Geren Woodbridge (far right) and Taylor Schmidt (far left) finished first and second, respectively, in the Liberty Kickoff heptathlon competition, both qualifying for the IC4A meet.
Snow was falling outdoors on Saturday in Lynchburg, but the Liberty men's and women's indoor track & field teams heated up the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. The Flames and Lady Flames combined for nine event victories and eight ECAC/IC4A qualifiers during the second and final day of the Liberty Kickoff.
Men's Meet Recap Liberty has traditionally fared well in the heptathlon at the Liberty Kickoff, and this year was certainly no exception. The Flames have now captured the Liberty Kickoff title six out of the last seven years, after Geren Woodbridge and Taylor Schmidt swept the top two spots. Both of them qualified for the IC4A meet, as Woodbridge scored 4,954 points and Schmidt tallied 4,886 in his Liberty debut. Schmidt's score makes him the No. 5 performer in program history. Schmidt started his day well, winning the heptathlon 60-meter hurdles in a time of 8.60. He owned a 15-point lead heading into the final event, the 1,000-meter run. However, Woodbridge clocked a 2:55.49 to Schmidt's 3:03.98 to come from behind and win his second consecutive Liberty Kickoff heptathlon crown. The Flames also picked up a third IC4A qualifier during the heptathlon competition. Cody Fridgen equaled his personal best with a 15-9 pole vault clearance, meeting the IC4A standard for that event. The junior went on to finish fifth, scoring 4,313 points in his heptathlon debut and claiming the No. 10 spot on Liberty's all-time multi-event performance list. Liberty was also successful in the field events, as Clarence Powell and Ryan Smith notched two IC4A-qualifying marks apiece. Powell punched his IC4A ticket while winning the triple jump (49-3) for the second straight year and placing third in the high jump (6-8.25). The Sunshine State native also claimed runner-up honors in the long jump on a busy Saturday. Powell's best long jump mark, 22-7, tied event champion Bryan Wallace of Radford. However, Wallace was awarded the victory with a better second jump. Meanwhile, Smith won his specialty event, the shot put, for the third year in a row. His best effort, 54-2.5, came on his very first attempt of the competition. Earlier in the day, Smith had finished second in the weight throw, uncorking a personal-best 57-10.5 to meet the IC4A standard. The Flames' middle-distance and distance runners also enjoyed a strong showing, evidenced by Paul Arslain's come-from-behind victory in the 800 (1:58.64) and Caleb Edmonds' triumph in the 3K (9:02.86). Edmonds' older brother Josh Edmonds won the 5K Friday evening for Liberty. Liberty's final victory of the day came in the last running event, the 4 x 400 relay. The quartet of Andre Washington, James Hatch, Christopher Arvey and Taylor Courtney crossed the line in 3:24.12, outdistancing Lynchburg by four seconds. Previously, Washington had finished a close second in the 400-meter dash, while posting an indoor personal-best time of 49.41. He did manage to defeat Levi Brooks in the process, the former Charleston Southern standout who has won the men's 400 at each of the last three Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. Women's Meet Recap Alyssa Pegues started off her junior campaign in fine fashion on Saturday. She entered the meet with a personal-best clocking of 7.73 seconds in the 60-meter dash. Pegues proceeded to lower her time to 7.64 in the prelims, and then clocked 7.62 in the final to take second place. An ECAC qualifier, Pegues' time moves her to No. 2 on Liberty's all-time performance list, trailing only her former teammate Andrea Beckles' 7.56 effort. Pegues also established an indoor personal best in the long jump, stretching the measuring tape to 18-2.25 in another second-place showing. Pegues was not done yet, however, as her 25.88 clocking in the 200-meter dash placed her second, complementing teammate Olivia Charnuski's victory (25.76) for a Liberty 1-2 sweep. The Lady Flames' event victories came courtesy of Meghan Burggraf in the mile (5:31.12) and Taylor Bowles in the 3K (11:10.76). Liberty also captured runner-up honors in two additional field events. Mia Aghaji triple jumped 38-2.75, while senior Melinda Bendik reached a personal-best 52-2.5 in the weight throw. Freshmen Rachel Barnes and Jocelyn Williams both wasted no time in joining Liberty's all-time top 10 in the women's throwing events. Barnes came in fourth in the shot put (40-4.75) and sixth in the weight throw (44-8.75). She now sits No. 8 in Liberty history in the shot put and No. 7 in the weight. Williams' better event on Saturday was the weight throw, as she came in third at 50-5.5. The mark already ranks her No. 3 in program history, behind only record holder Caitlyn Sutterfield and Bendik.
Liberty will now take an extended break from competition, before competing in the Hokie Invitational, Jan. 21-22, in Blacksburg, Va.