Markus Ballengee came in fifth in the USATF decathlon competition, which concluded Friday.
Markus Ballengee has gotten used to wearing red, white and blue clothing during his two years on the Liberty men's track & field team. Now he will get to don the Team USA uniform for the first time, thanks to a fifth-place decathlon finish at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, Friday at Drake Stadium.
Ballengee tallied 7,511 points during his USATF decathlon debut, grabbing the fifth and final spot on Team USA for the 2018 Thorpe Cup. The 25th edition of the head-to-head multi-event competition between Team USA and Germany is scheduled for July 27-28 in Fayetteville, Ark.
Ballengee was one of two collegiate decathletes to punch his Thorpe Cup ticket on Friday, joining third-place Harrison Williams of Stanford (7,878). Rio Olympian Zach Ziemek won his first USATF decathlon title with 8,294 points, while fellow post-collegiate competitors Solomon Simmons (second, 8,019) and Daniel Golubovic (fourth, 7,702) rounded out the top five.
Competing in just his seventh career decathlon and serving as the youngest member of the 16-member field at 20 years old, Ballengee became the first-ever Liberty decathlete to earn a Thorpe Cup invitation. He also continued a breakthrough sophomore campaign, one year removed from a freshman season which included third-place finishes in the USATF Junior and Big South decathlons and a personal-best score of 6,840 points.
Two weeks ago, Ballengee catapulted from 17th to seventh place on day two of the NCAA decathlon final, earning first team All-America honors. The sophomore sensation constructed another strong second day on Friday, moving from seventh into one of the coveted top-five positions.
After starting the day with a strong 14.64 clocking for the 110 hurdles, Ballengee unleashed a personal-best 144-3 discus throw. That mark was good for third place in the event and No. 3 all-time among Liberty decathletes.
Ballengee briefly sat in fourth place overall following a 15-11 pole vault clearance, before dropping back to fifth with a disappointing 149-9 javelin effort.
The Commonwealth native then punctuated the two-day competition with the second fastest 1,500 time of his career, 4:38.84. That performance clinched his third 7,500-point decathlon of the season and sealed his fifth-place finish in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, senior teammate Darrel Jones finished off his successful collegiate career by placing 14th in Friday's men's triple jump final with a 50-10.75 leap. Jones departs Liberty as a four-time Big South men's triple jump champion and the program record holder for the men's indoor triple jump (51-0).
Up Next Liberty's 2018 track & field season is now officially complete, but numerous athletes and coaches will still be active during the remainder of the summer.
Brant Tolsma has been selected as the USA's head coach for the inaugural FISU America Games, slated for July 21-24 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His team's roster will include numerous past, present and future Flames athletes in an event which will include competitors from 32 different nations.
As mentioned previously, Ballengee will take part in the Thorpe Cup, July 27-28 in Fayetteville, Ark.
Alejandro Perlaza Zapata is expected to represent his native Colombia in the Central American & Caribbean Games. The meet will run from July 29-Aug. 2 in Baranquilla, Colombia.