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Liberty Men Take 5th Straight Big South Title

April 23, 2011  Lexington, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty men's squad celebrates its fifth consecutive Big South outdoor team title.

The Liberty men's squad celebrates its fifth consecutive Big South outdoor team title.

Liberty wrapped up its fifth consecutive men's team title at the 2011 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which concluded Saturday at VMI's Read Memorial Track. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames finished second to Coastal Carolina.

The Liberty men's squad won four events on Saturday, helping the Flames distance themselves from runner-up Coastal Carolina. Liberty tallied 187.5 points for the meet, giving them 76 more tallies than the Chanticleers.

The Flames have now won 16 men's team crowns in the 18-year history of the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships. They also completed a Big South Triple Crown, which also includes the Flames' conference cross country and indoor track & field championships earlier this year.

Liberty was bidding for its second straight Big South Double Triple, but the Coastal Carolina women's squad denied those hopes by scoring 228 points. The Lady Flames came in second with 166.5 markers, well ahead of third-place Charleston Southern's score of 83.

Several Liberty individuals earned hardware at meet's conclusion. Elliot Galeone was voted Men's Outstanding Field Performer after winning both the discus and javelin titles, while also making the Big South All-Academic team. Olivia Charnuski, the women's 100 hurdles champion, was included on the women's Big South All-Academic team.

Brant Tolsma was tabbed Men's Coach of the Year for the fifth consecutive time at this meet. It is the 46th Big South Coach of the Year trophy of Tolsma's career.

Men's Meet Recap
Galeone, who trailed VMI's Cody Davis entering the final three throws of Saturday's discus competition, came back to win with a 162-4 toss on his fifth attempt. Galeone's second straight Big South discus crown makes it five straight years that a Liberty Flame has won this event.

Galeone also became just the second men's thrower in conference history to sweep the Big South discus and javelin titles at the same meet, after winning the javelin on Thursday. Only Liberty's Mike Lucas had previously accomplished the feat, doing so at the inaugural Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 1994.

Evans Kigen also won his second championship of the weekend on Saturday, successfully defending his 5K title with a 14:35.32 clocking. Kigen, who was previously victorious in Friday's steeplechase final, defeated 5K runner-up Neal Darmody of High Point by 12 seconds.

Kigen became the first runner in meet history to capture a trio of men's 5K crowns. Moreover, he swept the Big South titles in both the steeplechase and 5K in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Kolby Shepherd broke a pair of records while claiming the second Big South outdoor pole vault championship of his career. His third-attempt clearance at 17-0.75 took down both the meet and facility records. Shepherd is now a five-time Big South pole vault titlist, including both the indoor and outdoor conference meets.

Geren Woodbridge joined Shepherd on the awards podium, placing third with a 14-1.25 pole vault clearance in his 12th event of the weekend. Woodbridge, also the decathlon champion and eighth-place javelin finisher, totaled 17 points for the meet.

Liberty's final men's event champion on Saturday was something of a surprise, as Chris Johnson picked a good time to set a new personal best in the men's triple jump. A career-best 48-10.75 jump on his fourth attempt enabled Johnson to overtake teammate Clarence Powell and win his first Big South championship. Powell made it a 1-2 sweep for the Flames, reaching 48-7.5 on his best effort.

For Powell, it was his second all-conference honor of the meet, to go along with his third-place high jump finish. Powell finishes his career as a 16-time All-Big South honoree.

Taylor Courtney and Isaac Wendland both fared well as they performed double duty in individual running event finals on Saturday. Courtney moved up one place from the 2010 meet in the 400 hurdles, claiming runner-up honors with a time of 52.84 seconds. He also came in third in the 400-meter dash in a personal-best 48.05 effort.

Wendland took third place in the 1,500 in 3:56.99 and later came back with a season-best 800-meter clocking of 1:54.92 for sixth place.

Women's Meet Recap
The Lady Flames won five of the 12 women's event finals on Saturday, highlighted by Mia Aghaji's record-breaking effort in the triple jump. Aghaji had already clinched her second straight Big South triple jump crown, before exploding out to 41-4.25 on her final attempt.

The mark shattered Aghaji's own school record of 40-0.75, set earlier this season at the Raleigh Relays. It also won the event by nearly a foot and a half over Charleston Southern's Tamisha Foster.

Senior Dacia Bushman led nearly the entire women's 5K Saturday afternoon, winning her second distance event of the meet in a time of 17:29.81. Bushman, also the Big South 10K champion, moved up to No. 3 on Liberty's all-time list with her outdoor personal-best clocking.

As was the case at this year's Big South Indoor Track & Field championships, Bushman was trailed in the 5K final by teammate Jennifer Klugh. Klugh, whose runner-up clocking of 17:40.21 also established an outdoor personal best, now ranks No. 6 in program history.

Earlier in the day, Klugh had made it a personal Triple Crown of Big South individual titles this year. She claimed this year's Big South women's cross country championship, as well as the indoor mile and 3K crowns. On Saturday, Klugh added the outdoor 1,500-meter championship to the list, with a winning time of 4:35.08. It was the first Big South outdoor title of the junior's career.

Teammate Hailey Neal earned All-Big South honors in the women's 1,500 for the second straight season, as her fast finish netted a time of 4:40.5 and third place in the event. Friday evening, Neal had also taken third place in the steeplechase final.

Meghan Burggraf won a competitive 800-meter final with a season-best time of 2:13.03, successfully defending the title she claimed a year ago. It also completed a season sweep for the sophomore, who was also the Big South indoor 800-meter champion.

Olivia Charnuski's busy day was highlighted by her first-ever Big South individual championship, which came in the 100-meter hurdles final. She was a clear winner in a time of 13.93 seconds, breaking a 20-year old facility record in the process.

Charnuski also placed third in the women's 200-meter dash in 24.55 seconds and helped a short-handed 4 x 100 relay squad claim runner-up honors. Competing without the injured Alyssa Pegues, the quartet of Melanie Sims, Kiara Bridges, Charnuski and Kylie McMichael clocked 47.16 seconds for second place.

Bridges and Sims joined Aghaji and Burggraf in qualifying for the ECAC 4 x 400 relay. The relay unit posted a time of 3:51.47 for third place in the meet's final running event.

Sims had previously notched 400-meter hurdles runner-up honors with a season-best time of 1:02.62. Christina Mitchell followed in third place, recording a personal-best time of 1:02.79 in her 12th event of the meet. The 10th Lady Flame ever to run under 63 seconds in the 400 hurdles, Mitchell scored 23.5 total points during the meet.

Liberty's athletes will be divided between two meets next weekend. A handful of competitors, highlighted by Hawkeye State natives Bushman and Wendland, will compete in the prestigious Drake Relays, Thursday through Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. Other Flames and Lady Flames will remain within the Commonwealth for the Radford Invitational, set for Friday and Saturday.

Men's Team Standings
1) Liberty – 187.5

2) Coastal Carolina – 111.5
3) Charleston Southern – 109
4) VMI – 101
5) Radford – 83
6) High Point – 78
7) Gardner-Webb – 76
8) Winthrop – 54
9) UNC Asheville – 18

Women's Team Standings
1) Coastal Carolina – 228
2) Liberty – 166.5
3) Charleston Southern – 83
4) High Point – 81
5) Gardner-Webb – 77.5
6) Winthrop – 62.5
7) Radford – 47.5
8) UNC Asheville – 38
9) VMI – 33

Men's Outstanding Track Performer
Felix Kitur, VMI

Women's Outstanding Track Performer
Natalie Pearson, UNC Asheville

Men's Outstanding Field Performer
Elliot Galeone, Liberty

Women's Outstanding Field Performer
Patria Norman, Charleston Southern

Men's Freshman of the Year
Carson Sears, Gardner-Webb

Women's Freshman of the Year
Mary Grace Lemon, VMI

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Christoph Hutschalik, Gardner-Webb

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Carrie Long, Gardner-Webb

Men's All-Academic Team
Andrew King, Charleston Southern
Kyle Kling, Coastal Carolina
Christoph Hutschalik, Gardner-Webb
Neal Darmody, High Point
Elliot Galeone, Liberty
Brett Olinger, Radford
Simon Haake, UNC Asheville
Nate Gant, VMI
Theo Facinoli, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Adrienne Cuff, Charleston Southern
Sierrah Oates, Coastal Carolina
Carrie Long, Gardner-Webb
Christina Fenske, High Point
Olivia Charnuski, Liberty
Aimee Veatch, Radford
Natalie Pearson, UNC Asheville
Jennifer Sing, VMI
Latasha Watson, Winthrop

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

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