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Track Season to Kick Off at Liberty Kickoff

December 1, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Ryan Smith has won the Liberty Kickoff men's shot put title each of the past three years.

Ryan Smith has won the Liberty Kickoff men's shot put title each of the past three years.

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The defending Big South champion Liberty men's and women's indoor track & field teams will begin the 2011-12 season this weekend. The Flames and Lady Flames will host the Liberty Kickoff meet Friday and Saturday inside the Tolsma Indoor Track Center.

The meet will feature competitors from 21 different colleges and universities, as well as a number of post-collegiate athletes. The Big South Conference will be well-represented, with Gardner-Webb, High Point, Radford and VMI all sending athletes to the meet. The ACC's Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest also highlight the field of entrants.

Action will get underway Friday at 1:45 p.m., with the first section of the men's heptathlon 60-meter hurdles. Saturday's first events will come at 9:30 a.m., when the men's weight throw, men's long jump and women's triple jump competitions begin.

How to Follow the Flames
Live results will be provided for both days of competition and are accessible by clicking the "Live Results" link at the top of this page or the "Live Stats" link on the track & field schedule/results page on

Welcome Back
Ten event champions from the 2010 Liberty Kickoff meet will return to defend their titles this weekend, including a quartet of Liberty athletes. Ryan Smith has claimed the Liberty Kickoff men's shot put title three seasons in a row, while Jennifer Klugh is the two-time defending women's 5K champion.

Although better known for her hurdling exploits, Olivia Charnuski won the women's 200 crown a year ago. Christina Mitchell won last year's pentathlon competition, but will be competing unattached this weekend.

Welcome Back, Part 2
A dozen current Liberty athletes have captured Big South individual event championships during their careers. Eight of those Flames and Lady Flames are scheduled to compete this weekend.

On the women's side, Meghan Burggraf is entered in the 1,000 and 4 x 400 relay, Charnuski is set to run the 200, 60 hurdles and 4 x 400 relay, Klugh will run the 5K, Mitchell is entered in the pentathlon and Alyssa Pegues will have a busy meet with the 60, 200, 4 x 400 relay, long jump and triple jump.

For the Flames, Taylor Courtney will compete in the 200, 500 and 4 x 400 relay, Kolby Shepherd returns after redshirting the 2010-11 indoor season to pole vault and Smith will throw the shot put and weight.

Nice to Meet You
Liberty boasts an impressive group of newcomers this season, and most of the team's highly-touted transfers and freshmen will make their track & field debuts in a Flames uniform this weekend.

Some of the new Lady Flames to watch include transfer Emily Woods (shot put, weight) and freshmen Jacy Christiansen (5K), Mychelle Cumings (shot put, weight), Abigail Flower (60, 200), Meme Layne (60, 200, 4 x 400), Jennifer Nicholson (shot put, weight) and Melissa Rohwer (200, long jump, triple jump).

On the men's side, be sure to keep an eye on transfers Logan Elliston (high jump) and Kyle Gill (200, 400, 4 x 400), as well as freshmen Jon Drablos (pole vault), Lachaddrick Ellis (60, 200, 4 x 400), David Scouten (shot put, weight) and Kyle Wheeler (long jump, triple jump, high jump).

10 Events You Won't Want to Miss
Listed in chronological order

Friday, 1:45 p.m. – Men's heptathlon – Traditionally one of the top events to watch at the Liberty Kickoff, the men's heptathlon should not disappoint this year. The heptathlon could feature a nice three-way battle among post-collegiate athletes and another three-way skirmish among collegiate competitors. The top college graduates entered in the 19-person field include Eric Broadbent, who has scored 7,558 points in the decathlon; Luke Marker, a former hurdling standout at Air Force; and John Strang, who finished eighth in the heptathlon at the 2009 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships while representing Utah State. Wake Forest's Alex Hill, who came in fifth in last year's ACC heptathlon competition, tops the collegiate entrants. Meanwhile, two of the top contenders for this year's Big South heptathlon crown, now that three-time defending champion Geren Woodbridge has graduated, will also be on display. VMI's Antonio Wood was the conference runner-up behind Woodbridge a year ago, while Liberty redshirt sophomore Taylor Schmidt placed ninth in the 2011 IC4A heptathlon competition with a personal-best score of 4,972 points.

Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Women's pole vault – Virginia Tech's Emma DeJarnette enters as the defending Liberty Kickoff women's pole vault champion, but she will have her hands full if she hopes to repeat. Former Hokie standout Kelly Phillips has vaulted over 14 feet during her career and placed ninth at the 2011 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships. Other top contenders include last year's Big South indoor runner-up (VMI's Jennifer Sing), last year's Big South outdoor runner-up (Gardner-Webb's Ann Howell) and past Big South champion Kate Collins of VMI.

Friday, 5:45 p.m. – Women's weight throw – Defending Liberty Kickoff titlist Erin Wykoff of Virginia and teammate Maureen Laffan enter as overwhelming favorites. However, this event will also give fans their first look at the Lady Flames' deep and talented throwing crew, including redshirt senior Melinda Bendik, sophomores Rachel Barnes, Jocelyn Williams and Woods and freshmen Cumings and Nicholson. VMI's Mary Grace Lemon, the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year, is also entered.

Friday, 5:50 p.m. – Women's 5K – For the third straight year, Liberty's Klugh will look to piggy-back on a strong cross country season and post a fast early-season 5K time at this meet. Last season, Klugh won this race with a stellar time of 17:10.91. Klugh should have some competition this time around, in the form of ODAC defending indoor and outdoor 5K champion Olivia Mills of Bridgewater, Klugh's former teammate Rebekah Ricksecker and former James Madison standout Alison Parris, who won this race in 2008. Parris' younger sister Caroline Parris, a Liberty freshman, is also entered in the 25-lapper.

Saturday, Noon – Men's shot put – Liberty redshirt junior Smith has won this event three years in a row and is favored to do so once again on Saturday. The field also features last year's Liberty Kickoff runner-up, Thomas Fuson of Virginia, as well as Radford's Justin Smith, who placed third in the shot put at the 2011 Big South indoor meet. The Flames' Scouten will also make his collegiate shot put debut, after reaching 61-7.75 during high school in Michigan.

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – Men's 60 hurdles final – High Point's Alex Fisher won this event at the 2009 Liberty Kickoff and is one of the top contenders in a tough race to call. Booker Nunley of Wake Forest came in sixth in the 110 hurdles final at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships while representing South Carolina. Virginia's Aaron Shepperd placed seventh in the 60 hurdles at last year's ACC indoor meet. Meanwhile, reigning Big South 400 hurdles champion Brett Olinger of Radford steps down in distance.

Saturday, 12:40 p.m. – Women's 60 hurdles final – This final could feature all three Big South women's hurdles champions from 2011. Radford's Amber Church won the 60 hurdles title, Charnuski claimed the 100 hurdles and High Point's Manika Gamble took top honors in the 400 hurdles. Add in Jernail Hayes, who qualified for the NCAA meet in the 400 hurdles in 2010 for Seton Hall, and the women's 60 hurdles final certainly bears watching.

Saturday, 1:40 p.m. – Women's 400 – The competitive women's 400-meter dash field includes the defending Liberty Kickoff champion (Elon's Bria Bell), the 2011 Southern Conference outdoor 400-meter dash runner-up (Elon's Amy Salek), last year's Big South indoor fourth-place finisher at 400 meters (Liberty's Kiara Bridges), last year's Big South outdoor fourth-place finisher at 400 meters (Radford's Diane Wesh) and a former LSU standout sprinter (Brooklyn Morris).

Saturday, 2:05 p.m. – Men's 500 – If for no other reason, this 2.5-lap event is intriguing because of the potential showdown between Liberty's Courtney and Radford's Kaise White. Courtney will be racing at this distance for the first time since claiming the 2011 IC4A indoor championship in a school-record time of 1:01.96. Courtney, now a redshirt junior, also won the Big South indoor 400 championship a year ago. Meanwhile, White dropped his 400-meter dash time to 47.58 seconds outdoors and came in second at the Big South outdoor meet, just one spot ahead of Courtney.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – Men's pole vault – Three vaulters in Saturday's field competed at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in this event. Virginia Tech's Joe Davis came in eighth, teammate Hunter Hall was 11th and Liberty's Shepherd tied for 20th place in the first NCAA national appearance of his career. Shepherd will also have the indoor school record (17-5 by Ken Howell in 1999) in his sights.