 final, also including Wilson (fourth place, personal-best 11.90) and Nikayla Hoyte (sixth, 12.12).

In the 200, Dansbury was trailed by Wilson (fourth, 24.81) and Dowling (24.96).

Dowling gave the Lady Flames their third different women's 400 champion at this meet in the last three years with a collegiate-best 54.65 clocking. Senior teammate Olivia Behymer crossed the line in fifth at 56.76 seconds.

Last year's 400-meter champion, Ealum led the women's 800 final from start to finish. The sophomore's personal-best time of 2:06.69 ranks No. 2 in Liberty and Big South history. Ealum joins program and conference-record holder Jaime Watson as the only Lady Flames to capture Big South titles at both 400 and 800 meters during their careers. Defending champion Delaney McDowell took third place in 2:09.14.

Green became the Lady Flames' first women's 400 hurdles champion since Arlene Zelinskas, placing first by more than two seconds. Green, who previously won the 2016 Southland Conference women's 400 hurdles crown while at Abilene Christian, lowered her own program record from 59.12 to 58.46 and now sits No. 3 all-time in the Big South.

Liberty also won its first 100 hurdles title in seven years (Olivia Charnuski – 2011) thanks to Polsgrove's lifetime-best 14.05 effort. Contesting her 10th event of the three-day meet, including her third 100 hurdles race, Polsgrove edged UNC Asheville's Kayli Nichols by 0.02 seconds. Sophomores Jaiden Mulder (sixth, 14.43) and Katie Dodson (eighth, 14.50) scored points for the second straight year in the event.

Both of the Lady Flames' field event titles on Friday happened at approximately the same time, but they came in much different fashion. Larson took the women's hammer gold medal by 21 feet, improving her own Liberty record from 204-4 to 206-6. Any of the senior's five legal throws would have won the competition. Larson was the first Lady Flame since Melinda Bendik in 2012 to prevail in the Big South women's hammer. That was also the only previous occasion that Liberty won all four Big South women's throwing events at the same meet.

Liberty totaled 23 points in the women's hammer, giving the Lady Flames 89 total points in the four women's throws this week. Liberty's other scorers included Chelsea Igberaese (third, Liberty freshman-record 184-7), Holly Arey (fifth, 175-7) and Vaimaona (sixth, season-best 167-7). Arey placed in the top eight of all four throwing events during the senior's final meet.

With her back against the wall, Glynn sailed over the women's pole vault bar on her third and final attempt at 13-2.25, edging High Point's Nathalie Elliott for Liberty's first outdoor pole vault crown since Shelley Parker's 2011 triumph.

Freshman Rachel Milnes joined Glynn on the All-Big South podium with a third-place finish and a season-best 12-4.5 clearance. Milnes broke the Liberty freshman record previously owned by Mariel Finger, who wrapped up her career with an eighth-place finish at 10-10.75.

Freshman Noel Palmer led for much of the women's 5K final before taking runner-up honors in 16:57.53, matching her Big South indoor 5K placement. Defending champion Anna Van Wyk ended up sixth at 17:48.36, with Kammi Kurtz finishing eighth in 18:11.97.

Earlier in the afternoon, Van Wyk paced a trio of Liberty scorers in the 1,500 in fifth place (4:43.03). Heidi Smith took sixth (4:45.16) with Alyssa Karle eighth (4:51.46).

Hannah Andrews scored the Lady Flames first two points of the day with her seventh-place triple jump finish (36-5.75).

Men's Day Three Recap
Perlaza Zapata left the crowd buzzing when his winning 400 time of 44.86 popped up on the Vert Stadium scoreboard. It took down a trio of records from Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Mike Decker, including the Liberty and Big South standard of 45.59 from 2000 and the meet record of 46.23 from 1999.

Left in Perlaza Zapata's wake, Durham came in third with his personal-best 46.94 effort which ranks No. 9 all-time in the Big South and punched his first of two NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round tickets on the day. Jacobs followed in fourth place in a personal-best 48.32.

After controlling the 400 from the get-go, Perlaza Zapata needed a late comeback to defeat 100 champion Khai McLin of Campbell in the 200 final, clocking 20.95 seconds. Edwards (third, 21.37), Henderson (fourth, 21.52) and Durham (eighth, 23.56) made it a 22-point event for the Flames.

Entering the meet on the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round bubble, the Flames' 4 x 400 team of Perlaza Zapata (45.4 split), Todd (47.4), Jacobs (47.82) and Durham (47.35) certainly improved their chances at qualification. Liberty lowered its season-best time from 3:09.00 to 3:08.19, despite running the whole race out front. They also became the fifth-fastest 4 x 400 squad in Liberty and Big South history.

Earlier in the day, Henderson, Perlaza Zapata, Edwards and Durham teamed up for the Flames' first Big South men's 4 x 100 title since 2005. Their winning time of 40.30 ranks second in program history.

Liberty's other men's track victory came in the first event following an hour-long lightning delay, the 400 hurdles. Rolle bounced back from a fall in the 110 hurdles final to win in 52.10 seconds and improve his own Liberty freshman record. Markus Ballengee took fourth in a personal-best 53.44 in his eighth and final event of the meet, while Isidro Johnson was seventh in 55.55.

A year ago, Jones did not wrap up the Big South men's triple jump title until his sixth and final attempt. This time around, the senior took the lead in round one and never looked back. Three of his jumps measured 51 feet or longer, including his winning mark of 51-10 into a headwind which added nearly two feet to his own facility record.

Jones, who won by 3.5 feet, is the first back-to-back champion in the event since High Point's Eugene Galloway in 2006 and 2007. The Empire State native finishes as a four-time Big South men's triple jump champion, including two indoor titles and two outdoor crowns.

Jonny Saintil triple jumped 46-0.75 for seventh place, while Jeremy Davis came in eighth at 45-4.25.

Schultz shaved more than a second off of his 1,500 personal best while finishing second in 3:43.58. The redshirt senior eclipsed Isaac Wendland's school-record time of 3:43.91 which qualified him for the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships and was one of two runners to dip under Liberty's Josh McDougal's meet record of 3:45.01 from 2006. Schultz ranks No. 2 in Big South history for the 1,500 thanks to Friday's effort. Freshman teammate Felix Kandie improved his 1,500 personal best to 3:52.01 for sixth place.

The top four men's 800 runners were separated by just 0.21 seconds, and Todd ended up finishing second for the third year in a row at 1:51.53. Bradley Prentice edged High Point's Siro Pina Cardona for the third All-Big South spot, 1:51.63 to 1:51.65.

Contesting the 5K for the first time this season, Azaria Kirwa set the pace for a majority of the race before ending up third in 14:19.61.

Ballengee earned two All-Big South medals on the day, including a runner-up showing in the 110 hurdles (14.66) and a share of third place in the high jump (season-best 6-4). Jacob Burke added an eighth-place high jump finish (6-2).

After running both curves for Liberty's victorious men's 4 x 100 relay squad, Henderson (fifth, 10.63) and Edwards (sixth, personal-best 10.66) excelled on the straightaway in the 100 dash final.

Partridge's 161-2 hammer effort was good for sixth place.

Up Next
The NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will take place May 24-26. At least 20 Liberty athletes are expected to qualify for the meet at USF Track & Field Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

The official list of qualifiers will be announced Thursday on, and Liberty has a chance to double its previous record of 16 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round qualifiers.

Selected Liberty athletes will head to Mount Olive, N.C., for the Mount Olive Final Qualifier on Sunday, trying to punch their tickets to Tampa. The meet is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Final Men's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 251.5

2) Campbell – 159.5
3) Charleston Southern – 150
4) High Point – 103
5) Gardner-Webb – 63
6) Winthrop – 55
7) UNC Asheville – 33

Final Women's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 289

2) High Point – 150.5
3) Charleston Southern – 100.5
4) Campbell – 100
5) Radford – 60
6) UNC Asheville – 50
7) Winthrop – 37.5
8) Gardner-Webb – 28.5

Men's Outstanding Track Performer
Alejandro Perlaza Zapata, Liberty

Women's Outstanding Track Performer
Famke Heinst, High Point

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

Women's Outstanding Field Performer
Sabina Allen, Campbell

Men's Freshman of the Year
Chase Thornhill, Gardner-Webb

Women's Freshman of the Year
Ty'Asia Dansbury, Liberty

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Blanton Gillespie, UNC Asheville

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville

Men's All-Academic Team
Collin Cooper, Campbell
Micah Deveaux, Charleston Southern
Josh Parks, Gardner-Webb
Alejandro Juan Torres, High Point
Samuel Arter, Liberty
Blanton Gillespie, UNC Asheville
Theo Kahler, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Roshae Jackson, Campbell
Caroline Edmondson, Charleston Southern
Ashleigh Cleveland, Gardner-Webb
Keaton Case, High Point
Brenna Smith, Liberty
Kierra Henderson, Radford
Kayli Nichols, UNC Asheville
Sabrena Reid, Winthrop

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Women's Coaches of the Year (Tie)
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Jesse Norman, UNC Asheville