Christina Mitchell won the Big South pentathlon title on Thursday, scoring a meet-record 3,497 points.
Day 1 Blog Liberty enjoyed a strong opening day at the 2011 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, winning six events and setting a meet record Thursday at the Clemson Indoor Track & Field Complex. As a result, both the Flames and Lady Flames lead the team competition heading into the meet's second and final day. The Liberty men's squad, seeking its unprecedented 14th straight Big South indoor team title, scored 75 points during Thursday's six events. The Flames lead Commonwealth rival VMI by 24 markers atop the team standings. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames won four out of five event finals contested on Thursday, highlighted by Christina Mitchell's meet-record performance in the pentathlon. Liberty owns a 54-37 advantage over second-place Coastal Carolina at this juncture.
Men's Meet Recap Ryan Smith dominated the men's shot put competition, as all five of his legal throws outdistanced runner-up Cody Davis of VMI. Smith's top mark, 57-0.75, made him only the second athlete ever to win back-to-back men's shot put titles at this meet. It also extended Liberty's streak to five straight years winning the Big South indoor men's shot put crown. Redshirt freshman Jacob DeValve added five team points in the shot put, when his opening throw of 51-2.25 held up for fourth place. Evans Kigen became Liberty's sixth men's 3K champion in the last seven years, fending off several challengers in the closing laps to take top honors by nearly two seconds. The redshirt senior's first career Big South indoor championship came in a time of 8:26.23. Liberty claimed second place in each of Thursday's other four event finals, including the pole vault. Taylor Schmidt (second place), Geren Woodbridge (third place) and Grant Rideout (fifth place) combined to score 18 big team points in the event. Schmidt's 14-9 clearance set a new personal best. Schmidt also scored points in the high jump, sailing over 6-2.75 for seventh place. Teammate Anthony Bryant was successful on his first try at 6-6.75, notching a second-place finish. Clarence Powell's first long jump attempt was the best indoor mark of his career, 23-7.5. It not only garnered second place, but also met the IC4A qualifying standard and moves him up to No. 10 on Liberty's all-time indoor men's long jump performance list. In the evening's final event, freshman Jarred Cornfield ran a strong anchor leg to move the Flames' distance medley relay quartet into second place in an IC4A-qualifying time of 10:20.66. He was joined on the relay by Andrew Rigler, Christopher Arvey and Spencer Jackson. Geren Woodbridge, in search of his third consecutive Big South heptathlon title, sits in third place through Thursday's four events. His score of 2,749 puts him 208 points behind the leader, Charleston Southern's Jermal McClendon. Woodbridge's best event was the shot put, as he led all competitors with an indoor personal-best toss of 43-2.5. One final notable men's performance came in the 400-meter dash prelims. Taylor Courtney's 49.22 clocking hit the IC4A standard and advanced him into Friday's event final.
Women's Meet Recap Mitchell recorded a thrilling, come-from-behind triumph in the pentathlon, getting Liberty's day started off well. Her personal-best score of 3,497 points defeated Charleston Southern's Patria Norman by 105 tallies and added 50 points to the previous meet record, set by Liberty's Marie Williams in 2007. Mitchell led all pentathletes with a 5-3.75 clearance and set indoor personal bests in both the shot put (39-1) and long jump (17-3.25). However, she needed to run a 2:36.95 in the 800 to leapfrog Norman for the first Big South multi-event championship of her career. Krystle Matthews held off Radford's Amber Church to claim third place in the pentathlon. Her final score was 3,225 points. Liberty additionally went 1-3 in the women's 3K, paced by Jennifer Klugh. The junior distanced herself from the pack during the middle stages of the race, posting her first career Big South individual track championship in a winning time of 10:01.10. She became Liberty's third different women's 3K champion in the last three years, improving one place from her runner-up showing in 2010. Dacia Bushman, named Big South Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week earlier in the day, recorded a new personal-best time of 10:07.39 for third place. She now ranks No. 6 in program history for the event. The Lady Flames' distance medley grouping of Katie Russo, Kylie McMichael, Meghan Burggraf and Betel Yosef was victorious in a time of 12:19.31, enjoying an eight-second victory over UNC Asheville. The effort, highlighted by Burggraf's impressive 800-meter leg, was Liberty's first conference title in this event since 2006. The winning quartet, consisting of two freshmen and two sophomores, climbed to No. 5 on Liberty's all-time list with the Lady Flames' fastest distance medley relay performance indoors since 2002. Alyssa Pegues nabbed her first career Big South event title with a clutch performance in the women's long jump. Her sixth and final attempt measured a personal-best 18-7, overtaking Coastal Carolina's Sierrah Oates for the victory. She became Liberty's first long jump champion at this meet since 2004 and grabbed the No. 7 spot on Liberty's all-time performance list.
Friday's action will begin at 10 a.m., with the heptathlon 60-meter hurdles. Field events will get underway 30 minutes later, with the women's weight throw and high jump. The women's mile will be Friday's first running event final, set for a 10:30 a.m. start.
Men's Team Standings (Through Six Events) 1) Liberty – 75 2) VMI – 51 3T) High Point – 28 3T) Radford – 28 5) Charleston Southern – 23 6) Winthrop – 22 7) Gardner-Webb – 5 8) UNC Asheville – 2
Women's Team Standings (Through Five Events) 1) Liberty – 54 2) Coastal Carolina – 37 3) Charleston Southern – 32 4) VMI – 21 5) Gardner-Webb – 16 6) UNC Asheville – 13 7) High Point – 12 8) Radford – 6 9) Winthrop – 4