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Newcomers Abundant for Liberty Track Teams

September 9, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's and women's track & field teams will feature a lot of new student-athletes this season.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's and women's track & field teams will feature a lot of new student-athletes this season.

Newcomers and athletes returning from redshirt seasons will make up more than half of Liberty's 2008-09 men's and women's track & field rosters. The new faces, which include 37 men and 27 women, will hope to continue the men's program's run of Big South titles and aid the women's team in returning to the top of the conference.

The newcomers will also help to offset the loss of five NCAA national meet qualifiers, due to graduation—Jon Hart, Clendon Henderson, Brandon Hoskins, Carol Jefferson and Josh McDougal. McDougal wrapped up his Liberty career as a 14-time All-American, while Hoskins earned a pair of All-America certificates and Henderson took home one All-America notation.

Henderson will still be a part of the program this season, as he has been hired as a full-time assistant coach to work with the Flames' throwers.

Men's Newcomers
Henderson will have a promising crop of young men's throwers to coach during his first season on staff. Elliot Galeone (White Hall, Md.) returns after redshirting his sophomore year, during which time he threw the javelin 206-7. The effort would have been the farthest throw by a Liberty athlete since 1996, had he been representing the Flames. Galeone will be joined in the javelin by incoming freshman Ryan Bell (New Wilmington, Pa.). As a senior at Wilmington Area High School, Bell uncorked a 220-7 javelin throw, which ranked fourth nationally in the high school ranks.

John Talbert (Newton, Kan.), is another highly-touted incoming freshman. He threw the discus 213-1 as a senior, ranking No. 2 nationally. Talbert also owns the Kansas state high school hammer record, 200-6. A pair of talented throwers from the Southeast will also join the Flames, including Ryan Smith (Winder, Ga.) and David Lhamonie (West Palm Beach, Fla.). Smith boasts a shot put personal-best of 60-4, while Lhamonie has a 166-2 discus throw to his credit.

Despite the graduation of Josh McDougal, Liberty once again possesses a considerable amount of talent and depth in the men's distance events. Sam Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya), a two-time All-American at Fairleigh Dickinson, is eligible to compete after sitting out last season. During his redshirt year, Chelanga clocked personal-best times of 13:24 for 5,000 meters and 28:15 for 10,000 meters. If Chelanga had been eligible last season, his 28:15 in the 10K would have broken McDougal's school and Big South record by 12 seconds.

Other distance runners returning from a redshirt year are Dan Hibbs (Hatboro, Pa.) and local product Will Reeves (Rustburg, Va.), from Brookville High School. Incoming freshmen include Mike Koech (Eldoret, Kenya), Isaac Wendland (Charles City, Ia.), Kyle Powers (Waterford, Vt.), Ryan Cox (Anchorage, Alaska) and Peter Edmonds (Cooperstown, N.Y.) Wendland became the first male to win four consecutive state titles in the mile at the Iowa state meet and also added three state championships at 800 meters and three in cross country. Powers finished 22nd at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Cross Country Championships, while Edmonds is the younger brother of Liberty junior Josh Edmonds.

The men's squad will bring back a pair of past Big South champions after redshirt seasons. Clarence Murray (Birdsboro, Pa.) is a two-time conference heptathlon titlist and won the 2006 Big South decathlon. Tim O'Donnell (Hurst, Texas) took first place in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2007 conference meet. Other athletes who redshirted a season ago include Anthony Bryant (Charlottesville, Va.), who owns personal bests of 6-11 in the high jump, 22-9 in the long jump and 50-6 in the triple jump, Brandon Weeks (Delmar, Md.), who has notched a wind-aided 10.79 for 100 meters and 200/400 specialist Chris Best (Charlottesville, Va.).

A number of versatile athletes will join the Flames' roster this season, including hurdler Chris Herbst (Riverhead, N.Y.), a transfer from Farmingdale State, where he ran 14.87 for the 110-meter hurdles and 55.53 for the 400 hurdles. Freshmen falling into this category include Jeremy Snyder (6-8 high jump, hurdles, Fredericksburg, Va.), Joe Dillard (13-6 pole vault, Nottingham, Md.), Cody Fridgen (14-0 pole vault, Sarasota, Fla.), David Elliott (Waterboro, Maine), Chris Johnson (56.86 400 hurdles, 45-9 triple jump, Virginia Beach, Va.), Andrew Edwards (50.08 400 meters, Anchorage, Alaska) and Tashan Duff (high jump, long jump, triple jump, Chester, Va.).

Liberty's sprinting corps will have added depth this season, thanks to the addition of Jacob Buckwalter (10.86 100 meters, Wooster, Ohio), James Hatch (36.1 300 meters, Derry, N.H.) and Ryan Webb (Bedford, Va.). The Flames also inked an unusually large group of 800-meter runners, highlighted by Spencer Jackson (Surrey, British Columbia), who owns a 1:56.86 personal best. Jordan Bright (Damascus, Ore.), Michael Keller (Lansdale, Pa.), Trevor Strachan (Nassau, Bahamas), Joel Terry (Union Springs, N.Y.) and David Womack (Suffolk, Va.) also figure to run the 800 this season.

Women's Newcomers
Jefferson, Piper Newby and Rachel Valliere all graduated from the Lady Flames' distance squad, but a sizable group hopes to fill their shoes this season. Ashley Osborne (Bristol, Va.), the school 5K record holder at 16:42.79, comes back from a medical redshirt, and Melissa Martens (Baraboo, Wis.), a transfer from Wisconsin-Whitewater, is now able to run for Liberty after sitting out a year. Additionally, Alicia Guridy (Tappahannock, Va.), Blakely Harris (Shelby, N.C.) and Amanda Moyer (Carrollton, Ohio) will all compete this season, after redshirting a year.

Incoming freshmen distance runners include Charis Haldeman (Manheim, Pa.), Hannah Hunt (Sewickley, Pa.), Jennifer Klugh (Centerburg, Ohio), Ashley Lundquist (Rockland, Mass.), Claire Smith (Richmond, Va.), Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.) and Sally Volstad (Anchorage, Alaska). Klugh brings the most impressive high school credentials, as she was a five-time All-Ohio performer at Highland High School. As a junior, she finished second in the state at 1,600 meters, third at 3,200 meters and fourth at the state cross country meet.

Multi-event athlete Marie Williams (Tampa, Fla.) and mid-distance specialist Nicole Miglis (South Plainfield, N.J.) will both be back in action after redshirt seasons. Williams swept the Big South pentathlon and heptathlon championships in 2007. The incoming freshman class contains a couple athletes, Melanie Sims (Richmond Heights, Ohio) and Grace Esden (Springfield, Vt.), who could join Williams in the heptathlon.

Other versatile freshmen on the women's team include Olivia Charnuski (Elmira, Ontario), Christina Mitchell (Lynchburg, Va.) from Liberty Christian Academy and Alyssa Pegues (Warner Robins, Ga). Charnuski, a sprinter and hurdler, has clocked a 14.17 for the 100-meter hurdles and finished ninth at the 2008 Canada Olympic Trials in the event. Mitchell, a sprinter/hurdler/jumper, ran the 300-meter hurdles in 43.64 seconds at age 16, on her way to capturing a Carifta Games title for Jamaica. Pegues, who has clocked 11.84 for the 100-meter dash, finished fifth at the Georgia state meet as a senior.

Joining Pegues in the sprinting events this season will be sophomore Sharron Davis (Winston-Salem, N.C.), transferring to Liberty from Lenoir-Rhyne, as well as a trio of freshmen--Shekinah Lorcy (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and twins Kaitlyn and Kayla Johnson (Florissant, Mich.). In the field disciplines, Laura Haugland (Park Rapids, Minn.), Kayla McCann (Clearwater, Fla.) and Tami Tolsma (Forest, Va.) are set to begin their respective collegiate careers. Haugland is a high jumper, while McCann and Tolsma are pole vaulters. Tolsma, the youngest daughter of Liberty head coach Brant Tolsma, could also contribute in the discus and hammer.