24 Flames Qualify for NCAA Preliminary Round
A group of 24 Liberty track & field athletes have qualified for next week’s NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet (May 25-28) in Bloomington, Ind. The competition will take place at the Robert C. Haugh Complex for the first time since 2011.
Seventeen men’s athletes, the most in program history, will compete in the Hoosier State, including Beau Backes (discus), Jose Ballivian (discus), Warren Barrett (shot put), Quinten Clay (long jump), Ryan Drew (5K), Diamantae Griffin (200 & 4 x 100 relay), John Hicks (hammer), Felix Kandie (steeplechase), Ally Kipchirchir (800), Felix Lawrence (400 hurdles), Brandon Letts (4 x 100 relay), Christian Lyon (100 & 4 x 100 relay), Donald McClinton (200 & 4 x 100 relay), Landon Miller (steeplechase), Kyle Mitchell (shot put), Kevin Nedrick (shot put & discus) and Kennedy Sauder (high jump).
They will be joined in Bloomington by seven Lady Flames, including Adelyn Ackley (10K), Grace Artis (hammer), Isis Brooks (100 & 200), Mackenzie Hainley (javelin), Ayanna Johnson (long jump), Taylen Langin (pole vault) and Naomi Mojica (shot put & hammer).
This is the second-largest group Liberty has taken in the 12-year history of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, following the program-record 27 qualifiers the Flames sent to Tampa in 2018.
The meet will be contested at Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Complex for the second time overall and the first since 2011. That year, current assistant coach Isaac Wendland was among the Flames’ 10 qualifiers. A trio of Flames successfully advanced to Des Moines, Iowa for the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, including Sam Chelanga (men’s 5K & 10K), Elliot Galeone (men’s javelin) and Kolby Shepherd (men’s pole vault).
The four-day event, which will determine the qualifiers for the 2022 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, will begin May 25 at 10 a.m. with the men’s hammer. All men’s events will take place on May 25 and May 27, with the women’s events scheduled for May 26 and May 28.
The 2022 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be contested June 8-11 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
The top 12 finishers in each event in Bloomington will advance to Eugene, along with the top 12 finishers from the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round meet, slated for next week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The following is a breakdown of Liberty’s NCAA Preliminary Round qualifiers by the numbers.
1: Adelyn Ackley has competed in one 10K in her career, but it was good enough to get her here. She ran a school-record 33:49.00 at the Virginia Challenge on April 22.
1: One Liberty Flame (Landon Miller) will get to compete in his home state this week. The native of Milford, Indiana qualified in the men’s steeplechase.
2: Liberty will compete in two events (men’s 4 x 100 relay and women’s long jump) at this meet for the first time. The Flames have now sent athletes to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in all 40 events during the 12-year history of the meet.
2: Two Liberty freshmen qualified for this meet, including Beau Backes (men’s discus) and Kennedy Sauder (men’s high jump).
3: The Flames qualified three men’s shot putters (Warren Barrett, Kyle Mitchell and Kevin Nedrick) to this meet for the second year in a row. Liberty will also have a trio of competitors in the men’s discus (Beau Backes, Jose Ballivian and Kevin Nedrick).
3: Three of the Flames’ NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round qualifiers have previously competed at NCAA Division I Indoor or Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Felix Kandie earned All-America honors in the men’s steeplechase in both 2019 and 2021, while Kyle Mitchell was an All-American in the men’s shot put at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Most recently, Kennedy Sauder became an All-American in the men’s high jump at the 2022 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.
4: Naomi Mojica will compete at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet for the fourth time (also 2018, 2019 and 2021). She joins Mychelle Cumings (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) as the only Lady Flames ever to qualify four times.
6: Felix Kandie is the Flames’ top seed in any event at this meet, entering at No. 6 with his season-best steeplechase time of 8:37.00 from the Stanford Invitational.
7: Seven Flames will make their NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debuts, including Grace Artis, Ayanna Johnson, Beau Backes, Brandon Letts, Landon Miller, Kevin Nedrick and Kennedy Sauder.
14: Fourteen of the Flames’ 16 ASUN Conference champions will compete in those same events in Bloomington. The lone exceptions are Anthony Bryan (the decathlon is not contested at this meet) and Felix Lawrence (he was a double ASUN champion in the men’s 110 and 400 hurdles but will focus on the 400 hurdles next week).
58: Ally Kipchirchir made it to this meet despite being ranked No. 58 in the East Region with his season-best 800 clocking of 1:48.92. A year ago, Kipchirchir qualified for the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in the same event despite a No. 59 East Region ranking in the 800.
66: Isis Brooks in the women’s 200 was Liberty’s most unlikely regional qualifier. Her ASUN runner-up time of 23.50 ranks No. 66 in the East Region. However, Brooks was included among the 48 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round qualifiers after many athletes ahead of her scratched from the event.