Kyle Mitchell placed 14th on Wednesday, becoming the first NCAA Division I shot put All-American in program or ASUN Conference history.
Liberty's opening day at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships was a success, Wednesday at Hayward Field. Felix Kandie qualified to the men's steeplechase final with a record-breaking time of 8:32.95. Meanwhile, Kyle Mitchell placed 14th in the men's shot put to become the program's first-ever NCAA Division I shot put All-American.
Prior to Wednesday, only four NCAA Division I runners had clocked sub-8:33 times in the men's steeplechase this season. That all changed during Kandie's scorching semifinal heat, where the junior was one of seven runners to do so despite a rain shower beginning during the race.
Kandie clocked 64.18 seconds for his final lap, outdueling Oregon's Jackson Mestler for seventh place in the heat and giving himself a chance to make the final as a time qualifier. Kandie's final time of 8:32.95 shattered his own Liberty and ASUN all-time records of 8:40.23 he had set at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet on May 28. In all, seven of the top eight finishers in Kandie's race recorded new lifetime bests.
Two years ago, Kandie just missed qualifying to the steeplechase final by one spot during his NCAA national meet debut. This time around, he made the final as the last time qualifier, as no one in the second semifinal ran faster than Kandie's 8:32.95 effort.
Kandie is the first Flame to reach the NCAA men's steeplechase final since fellow Eldoret, Kenya native Evans Kigen did so in 2008. Kandie's final will take place Friday at 8:24 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2. Regardless of how Kandie finishes on Friday, he will become the first Liberty men's distance runner to earn multiple All-America honors on the track since Sam Chelanga graduated in 2011. Kandie was a second team All-American in the steeplechase with his 13th-place overall finish in 2019.
Speaking of All-Americans, Mitchell garnered his first All-America certificate on Wednesday. His opening shot put attempt, which measured 61-1.5, turned out to be the junior's only legal effort of the evening. However, it stood up for 14th place in the competition and second team All-America recognition.
The program record holder at 64-9.75, Mitchell became the first shot putter (men's or women's) in Liberty or ASUN Conference history to become an NCAA Division I All-American. His 14th-place finish is also the best in program or conference history at this meet for the men's shot put.
To find Liberty's last men's shot put All-American at any level, you have to go all the way back to the 1983 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, where Bill Gillespie earned All-America distinction.
Men's All-Americans Kyle Mitchell – Shot Put – 61-1.5 – 14th place (2nd Team All-American)
Men's Athletes Advancing to Friday's Finals Felix Kandie – Steeplechase – 8:32.95
Men's Record Breakers ASUN All-Time and Liberty Record – Steeplechase – Felix Kandie – 8:32.95 Previous Records: 8:40.23 by Kandie at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet on May 28
Updates to Liberty's All-Time Men's Top 10 List Steeplechase – No. 1 – Felix Kandie – 8:32.95
Up Next Kandie will be Liberty's next athlete in action in Eugene, racing in the men's steeplechase final Friday at 8:24 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
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