Liberty swept the men's and women's 4 x 400 relay titles in dominating fashion, putting an exclamation point on a successful Saturday at the Virginia Grand Prix at Lannigan Field.
The 4 x 400 relays were the only two events Liberty won at its next-to-last regular-season meet. However, the sun-drenched day also featured three new NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round qualifications and a pair of Liberty freshman records.
The Lady Flames' customary 4 x 400 quartet of Tanner Ealum, Ty'Asia Dansbury, Delaney McDowell and Cortney Dowling raced to a season-best time of 3:37.22, crossing the finish line eight seconds ahead of runner-up Virginia. Liberty finished just 0.66 seconds away from the school record and likely qualified for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the second straight year.
Minutes earlier, Liberty's Christian Gilliam, Jahquez Durham, Michael Todd and Alejandro Perlaza Zapata had teamed up to win the men's 4 x 400 relay in a season-best 3:10.04. Perlaza Zapata crafted a sterling 45.19-second anchor leg, helping the Flames defeat runner-up Virginia by 7.4 seconds and join the program's all-time top 10 list.
Taylen Langin took fourth place in the women's pole vault's invitational section with a personal-best 13-2.5 clearance. The Idaho native added three inches to her own Liberty freshman record and earned a trip to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in the process.
Jada Thomas accounted for the Lady Flames' other freshman record, thanks to her fourth-place time of 13.95 in the women's 100 hurdles. The fastest time by a Lady Flame in eight years, Thomas' clocking took down the freshman record of 14.03 set by Brittany Webley at the 2013 Liberty Twilight Qualifier.
After punching his NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round ticket in the men's shot put earlier this season, Jose Ballivian did so in the discus on Saturday. His season-best 175-8 effort was good for sixth place in the event's invitational section and ranks No. 5 in program history.
Teammate Kyle Mitchell scared Clendon Henderson's men's shot put school record of 61-3 for the second straight week on Saturday. The sophomore reached 60-7.25 for fifth place in the invitational section, becoming the first Flame ever to shot put 60 feet or longer in back-to-back competitions.
Two Liberty men's pole vaulters went over the 16-foot mark on the day. Anders Janes got over 16-4 for third place in the invitational section, while Reilly Stroot's season-best 16-0.75 clearance stood up for the runner-up spot in the open section.
Michael Todd finished a close second in the men's 800 with a season-best 1:50.40 clocking, while the men's 4 x 100 relay team of Elijah Pierson, Perlaza Zapata, Jonathan Doss and Durham also came in second in a season-best 41.33 seconds.
Contesting the 100-meter dash for the first time as a Flame, Perlaza Zapata came in fifth in 10.61 seconds while Pierson took seventh in 10.64, matching his personal best. Perlaza Zapata and Pierson now rank No. 1 and 2 in the ASUN this season.
Christian Lyon, who is redshirting the 2019 season for the Flames, excelled in the sprints on Saturday. The junior won the men's 200 title in 20.95 seconds and was the 100 runner-up in 10.38.
Women's Event Winners Tanner Ealum, Ty'Asia Dansbury, Delaney McDowell, Cortney Dowling – 4 x 400 – 3:37.22
Men's Event Winners Christian Gilliam, Jahquez Durham, Michael Todd, Alejandro Perlaza Zapata – 4 x 400 – 3:10.04
Other Women's Top 3 Finishers 2nd – Chelsea Igberaese – Hammer (Open Section) – 172-6 3rd – Kylie Polsgrove – 400 Hurdles – 1:01.18 3rd – Marvalyn Vernon – Hammer (Open Section) – 169-5 Tie for 3rd – Rachel Milnes – Pole Vault (Open Section) – 11-9
Other Men's Top 3 Finishers 2nd – Reilly Stroot – Pole Vault (Open Section) – 16-0.75 2nd – Michael Todd – 800 – 1:50.40 2nd – Elijah Pierson, Alejandro Perlaza Zapata, Jonathan Doss, Jahquez Durham – 4 x 100 - 41.33 3rd – Anders Janes – Pole Vault (Invitational Section) – 16-4 3rd – Jonny Saintil – Triple Jump – 48-10.25
Women's Record Breakers Freshman Record – Pole Vault – Taylen Langin – 13-2.5 Old Record: 12-11.5 by Langin at the Raleigh Relays on March 30
Freshman Record – 100 Hurdles – Jada Thomas – 13.95 Old Record: 14.03 by Brittney Webley in 2013
New Women's NCAA East Preliminary Round Qualifiers Taylen Langin – Pole Vault – 13-2.5 Ealum, Dansbury, McDowell, Dowling – 4 x 400 – 3:37.22
New Men's NCAA East Preliminary Round Qualifiers Jose Ballivian – Discus – 175-8
Updates to Liberty's All-Time Women's Top 10 List 4 x 400 – No. 2 – Ealum, Dansbury, McDowell, Dowling – 3:37.22 Pole Vault – No. 3 – Taylen Langin – 13-2.5 100 Hurdles – No. 4 – Jada Thomas – 13.95
Updates to Liberty's All-Time Men's Top 10 List Discus – No. 5 – Jose Ballivian – 175-8 4 x 400 – No. 9 – Gilliam, Durham, Todd, Perlaza Zapata – 3:10.04
Up Next Liberty will close out its regular season on Wednesday with its lone outdoor home meet, the Liberty Twilight Qualifier.
Action at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex will begin at 11:30 a.m. with the women's discus. The women's shuttle hurdles relay will kick off running events at 1:45 p.m., while the Flames' seniors will be honored on the track at 5:15 p.m.