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LU Ready for BSC Indoor Track Championships

February 25, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Matt Parker scored a meet-high 28 points for the victorious Flames at the 2008 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Matt Parker scored a meet-high 28 points for the victorious Flames at the 2008 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.

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The Liberty men's track & field team will shoot for its unprecedented 12th consecutive conference title, while the Lady Flames aim for their first conference crown since 2005, at the 2009 New Balance Big South Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships. The annual two-day meet is slated for Thursday and Friday, at the Clemson Indoor Track & Field Complex in Clemson, S.C.

The meet will get underway at noon Thursday, with the start of the women's pentathlon competition. Action will resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday, when the second day of the men's heptathlon gets underway.

Fans unable to watch the meet in person can track the Flames' progress a couple different ways. For a small fee, fans can view live video streaming of the action, via the Big South EDGE. A link is available at the top of this page and on the Liberty track & field schedule/results page. Live results will also be available, courtesy of CFPI Timing. A "live stats" link will be posted here when it goes live. 

Men's Meet Preview
Last season, head coach Brant Tolsma's Liberty men's track & field team nearly doubled up its closest competitor, racking up 223 points at the Big South indoor meet to Radford's 115 tallies. The Flames, who have won every Big South indoor team championship ever contested, are favored to extend their streak to a dozen years. Liberty is led by a trio of athletes—Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.), Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya) and Daniel Newell (R-Sr., Roanoke, Va.)—who have already posted NCAA-qualifying marks this season.

Men's Events to Keep An Eye On
60-Meter Dash (Prelims – Thursday, 6:35 p.m.; Finals – Friday, 11:45 a.m.): The graduation of three-time defending 60-meter dash titlist Alonzo Spurley of Charleston Southern and the absence of CSU freshman sensation Javon Young from the start list have made this event a wide-open contest. Liberty sophomore Jacey Bailey (Tamarac, Fla.) has to be considered one of the favorites, as he boasts the fastest entry time, 6.85, and finished third last season. Bailey is aiming to be Liberty's first 60-meter dash conference champion since Guifaly Christolin in 2002.

Mile Run (Friday, 10:20 a.m.): Chelanga is only scheduled to compete in a single event at the Big South meet, the mile run. He will aim to follow in the footsteps of three-time defending Big South mile champion Josh McDougal, but it will not be easy, for a couple reasons. Chelanga has not yet competed in a mile race in a Liberty uniform, so he was seeded in the slower of two sections. He will need to work along with teammate Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.), making his season debut, to post a fast time. Running in the second section will be VMI's Donnie Cowart, who blazed a 4:06.41 clocking earlier in this season. Liberty newcomer Will Reeves (Rustburg, Va.) will attempt to challenge Cowart in the faster section of the mile.

3,000-Meter Run (Thursday, 5:55 p.m.): Liberty runners have been victorious in the 3K nine times in 11 years, including a quartet of championships by Josh McDougal. Jarvis Jelen (R-Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) will attempt to continue the Flames' strong tradition in the 15-lap event, as he has the fastest seed time, 8:32.29, and finished third in last year's race. High Point senior Jesse Cherry, who placed third at the 2008 Big South Cross Country Championship, is expected to challenge Jelen.

60-Meter Hurdles (Prelims – Thursday, 5:05 p.m., Finals – Friday, 11:10 a.m.): Matt Parker (Sr., Rome, N.Y.) kept busy at last year's Big South indoor meet, pacing all competitors with 28 points scored. The 2008 Big South Men's Outstanding Field Performer hopes for more of the same in 2009. He is favored to capture his first career Big South hurdles title, as Parker has run a Big South-best 8.09 twice this season. The Empire State native not only hopes to win, but would also like to eclipse Ken Howell's school record of 8.08 seconds, which has stood since 1999.

High Jump (Thursday, 7:20 p.m.): The Flames are hoping for big points in the high jump, as Bryant, Parker and Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.) seek a 1-2-3 sweep. Bryant is the Big South record holder at 7-1.5, while Parker is the defending conference champion. Powell has cleared 6-9.75 himself this season. VMI's Dennis James will be the biggest threat to a Liberty sweep of the All-Big South certificates in the high jump. James is entered at 6-9. The meet record of 6-11.5 could also come under siege.

Pole Vault (Thursday, 6:35 p.m.): Liberty is also favored to win the other men's vertical jump, the pole vault. Sophomore Kolby Shepherd (Dublin, Ga.) captured the Big South indoor and outdoor pole vault crowns a year ago and has already cleared a personal-best 16-5.25 this season. He has increased his clearance height in each meet so far in 2009.

Triple Jump (Friday, 10:30 a.m.): The top two triple jump performers in program history, Bryant and Powell will look to get things heated up, early Friday morning. Powell, the school record holder at 50-4.5, won both the Big South indoor and outdoor triple jump championships as a freshman and also garnered a pair of Big South Freshman of the Year notations. Bryant has stretched the tape to 49-8.5 during his first year of competition. The Flames duo is expected to battle it out with Jake Didion, a 50-foot triple jumper from conference newcomer Gardner-Webb.

Shot Put (Thursday, 6:50 p.m.): Liberty standout throwers Jon Hart and Clendon Henderson teamed up to win the last two Big South indoor shot put championships. With both of them gone to graduation, senior Andrew Bartels (Grantham, Pa.) will shoot to fill the void. He enters Thursday's competition with the conference's best throw this season, 52-8.

Heptathlon (Day One Begins Thursday at 12:45 p.m.; Day Two Begins Friday at 9:30 a.m.): Newell, whose season-best heptathlon score of 5,346 makes him the No. 2 heptathlete in Big South history, is not entered in his specialty. So, a pair of Pennsylvania natives will aim to extend Liberty's streak of Big South heptathlon crowns to four. Redshirt senior Clarence Murray (Birdsboro, Pa.) won the first two heptathlon competitions in conference history, in 2006 & 2007. Meanwhile, Geren Woodbridge (R-So., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) tied for second place a season ago. Woodbridge has posted the highest heptathlon score of the event's 14 entrants this season—4,778.

Women's Meet Preview
Coastal Carolina has won three consecutive Big South indoor team championships on the women's side, but both Liberty and Charleston Southern could challenge the Chanticleers in 2009. The Lady Flames finished 29.5 points behind Coastal Carolina in second place a season ago. Charleston Southern then nabbed team runner-up honors at the 2008 Big South outdoor meet, matching the best finish in program history. All three squads feature strong 4 x 400 relay quartets, which could make for a thrilling conclusion to the meet, if first and second place still hang in the balance.

Women's Events to Keep An Eye On
60-Meter Dash (Prelims – Thursday, 6:20 p.m.; Finals – Friday, 11:40 a.m.): Liberty senior Andrea Beckles (Lynchburg, Va.) returns to the site of her school-record 7.62 clocking at the 2007 Big South Championship, but she will have to deal with a deep and experienced field of sprinters. Four women who have captured Big South titles in either the 60-meter dash or outdoor 100-meter dash are entered, including defending champion Ikeiylah Brown of Coastal Carolina, Natalie Pearson of UNC Asheville and the Charleston Southern duo of Dionne Gibson and Misha Morris. In total, seven women (including Beckles) are entered at 7.66 seconds or faster.

400-Meter Dash (Prelims – Thursday, 6:50 p.m.; Finals – Friday, 11:20 a.m.): Junior Chenoa Freeman (Lincoln, Del.) finished third at the 400-meter distance at both the Big South indoor and outdoor meets a season ago. She is coming off a season-best 56.91 clocking at the Virginia Tech Challenge on Saturday. Like Beckles, though, she will square off with a loaded field in the two-lap affair. Charleston Southern's Gibson has already cut the conference record to 54.60 seconds this season. Meanwhile, the 2007 (Coastal Carolina's Amber White) and 2008 (Coastal Carolina's Vondeeshia Humphries) event champions are both scheduled to compete.

800-Meter Run (Prelims – Thursday, 7:20 p.m.; Finals – Friday, 12:35 p.m.): Jaime Watson (Sr., Ravenna, Mich.) will attempt to add to her legacy as one of the finest women's 800-meter performers in Big South history. Watson holds the Big South indoor event record at 2:08.34 and has won a total of four 800-meter crowns between the conference indoor and outdoor championships. Only current Liberty assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand is more decorated in the event, with six career titles. Watson has posted the fastest time in the conference this season, 2:10.94, and expects her toughest competition to come from teammate Katie Albright (So., Wake Forest, N.C.) and High Point's Andrea Bolyki.

Mile Run (Friday, 10 a.m.): Albright will shoot to get her team started off well in Friday's first running event final, the women's mile. The sophomore finished a close second last season and enters pursuit of her first career Big South event title with the conference's fastest seed time, 5:05.57. Close on her heels, though, are High Point senior Shauna Marsh (5:06.50 season best) and Radford sophomore Ashlyn Sinclair (5:07.66).

5,000-Meter Run (Friday, 1:35 p.m.): Most of the conference's best distance runners will mix it up in the next-to-last event on Friday's schedule, the 5,000-meter run. The top three performers from last year's conference meet have all graduated, opening the door for a new face to claim victory. The Lady Flames' entrants include program outdoor 5,000-meter record holder Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) and sophomore Dacia Bushman (Castalia, Iowa), who will make her season debut. Other top contenders include High Point's Zsanett Kis, the 2008 Big South cross country champion, and VMI sophomore Hannah Granger, the lone conference runner to break 18 minutes thus far in 2009.

60-Meter Hurdles (Prelims – Thursday, 4:55 p.m.; Finals – Friday, 11 a.m.): Coastal Carolina senior LeAuna Sistrunk, who shares the Big South record (8.47) with former Liberty standout Arlene Zelinskas, is the prohibitive favorite to defend her 60-meter hurdles title. However, the Lady Flames hope to make this a high-scoring event, with a quartet of solid entries. Leading the way is freshman Olivia Charnuski (Elmira, Ontario), who clocked a personal-best 8.92 seconds in her most recent outing, at the Liberty Open. Marie Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) will also run the hurdles for the Lady Flames, as part of an action-packed two days for the Sunshine State native.

4 x 400 Relay (Friday, 2:20 p.m.): As previously mentioned, the 4 x 400 relay could be a race to remember if the team title is on the line. Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina and Liberty have all run between 3:51 and 3:54 this year, and all three are entered in the same heat on Friday. The Lady Flames are the defending race champions and registered a Big South-record 3:47.16 during the 2008 campaign. Three of the four legs of that record-setting squad—Watson, Freeman and Brittany Heath (Jr., Freeport, Grand Bahamas) are available this weekend.

High Jump (Thursday, 5:55 p.m.): Liberty has won the women's high jump six straight seasons. Although defending champion Mia Aghaji (So., Chester, Va.) is redshirting this season, a pair of Lady Flames should be in the mix. Williams and Christina Mitchell (Fr., Monroe, Va.) have both cleared 5-4.5 this year, which is superior to Aghaji's winning 5-3.25 clearance from 2008. However, High Point's precocious freshman, Christina Fenske, has sailed over 5-6 during her rookie campaign and will contend for the title Thursday evening.

Pentathlon (Begins Thursday at Noon): The first event to kick off the meet, the pentathlon, features three past conference champions. Williams was the 2007 Big South titlist, while teammate Krystle Matthews (Chesapeake, Va.) claimed the 2008 crown. The biggest obstacle to Liberty's fourth straight Big South pentathlon championship figures to come in the form of Gardner-Webb senior Victoria Argus. Argus is the reigning Atlantic Sun pentathlon titlist.