Denzel Pratt is one of the Flames' five first-time Eugene qualifiers.
Liberty's number of NCAA national qualifiers grew by three on an action-packed and soggy final day of the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at USF Track & Field Stadium. Senior Darrel Jones (men's triple jump), senior Dasiana Larson (women's hammer) and junior Denzel Pratt (men's javelin) each punched their first-ever Eugene tickets on Saturday in their third career visit to the NCAA Preliminary Round meet.
Combined with the previous NCAA qualifications of sophomore Markus Ballengee (men's decathlon) and junior Alejandro Perlaza Zapata (men's 400), the Flames have five athletes heading to the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., in two weeks, equaling the program record from 2007.
Liberty very nearly punched even more NCAA tickets on Saturday, as both the men's and women's 4 x 400 relay squads finished 13th, one spot away from qualifying. Additionally, Colin Schultz fell just 0.16 seconds shy of advancing to Eugene in the men's 1,500.
The women's 4 x 400 squad of Kimone Green, Tanner Ealum, Cortney Dowling and Ty'Asia Dansbury set a school record at 3:36.56, taking down their own mark of 3:36.75 from the Big South Championship on May 11.
Men's Day Three Recap Despite a wet runway, Pratt unleashed a season-best 228-4 effort on his third and final javelin throw, eclipsing his previous best of 222-8. The Bahamian national record holder ended up third in the competition, trailing only the nation's No. 1 (Anderson Peters) and No. 4 (Nicolas Quijera) ranked throwers, both of whom hail from Mississippi State.
Pratt was the only men's javelin thrower among the 48-member field who set a new season best in Saturday's conditions, knocking down the door after two near misses at this meet. He had previously finished 17th at the 2016 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet as a freshman and took 16th place a year ago.
Pratt will be the Flames' first men's javelin thrower to compete at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships since Elliot Galeone in 2011. Pratt's event is slated for June 6 at 8:45 p.m. Eastern.
Redshirt sophomore teammate Samuel Arter also threw the javelin on Saturday. Competing at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second year in a row, Arter reached 197-4 for 23rd place.
The 27th and final Liberty athlete to compete during the three-day meet, Jones finished things off in style in the men's triple jump. The New York native's second attempt measured 51-9, a performance which ended up 10th among the 12 Eugene qualifiers.
Jones is Liberty's first men's triple jumper to punch his NCAA national ticket since Clarence Powell in 2010. He will compete at 8:40 p.m. Eastern on June 8, the final day of men's competition in Eugene.
Competing in a driving rainstorm, Schultz was part of an all-out kick for Eugene qualifying spots on the final lap of his men's 1,500 quarterfinal. The redshirt senior clocked 54.79 for his last 400 and dove at the finish line. However, he finished sixth in 3:47.71, just 0.16 behind the fifth and final national qualifier from his heat, Virginia's Mike Marsella.
In the men's 4 x 400 relay, Perlaza Zapata provided the Flames an early lead with his 46.8-second split for the opening leg. After a 47.9-second carry by Michael Todd, Jeff Jacobs provided his best-ever split (46.97) in his final collegiate race. He then handed the baton off to Jahquez Durham, who overtook Virginia for fifth place in the heat with a 46.63 split.
The Flames' 4 x 400 quartet celebrated briefly after being announced as a time qualifier to Eugene with their 3:08.52 clocking. However, previously disqualified Bethune-Cookman was later reinstated and Liberty finished 13th, just 0.39 seconds slower than Memphis, the final time qualifier.
The wet conditions did not help Jovaine Atkinson, who reaggravated his injury during the men's 110 hurdles quarterfinals and was unable to finish his race. As a result, the All-American's stellar sophomore season came to an end.
Women's Day Three Recap For Larson, her third visit to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet was the charm. Competing before the rain from Subtropical Storm Alberto arrived in Tampa, the Iowa native's very first hammer throw of the morning measured 203-10. That mark held up for sixth place among the event's dozen Eugene qualifiers.
The reigning Big South champion and school record holder will become the third Lady Flame to throw the hammer at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the last seven years, following in the footsteps of Melinda Bendik (2012) and Jocelyn Williams (2015). The women's hammer competition in Eugene is slated for 4:30 p.m. Eastern on June 7.
Competing on her 20th birthday, Dansbury clocked 52.34 seconds for her anchor leg of the 4 x 400 relay, marking the fastest relay split in program history. Her furious final lap left the Lady Flames just 0.67 seconds behind Columbia for the final qualifying position to Eugene. Liberty's other three legs all ran sub-55 second splits, including 54.5 for Green, 54.6 for Ealum and 54.86 for Dowling.
Earlier in the afternoon, the women's 4 x 100 relay quartet of Alexis Wilson, Dansbury, Green and Dowling made history as Liberty's first-ever relay team to compete at this meet. The Lady Flames clocked the second-fastest time in program history (45.17) to place 21st overall in the event.
Up Next The 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships will take place June 6-9 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Ballengee will compete in the meet's very first event, the decathlon 100-meter dash, June 6 at 3:30 p.m.