The Liberty men's and women's track & field teams announced 10 new signees on Tuesday.
As some of his most talented athletes prepare for next weekend's NCAA Division I Preliminary Round meet, Liberty Head Track & Field Coach Brant Tolsma is already beginning to plan for next season. Ten track & field student-athletes have signed to attend Liberty University for the 2010-11 academic year. The list of signees includes Rachel Barnes (Milltown, N.J.), Katie Russo (Fort Myers, Fla.), Kristen Willeford (Bitburg, Germany) and Jocelyn Williams (Hamilton, N.J.) on the women's side and Zach Barker (Wernersville, Pa.), Jarred Cornfield (Painted Post, N.Y.), Josh MacDonald (San Leandro, Calif.), Tevan McIntire (Longmont, Colo.), Josh Morris (Forest, Va.) and ConRoy Smith (Chambersburg, Pa.) on the men's side. Below is a closer look at the future Flames and Lady Flames, grouped by event.
Distance Half of Liberty's 10 signees for 2010-11 are distance runners. Tolsma explained, "We are excited to have these freshmen additions to our program, after a year when we did not graduate any cross country runners. We will have senior-laden men's and women's cross country teams this fall. Our hope is that these incoming freshmen will be able to complement and learn from our teams' experienced runners this season, preparing them to help replace the graduating seniors. "One of our incoming distance runners, Fork Union Military Academy graduate Josh Morris, is our only local signee in this group," continued Tolsma. "We think his ability will translate well to the 10K."
Katie Russo of Fort Myers High School clocked a personal-best time of 5:02.80 to win the Florida Class 3A regional 1,600-meter title this spring. At the state meet, Russo finished fourth in the event, following a third-place showing in 2009. She was also part of Fort Myers' state runner-up 4 x 800 relay squad this season, which clocked a 9:28.63.
Zach Barker of Conrad Weiser High School helped his team win its first-ever District 3 AAA boys' cross country championship in 2008. This past season, he placed 37th at the Pennsylvania State Cross Country Championship. On the track, he owns personal-best times of 4:26 for the 1,600, 9:38 for the 3,200 and 6:22 for the 2K steeplechase.
Jarred Cornfield of Corning High School placed fifth in the mile at the 2010 National Scholastic Indoor Championships, clocking a 4:18.04. He also took fourth place at the 2010 New York State Indoor Track & Field Championships in the 1,000, running a 2:33.34. Last year, Cornfield competed in two events at the Nike Outdoor Nationals. He crossed the line fourth in the Emerging Elite mile race, stopping the clock in 4:18.09 and garnered ninth place in the 2K steeplechase final, in 6:10.66.
Josh MacDonald of Redwood Christian School was the California Interscholastic Foundation (CIF) state cross country runner-up in Division V this fall. He then went on to place 36th at the Foot Locker West Regional Cross Country Championships. On the track, he has run the 1,600 in 4:23, the 3,200 in 9:24 and the 2K steeplechase in 6:17.
Josh Morris of Fork Union Military Academy also enjoyed a stellar senior cross country season, earning the 2009 Central Virginia Boys' Cross Country Runner of the Year award from the Charlottesville Daily Progress newspaper. He won the VISAA Division I state cross country title and broke the course record at the Prep League/LIS Championships, in a three-mile time of 14:58. In 2008, Morris garnered All-America recognition, after finishing seventh at the USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships. Recently, he posted a pair of track personal bests at the VMI High School Classic, clocking a 4:18.27 to win the 1,600 and following that effort up with a 1:58.91 in the 800.
Throws Liberty's women's throwers have been bolstered this season by the addition of Melinda Bendik. Now she will have two new teammates to work with in 2011, in Barnes and Williams. "It has been a while since we have been competitive in the women's shot put," stated Tolsma. "Our hope is that Rachel and Jocelyn can help to change that."
Rachel Barnes of East Brunswick High School won the indoor sectional title in the shot put this year, with a 38-2.5 heave. She also recently recorded a personal best of 112-9 in the discus, at the Greater Middlesex Conference Relays.
Jocelyn Williams of Hamilton West High School finished fourth in the shot put at the 2010 New Jersey Group III Championships, after winning the district title. Last year, she threw the discus 127-4 and claimed state runner-up honors in the event.
Jumps The Lady Flames' deep women's high jumping crew boasts a pair of past Big South champions in Mia Aghaji and Christina Mitchell. Willeford will help provide even greater depth in the event. Tolsma noted, "We're excited to have Kristen join an already strong group of high jumpers on our team."
Kristen Willeford of Bitburg American High School in Germany was the 2009 DODDS European Champion in the high jump, with a 5-4 clearance. Willeford, who owns a career-best of 5-6, placed eighth in the high jump at the 2008 Illinois State Track & Field Championships as a sophomore at Mascoutah High School.
Sprints Liberty has gotten stronger in the men's sprinting events in recent years. Last week, the Flames ran a season-best time of 40.73 in the 4 x 100 relay and placed seventh at the IC4A meet. The signing of Smith adds another talented option in the 100, 200 or 4 x 100 relay. "ConRoy should help us in the sprints, where we need some additional athletes," explained Tolsma.
ConRoy Smith of Chambersburg High School ran a 10.88 in the 100 and a 22.11 in the 200, recently at the Mid-Penn Track & Field Championships. Last season, Smith crossed the line fifth in the 200-meter dash final at the Pennsylvania Class AAA state meet and also ran the 4 x 100 relay at the meet. During the 2010 indoor track campaign, Smith came in eighth in the long jump at the state meet. Also a football player at Chambersburg, Smith owns a 22-7 long jump personal best.
Decathlon Geren Woodbridge's runner-up finish in the IC4A decathlon last week was the latest chapter in Liberty's rich tradition in the multi events. The Flames hope that McIntire can follow in the footsteps of some of the team's past standouts. "Tevan should contribute to our traditionally strong decathlon program," said Tolsma. Tevan McIntire of Longmont High School placed in the top nine of three different events at the 2008 Colorado State Track & Field Championships, taking fifth in the triple jump, sixth in the long jump and ninth in the high jump. Recently, he was the Boulder County champion in the high jump, while posting runner-up finishes in the long jump, triple jump and 4 x 400. Some of McIntire's top marks include 11.70 in the 100, 6-4 in the high jump, 22-4.75 in the long jump and 44-8.5 in the triple jump.
These incoming freshmen are joining a Liberty program which achieved the Big South Conference's first-ever "Double Triple" this year, capturing conference titles in men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track & field and men's and women's outdoor track & field.
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