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NCAA East Regional Next Stop for Liberty

May 28, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Josh McDougal will make his fourth and final appearance in the 5K at the NCAA East Regional Championships, Friday at 9:20 p.m. (Photo by Gary Yandell)

Josh McDougal will make his fourth and final appearance in the 5K at the NCAA East Regional Championships, Friday at 9:20 p.m. (Photo by Gary Yandell)

Eleven Liberty men's and women's track & field athletes will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., this Friday and Saturday, for the NCAA East Regional Track & Field Championships. The Flames and Lady Flames will attempt to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, in the two-day meet hosted by Florida State at Mike Long Track.

The top five finishers in each individual event and the top three relay squads will automatically qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, scheduled for June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa. At-large competitors from each of the nation's four regions will be used to fill out the national meet fields.

All track & field events will be contested at this weekend's meet, except for the heptathlon, decathlon and men's and women's 10,000-meter races. Competitors in those events qualify directly for the national meet. Two-time All-American Brandon Hoskins (Sr., Garden City, Texas) has automatically qualified for the decathlon. Evans Kigen (So., Eldoret, Kenya) in the men's 10,000 meters and Daniel Newell (Jr., Roanoke, Va.) in the decathlon have both met the provisional qualifying standards in their respective events.

Last season, at Florida, the Liberty men's team enjoyed its best-ever showing at the NCAA East Regional Championship, placing eighth in the final team standings. Jon Hart (Sr., Wyomissing, Pa.) qualified for the national meet in the hammer, Clendon Henderson (Sr., Meadow, Texas) reached the national meet in the discus and Josh McDougal (Sr., Peru, N.Y.) made the national meet in the 5,000-meter run, highlighting the Flames' individual performances in Gainesville, Fla. will be on hand at this weekend's meet in Tallahassee to provide a live blog describing the Flames and Lady Flames' performances. Live stats and live video streaming will also be provided by the Florida State sports information department.

A chronological meet preview follows.

Men's High Jump (Final - Friday at 1 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Matt Parker (Jr., Rome, N.Y.)
How He Got Here: Parker met the 6-10.75 high jump qualifying standard at each of his first three meets of the year, enabling him to finish first at the Coastal Carolina Invitational, the Shamrock Invitational and the Liberty Collegiate Invitational. In his most recent competition, the junior cleared 6-8.25 in the driving rain to finish second at the IC4A Outdoor Track & Field Championship, on May 18.
Past Regional Appearances: Parker tied South Florida's Errol Blackmon for the fifth and final national qualifying berth in the high jump at the 2007 NCAA East Regional Championships, after clearing an outdoor career-high 6-11. Blackmon prevailed in the jump-off by going over the bar at 6-9.
2008 Outlook: Six of the 28 entrants have cleared 7-0.5 or higher so far this season, headed by Cornell's Garrett Huyler and North Carolina's Donte' Nall. Both athletes have sailed over 7-2.5 in 2008. Parker is one of 18 jumpers owning a season-best clearance of 6-10.75, but the Liberty junior went over 7-0.25 during the indoor campaign. Parker is one of four Big South high jumpers qualified for the event, joining Coastal Carolina's Jacques Watson, Winthrop's Jason Williams and Radford's Daniel Oseth.

Men's Shot Put (Final – Friday at 3 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Jon Hart
How He Got Here: Hart's season-best shot put distance, 57-5.75, was achieved way back on March 22, at Coastal Carolina's Shamrock Invitational. The effort was just 1.75 inches shy of his career-best toss from the 2007 campaign. The senior won his second consecutive Big South shot put crown on April 18, stretching the tape to 56-7.5 on his final throw. The victory helped Hart win the Big South Men's Most Outstanding Field Performer award.
Past Regional Appearances: Hart threw the shot put 54-0 to place 24th at the 2007 NCAA East Regional Championship in Gainesville, Fla. He also competed at the regional meet in 2005, representing Penn State. That season, he was 23rd with a 49-11 heave.
2008 Outlook: Hart is tied for the No. 12 spot on the list of 22 regional shot put entrants. The field is highlighted by a pair of seniors ranked in the top 10 nationally. Florida's Wes Stockbarger, who finished fifth at last year's regional meet, sits No. 6 in the nation with a 63-1.25 throw. Virginia Tech's Justin Clickett, the third-place finisher at the 2007 regional meet, is No. 9 in the NCAA, at 62-6.75.

Women's 1,500-Meter Run (Prelims – Friday at 4 p.m., Final – Saturday at 4:20 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Rebekah Ricksecker (Jr., Laurel, Del.)
How She Got Here: Ricksecker initially qualified for the regional meet by winning her second straight Big South 1,500-meter title, on April 19. She then hit the regional qualifying standard during her heat at the ECAC Championship, clocking a personal-best 4:25.47. Ricksecker now ranks as Liberty's third-fastest 1,500-meter performer in program history, after shaving eight seconds off her best time from 2007.
Past Regional Appearances: Ricksecker finished 26th in the heats of the 1,500-meter run at the 2007 NCAA East Regional Championship, running what was then her career-best time, 4:33.22.
2008 Outlook: Ricksecker's qualifying time sits No. 15 in one of the most stacked fields at the meet. North Carolina junior Brie Felnagle will open defense of her 2007 NCAA national title in the event and has posted a nation-leading time of 4:08.54. Also entered are a pair of talented Florida State runners. Susan Kuijken of Florida State finished second to Felnagle at the 2007 national meet, while teammate Hannah England captured the mile title at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championship.

Women's 800-Meter Run (Prelims – Friday at 6:40 p.m., Final – Saturday at 5:25 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Jaime Watson (Jr., Ravenna, Mich.)
How She Got Here: Watson earned a spot at the regional meet by capturing her third straight Big South championship at the 800-meter distance. She later posted a career-best time of 2:08.29 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier, on May 1. Only Liberty assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand has ever run a faster 800 meters among Big South competitors, recording a 2:08.00 in 2002.
Past Regional Appearances: Watson finished 31st in the heats of the 800-meter run at the 2006 regional meet, after clocking a 2:16.03.
2008 Outlook: Watson is ranked No. 13 out of 32 entrants. Eight runners have run 2:06.68 or faster this season, headed by North Carolina junior Brie Felnagle, who has notched a 2:04.71. Pennsylvania senior Jesse Carlin is the top returnee from last year's race, as she placed third. Carlin won the ECAC 800-meter race on May 17.

Men's 5,000-Meter Run (Final – Friday at 9:20 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Josh McDougal
How He Got Here: McDougal, a 14-time All-American, ran only one 5,000-meter race this season, at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 18. However, his 13:37.13 clocking was well under the regional qualifying standard and marked the second-fastest time of his career. McDougal doubled in the 5K and 10K at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, but will focus on the 5K this season.
Past Regional Appearances: McDougal opened his Liberty career by finishing fourth in the 5,000 meters at the 2005 regional meet. He then posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in the 5K, in 2006 and 2007. Last season, McDougal ran a 13:52.70, finishing a close second to Villanova's Bobby Curtis.
2008 Outlook: On paper, this race appears to be a two-person battle between McDougal and LaSalle senior Sean Quigley. Quigley is ranked No. 3 nationally with a 13:30.25 qualifying time and is also No. 1 at the 10K distance, with a 28:03.72. Quigley finished third and McDougal was fifth in the 5K at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Men's Hammer (Final – Saturday at 10 a.m.)
Liberty Competitor:
Jon Hart
How He Got Here: Hart has thrown over 203 feet in all seven of his hammer competitions this season. The Big South and IC4A hammer titlist, Hart is coming off a career-best 222-4 effort at the IC4A meet on May 17. He owns the Liberty hammer record and is now within 10 inches of the Big South standard.
Past Regional Appearances: Hart was the runner-up at the 2007 regional meet, throwing a 219-2. The distance stood up as his career best until the IC4A meet, two weeks ago. In 2005, Hart threw for Penn State at the regional meet, placing 15th with a top mark of 176-11.
2008 Outlook: Hart is the top returnee from last year's regional championship, but Virginia Tech junior Matej Muza owns the region's top throw of 2008, at 225-10. Muza sits No. 5 nationally, while Hart is No. 9. Other contenders include Georgia junior Nate Rolfe, who finished eighth in the hammer at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and Radford junior Timothy Morse, one of four Big South throwers entered.

Men's Pole Vault (Final – Saturday at 4 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor: Kolby Shepherd (Fr., Dublin, Ga.)
How He Got Here: Shepherd hit the regional qualifying standard of 16-6.75 twice—at the Shamrock Invitational and the Liberty Twilight Qualifier. He also captured the Big South championship during a consistent freshman campaign. Shepherd is the first Liberty men's pole vaulter to compete at the regional level.
Past Regional Appearances: Shepherd, one of two Liberty freshman qualifiers for the regional meet, is making his regional debut.
2008 Outlook: Shepherd is tied for the No. 13 spot on the list of regional entrants. Leading the way at 17-10.5 is Clemson senior Mitch Greeley. Greeley, ranked No. 5 nationally, was the runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. A pair of vaulters have hit 17-6.5 this season, including nationally-ranked decathlete Gonzalo Barriolhet of Florida State and Virginia Tech's Yavgeniy Olhovsky.

Men's Triple Jump (Final – Saturday at 4 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor:
Clarence Powell (Fr., Marianna, Fla.)
How He Got Here: The Cottondale High School product earned the right to compete in the regional meet near his hometown of Marianna, Fla., by triple jumping a wind-aided school-record 50-6.25 at the March 31 Liberty Collegiate Invitational. He also sailed past 50 feet to win the Big South title and place third at the IC4A Championship. Powell was tabbed the Big South Men's Freshman of the Year, both indoors and outdoors.
Past Regional Appearances: Powell, one of two Liberty freshmen who are competing in Tallahassee this weekend, is making his regional meet debut.
2008 Outlook: Powell is tied for the No. 21 spot on the list of regional entrants. Defending regional champion Muhammad Halim of Cornell sits No. 6 in the nation, with a season-best leap of 53-8.5. Georgia Tech's James Lemons is No. 7 in the nation, at 53-6.5, and finished third at this meet a season ago. In total, four of the 2007 regional meet's top five finishers return.

Men's Discus (Final – Saturday at 6 p.m.)
Liberty Competitor:
Clendon Henderson
How He Got Here: Henderson has won six of his seven discus competitions this season, including titles at the Texas Relays, Drake Relays and Big South Championship. At the Texas Relays, Henderson uncorked a personal-best 204-3 heave, which ranks him No. 3 nationally. His only setback of the year came on May 17, when he placed second to Virginia's Yemi Ayeni at the IC4A Championship.
Past Regional Appearances: Henderson finished third at the 2007 regional meet, topping out at 190-8 and qualifying for his first NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
2008 Outlook: The discus promises to be a clash between three of the nation's top 10 throwers—Henderson, Ayeni and Florida's Wes Stockbarger. Stockbarger claimed the 2007 regional title at his home track in Gainesville, Fla., reaching a regional-record 201-5. His best effort in 2008 is 199-11. Ayeni claimed the regional runner-up title a season ago, and went on to a seventh-place finish at the national meet. Henderson is the region's top seed, and has a chance to become Liberty's first-ever individual champion at the NCAA East Regional Championships.

Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase (Final – Saturday at 6:40 p.m.)
Liberty Competitors:
Evans Kigen, Jarvis Jelen (R-Jr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Jordan McDougal (R-Jr., Peru, N.Y.)
How They Got Here: The trio swept the top three places in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Big South Championship, on April 18. Kigen won in 8:52.90 and was followed by McDougal's 8:58.84 and Jelen's 9:08.36. Kigen's effort left him only .29 seconds away from the 10-year-old program record. Jelen went on to record his regional qualifier, 9:03.69, while winning at the Duke Twilight Meet on May 4. They are the first three Liberty men's runners ever to compete in the steeplechase at the regional meet.
Past Regional Appearances: McDougal ran the 5,000 meters at the 2006 and 2007 regional meets. In his freshman season of 2006, McDougal clocked a 14:46.22 for 18th place. Last season, he was unable to finish the race. Both Jelen and Kigen are making their regional debuts.
2008 Outlook: Kigen is seeded No. 9, McDougal No. 19 and Jelen is No. 28 among the 37 steeplechase entrants. Florida State senior Luke Gunn is the prohibitive favorite. The third-place finisher at the 2007 regional meet, he has posted the nation's fastest time of 8:31.17. Other contenders include N.C. State's John Martinez, No. 9 on the NCAA performance list at 8:44.92, and Duquesne's Tom Slosky, who placed fourth at last year's regional championship.