Jennifer Klugh's (far right) personal-best 17:10.91 in Friday's 5K made her a back-to-back Liberty Kickoff champion and an ECAC qualifier.
After recently finishing up a successful cross country season, Liberty's distance runners opened the 2010-11 indoor track campaign in style, Friday evening at the Liberty Kickoff. Junior Jennifer Klugh notched an ECAC qualifier in the women's 5K, while redshirt senior Josh Edmonds hit the IC4A standard in the men's 5K, highlighting the first day of action at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Competing in the evening's final running event, Klugh was paced by teammate Dacia Bushman through about the first 2,000 meters of her 5K. Once Klugh took the lead, she stepped on the accelerator. Her second half of the race clocked 8:22, as compared with her 8:48 opening half. All in all, it added up to a winning time of 17:10.91 for the reigning Big South Women's Cross Country Runner of the Year. It came in well under the ECAC qualifying standard of 17:33.64 and chopped 44 seconds off her 5K clocking at the 2009 Liberty Kickoff. Klugh, who has won the Liberty Kickoff women's 5K title in back-to-back years, jumped from No. 10 to No. 3 on the Lady Flames' all-time 5K performance list with her effort. She now trails only Carol Jefferson (17:03.23) and Piper Newby (17:08.80), both of whom notched those times at the 2007 ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Klugh led a 1-2-3 Liberty sweep in the event, as she was followed across the line by Khristina Kanagy in 18:42.29 and Rod'Esther Castor in 18:54.01. Edmonds' race in the men's 5K unfolded quite a bit differently. He finished more than a minute ahead of the race runner-up with his 14:46.51 effort, running something similar to a solo time trial around the 200-meter flat track. The redshirt senior powered down the final straightaway to reach the IC4A qualifying mark (14:47.40) by less than a second. As a result, Edmonds will get to return to the IC4A Indoor Track & Field Championships, where he placed fourth in the 5K final a year ago. Also winning on Friday and nearly recording an ECAC qualifier of her own was Christina Mitchell. She dominated the women's pentathlon competition, winning by 334 points with a personal-best score of 3,426 points. Mitchell missed the ECAC standard by a tantalizing 24 points but did enjoy a couple noteworthy accomplishments. Her overall pentathlon score added 65 points to her previous best and moved her up to the No. 5 spot in program history. Mitchell won three of the five disciplines, high jumping a personal-best 5-5.25, long jumping 16-11.25 and clocking 2:34.27 for the 800-meter run. Her high jump clearance gives her sole possession of fifth place on the Lady Flames' all-time performance list. It is Liberty's best indoor high jump effort since the 2007 ECAC Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, where Arlene Zelinskas went over 5-8.75. Fellow Lady Flame Krystle Matthews ended up third out of nine pentathlon entrants with 3,033 tallies. Her shot put (31-10.75) was the longest of the competition. Liberty also fared well on day one of the men's heptathlon, an event it has won at five of the previous six Liberty Kickoff meets. Assistant coach Daniel Newell leads the way with 2,826 points, and he is trailed in second and third place by two of his pupils, Taylor Schmidt (2,751) and Geren Woodbridge (2,743), respectively. Newell got off to a fast start, winning the 60-meter dash in 7.11 seconds. Woodbridge made his biggest move up the leaderboard after notching a 42-8 shot put. Meanwhile, Schmidt, a sophomore transfer from Concordia, was most impressive in the high jump. He sailed over 6-4.75 to rank second among the 14 men's multi-event athletes who finished day one. Saturday's action at the Liberty Kickoff will get started at 9 a.m., with the men's weight throw. The day's first running event will be the prelims of the women's 60-meter hurdles at 11 a.m. The men's heptathlon will then resume at 11:20 a.m., when the gun goes off for the 60-meter hurdles.