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Flames Capture 12th Straight Big South Title

February 27, 2009  Clemson, S.C.  RSS
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The Liberty men's track & field team won its 12th consecutive Big South indoor track & field championship.

The Liberty men's track & field team won its 12th consecutive Big South indoor track & field championship.

For the 12th consecutive season, Coach Brant Tolsma and the Liberty men's track & field squad captured the team title, at the 2009 New Balance Big South Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames finished second for the fourth straight year, at the two-day meet, which wrapped up Friday in Clemson, S.C.

The Flames, who have won every Big South indoor title ever contested, tallied 190 points. Runner-up VMI finished 75 points behind Liberty, which won four events on Friday.

On the women's side, the Lady Flames captured a trio of event titles Friday, helping them maintain second place in the final team standings. Liberty ended up with 124.5 points, finishing behind Coastal Carolina, which earned its fourth straight Big South indoor crown with 176.66 points.

Three Liberty athletes nabbed individual awards at the meet's conclusion. Daniel Newell (R-Sr., Roanoke, Va.), a master's student majoring in English, became the Flames' second straight Big South Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was also included on the Big South All-Academic Team.

For the Lady Flames, double event winner Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) was voted Big South Women's Track Performer of the Year. Meanwhile, classmate Jaime Watson (Ravenna, Mich.), a sport management major, made the Big South All-Academic Team.

Men's Meet Recap
For the second year in a row, senior Matt Parker (Rome, N.Y.) won two individual event titles at the Big South indoor meet. The Empire State native led all competitors with 27.5 total points in his four events.

On Friday, Parker added a 60-meter hurdles crown to his high jump title from Thursday, clocking a time of 8.20 seconds. Parker overtook Gardner-Webb's Johnathon Rucker in the final strides, edging the Bulldog by two-hundredths of a second to become the Flames' first 60-meter hurdles conference winner since 2003.

Parker then came back to help the Flames win the final event of the afternoon, the 4 x 400 relay, in 3:17.64. His teammates on the relay unit included Newell, Chris Best (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) and Phil Leineweber (New Freedom, Pa.). Leineweber came from behind on the anchor leg to nip Charleston Southern at the finishing tape.

In yet another tight finish, Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya) clocked 1:59 for the final 800 meters of the mile run to claim his first career Big South track & field event title. Chelanga's official time of 4:10.04, in the first mile race of his collegiate career, enabled him to hold off a hard-charging Donnie Cowart of VMI. Chelanga's IC4A qualifier made him Liberty's fifth straight men's mile winner at the Big South indoor meet.

Geren Woodbridge (R-So., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) used a personal-best 14-7.25 pole vault to propel him to the Big South heptathlon title. His point total of 4,773 made the 2008 event runner-up Liberty's fourth straight conference heptathlon champion. Teammate Clarence Murray (R-Sr., Birdsboro, Pa.), the 2006 and 2007 Big South heptathlon titlist, totaled a career-best 4,546 points for second place. Murray becomes the No. 5 all-time performer in Liberty history. Freshman Drew Edwards (Anchorage, Alaska) added a fourth-place heptathlon showing, with 4,136 tallies. His effort completed a 23-point event for the Flames.

The heptathletes completed their final three events on Friday, which is the same number of races Leineweber ran on the meet's final day. Prior to his aforementioned stellar final leg of the 4 x 400 relay, Leineweber notched top-four finishes in both the 200 and 400 dashes. The senior was the 400-meter runner-up in a season-best time of 48.63 and crossed the line fourth in the 200 with an official time of 22.48.

Even though he did not contest his specialty event, the heptathlon, Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Newell was a significant contributor to the Flames' team championship. He ran the first leg on the victorious 4 x 400 relay squad, took seventh place in the 400-meter dash in 49.99 seconds and long jumped 21-2 for eighth place.

In the field, Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) wrapped up his third All-Big South honor of the meet by triple jumping 47-11.25 for second place. Defending event champion Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.) followed closely in third place, stretching the measuring tape to 47-8.5.

Freshman John Talbert (Newton, Kan.) added more than six feet to his personal-best distance in the weight throw. His top effort of 57-4.75 made him the Big South runner-up and bumped him up to No. 4 on Liberty's all-time performance list.

Redshirt senior Jarvis Jelen (Sioux Falls, S.D.) missed out on All-Big South recognition by one-hundredth of a second in the men's 5,000 meters, capturing fourth place for the second time at this meet. Also the fourth-place finisher in the men's 3K Thursday evening, Jelen's 5K clocking was 15:01.56.

Also edged out of All-Big South consideration by one-hundredth of a second was Jacey Bailey (So., Tamarac, Fla.). His 60-meter dash time of 7.02 garnered fourth place.

Women's Meet Recap
Osborne made a definitive surge with 600 meters left in the women's 5,000-meter final, breaking up the lead pack of three runners. The senior went on to win her second event of the meet by more than six seconds, posting a personal-best time of 17:36.95. The first 3,000/5,000 double Big South champion in Liberty history, Osborne now ranks No. 5 on the program's all-time performance list.

Watson cruised to her second straight 800-meter run championship and the fifth conference 800-meter title of her career, including the Big South outdoor meet. Her winning time, 2:13.52, left Watson nearly five seconds in front of second-place Beth Long of Gardner-Webb.

Watson later anchored the Lady Flames' 4 x 400 relay team to second place in a season-best and ECAC-qualifying time of 3:52.83. She was joined on the quartet by Chenoa Freeman (Jr., Lincoln, Del.), Marie Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) and Brittany Heath (Jr., Freeport, Grand Bahamas).

The Lady Flames' third event champion of the day was sophomore Katie Albright (Wake Forest, N.C.) in Friday's very first race, the women's mile. Her official time of 5:07.33 enabled Albright to hold off High Point's Shauna Marsh, who literally dove at the finish line, by one-tenth of a second. Albright is Liberty's first mile champion at the Big South indoor meet since Heather (Sagan) Zealand in her national championship season of 2002.

Andrea Beckles (Sr., Lynchburg, Va.) scored in a pair of sprinting event finals on Friday, taking third place in the 60-meter dash with a 7.59 and finishing sixth in the 200-meter dash in 25.77 seconds. Beckles, whose personal best and school record in the 60-meter dash stood at 7.62 seconds prior to this meet, ran under 7.60 for the second day in a row.

Freshman Olivia Charnuski (Elmira, Ontario) equaled her fastest time in the 60-meter hurdles, 8.92 seconds. Her clocking earned fourth place in the event final.

Competing along with Charnuski in the 60 hurdles final was Williams. The redshirt senior finished up with 17.5 points for the meet, as she won the pentathlon, competed on the runner-up 4 x 400 relay unit, tied for fifth in the long jump and recorded a seventh-place showing in the 60 hurdles (9.07).

Liberty will return to action March 7-8, when some of the Flames and Lady Flames' top performers will travel to Boston, Mass., for the IC4A and ECAC Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Other Liberty athletes will begin preparation for the outdoor track & field season, which will begin the following weekend, at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in Conway, S.C.

Men's Heptathlon Final Scores (14 Total Entrants)
1) Geren Woodbridge, Liberty – 4,773
2) Clarence Murray, Liberty – 4,546
3) Michael Munson, VMI – 4,292
4) Drew Edwards, Liberty – 4,136
5) Tyler Tucker, VMI – 3,985
6) Benjamin Bowles, Charleston Southern – 3,978
7) Evan Brusich, Gardner-Webb – 3,960
8) Nick Benton, High Point – 3,714
10) Jeremy Snyder, Liberty – 3,579

Women's Team Scores (Final)
1) Coastal Carolina – 176.66
2) Liberty – 124.5
3) Charleston Southern – 97.33
4) High Point – 73
5) Gardner-Webb – 61.16
6) Winthrop – 49.16
7) Radford – 46.16
8) VMI – 18
9) UNC Asheville – 15

Men's Team Scores (Final)
1) Liberty – 190

2) VMI – 115
3) High Point – 100
4) Charleston Southern – 83
5) Gardner-Webb – 71
6) Radford – 68
7) Winthrop – 27
8) UNC Asheville – 7

Men's Track Performer of the Year
Donnie Cowart, VMI

Women's Track Performer of the Year
Ashley Osborne, Liberty

Men's Field Performer of the Year
Jake Didion, Gardner-Webb

Women's Field Performer of the Year
Shemelia Brandon, Radford

Men's Freshman of the Year
Anthony Berkis, High Point

Women's Freshman of the Year
Manika Gamble, High Point

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Daniel Newell, Liberty

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Marcie Veitch, Coastal Carolina

Men's All-Academic Team
Jason Wenzel, Gardner-Webb
Duanne Stepp, UNC Asheville
James Hayes, Charleston Southern
Cole Atkins, High Point
Gaines Bailey, Winthrop
Daniel Newell, Liberty
Matt Dobson, Radford

Women's All-Academic Team
Shauna Marsh, High Point
Victoria Argus, Gardner-Webb
Marcie Veitch, Coastal Carolina
Jaime Watson, Liberty
Dionne Gibson, Charleston Southern
Brittany Christian, Radford
Natalie Pearson, UNC Asheville
Hannah Granger, VMI
Carly Jean Moss, Winthrop

Men's Coach of the Year
Darrin Webb, VMI

Women's Coach of the Year
Alan Connie, Coastal Carolina