Big South Well Represented at NCAA East Preliminaries

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10 Flames Reach NCAA Track & Field Preliminary Round
For the second year in a row, a group of 10 Liberty athletes will compete at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, which will be contested May 24-26 at North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Five men's competitors made the field, including Taylor Courtney (400 Hurdles), Josh MacDonald (3K Steeplechase), Kolby Shepherd (Pole Vault), Ryan Smith (Shot Put and Hammer) and Kyle Wheeler (High Jump).

On the women's side, five Lady Flames will also compete in Jacksonville, including Mia Aghaji (Triple Jump and High Jump), Melinda Bendik (Hammer), Mychelle Cumings (Shot Put and Discus), Jennifer Klugh (1,500) and Christina Mitchell (Javelin).

The meet will begin May 24 at 11 a.m., and Cumings, the Big South Women's Freshman of the Year, will be the first Lady Flame to compete. She will throw the shot put beginning at 1 p.m. on May 24.

Cumings and Wheeler give Liberty a pair of freshman qualifiers to the NCAA Preliminary Round. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Klugh (women's 1,500) and Smith (men's shot put) will each compete at this meet for the third consecutive season.

Bendik is Liberty's highest seed at the 2012 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, ranking No. 8 among the women's hammer qualifiers with her school-record 201-3 throw.

Fellow senior Klugh was Liberty's most unlikely qualifier. Ranked No. 76 on the year-end East Region 1,500-meter performance list, Klugh saw 31 runners ahead of her on that list fail to declare for the NCAA Preliminary Round. As a result, the Buckeye State native got in as the No. 45 seed out of 48 qualifiers.

Shepherd is the only Liberty athlete who will compete in Jacksonville who has qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships during his career. He made it to Des Moines, Iowa in the men's pole vault in 2011.

Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa will again be the site of the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 6-9. The top 12 finishers in each event at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will advance to Des Moines. They will be joined in Des Moines by 12 qualifiers per event from the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round meet, which will take place in Austin, Texas.

Chants Set For NCAA East Preliminary Round
CONWAY - For the second time this season Coastal Carolina track and field athletes will compete at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium; however, this time a trip to the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships hangs in the balance as six Chanticleers compete in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round from Thursday through Saturday, May 24-26 in Jacksonville.

Each of Coastal's six student-athletes will be in search of their first career trip to the NCAA national meet.

Senior javelin specialist Jason Flanagan earned his third NCAA Preliminary Round (formerly known as the NCAA First and Second Rounds) appearance. Flanagan enters the meet seeded 10th in the javelin with a career-best measurement of 73.01m (239-06), which set the Big South all-time record, Coastal Carolina all-time record and Big South Championship meet record. Last season the Philadelphia, Pa., native finished 13th in the preliminary round with a final distance of 68.06m (223-03), narrowly missing qualifying for his first NCAA Championship meet by a mere six centimeters. As a sophomore, Flanagan placed 18th with a throw of 64.67m (212-2).

Big South Women's Most Outstanding Track Performer Erica Peake is the highest seeded Chanticleer woman, earning the 29th seed in the 200m-dash. Peake, who is making her second consecutive NCAA Preliminary Round appearance, earned her way into the field with a gold-medal winning time of 23.70 at the Big South Track and Field Championships. The Spartanburg, S.C., product placed 18th overall in the 2011 East Preliminary Round with a season-best time of 24.07.

Kierra Gabe, the 2012 Big South Women's Indoor and Outdoor Most Outstanding Field Performer is making her second postseason appearance in the high jump after placing 18th a year ago with a height of 1.75m (5-8.75). The senior enters the meet as the 34th seed in the high jump after clearing a school-record height of 1.76m (5-09.25) at the Big South Championship. She placed 18th a year ago with a height of 1.75m (5-8.75).

Senior Shantelle Patterson made great strides throughout her career to earn her first NCAA East Preliminary Round berth in the hammer throw. Patterson, a native of Pawleys Island, S.C., ranks 33rd in the hammer throw field with a qualifying mark of 56.55m (185-06), which she attained at the Auburn Tiger Track Classic.

Mary Lawrence qualified for her first postseason appearance with a cleared height of 3.85m (12-07.50) in the pole vault at the Auburn Tiger Track Classic. The senior is seeded 44th in the Preliminary Round field.

Freshman Danielle England rounds out the qualifying Chanticleers with a 45th seed in the women's javelin. England, who qualified with a mark of 43.27m (141-11) at the season-opening CCU Invitational, is the first freshman to qualify for NCAA postseason competition in recent memory.

Flanagan will be the first Chant to compete as he takes to the javelin runway at 11 a.m. on Thursday. England will be the first woman to compete, making her NCAA debut at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Lawrence is slated to compete at 11 a.m. on Friday followed by Gabe at 5 p.m. and Peake at 8:25 p.m. Patterson steps into the throwing circle at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Peake will climb into the starting block at 7:50 p.m., should she advance to the quarterfinal round. 

Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, is the host site of the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 6-9. The top 12 finishers in each event at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will advance to Des Moines. They will be joined in Des Moines by 12 qualifiers per event from the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round meet, which takes place in Austin, Texas.

Five Panthers Head to NCAA Track Preliminary
High Point University has five competitors in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Preliminaries on Thursday and Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. High Point's top ranked men's competitor is junior Jacob Smith, who is seeded 16th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Senior Manika Gamble of the HPU women's team is ranked 17th in the 400-meter hurdles.
 
The NCAA Preliminaries take place at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The top 12 finishers in each event move on to the NCAA Final, which will be held June 6-9 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
 
Freshman Christian Spaulding kicks off this week's competition for the Panthers when he competes in the javelin at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Spaulding's best throw of the season was 64.45 meters (211-5), which placed him third in the Big South Championship. Most recently, he placed third in the javelin at the Virginia Challenge with a throw of 60.18 meters (197-5).
 
On Thursday at 5 p.m., Gamble competes in the first round of the 400-meter hurdles. She has a season best of 58.85 in that event, which is less than half a second behind the No. 12-ranked competitor, Anna Holmes of Buffalo. Gamble's career best is 58.56 from 2010. Gamble won four Big South titles in that event. The second round of the 400-meter hurdles is Friday at 7:45 p.m.
 
Sophomore Evan Emery is in the 100-meter dash preliminaries at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday with a chance to qualify for the second round on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Emery started off the outdoor season with a win at the Wake Forest Open, running an HPU-record time of 10.31. He followed that up two weeks later with a wind-aided 10.28, which ranks him 17th going into the NCAA Preliminaries.
 
On Friday at 8:50 p.m., Smith and junior Dakota Peachee will compete in the preliminaries of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Smith's season-best time of 8:54.56 ranks him 16th going into the competition while Peachee's 9:02.70 ranks him 45th. Peachee's career best is 8:58.72 from 2010.
 
Gamble, Smith and Peachee have competed in NCAA Preliminaries previously in their careers while this will be the first showing for Spaulding and Emery. Gamble is the lone senior of the group.

Kitur and Sing Set for NCAA Preliminary Round 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - VMI's Felix Kitur and Jennifer Sing will compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Round meet, with their events set for Thursday and Friday. The meet will be held at North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Kitur will take part in his trademark event, the 800-meters, while Sing will compete in the pole vault. Both will be bidding for a top-12 finish, as that would secure a trip to the main portion of the NCAA Championships, which will take place June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa. Kitur is looking for his fourth trip to that event, while Sing is seeking her first.

Kitur competes in the first round of the 800-meters Thursday at 8:10 p.m., while Sing will pole vault at 11 a.m. Friday morning. Should Kitur hold serve and advance, the second (and final in Jacksonville) round of the 800 falls Friday at 7 p.m.

Fans can follow along with Kitur and Sing's progress in a number of ways. VMI Athletic Communications is on hand in Jacksonville, and will provide live, up-to-the-minute updates via the @VMISID Twitter page, conditions permitting. There will also be live results and video streaming, courtesy of the North Florida SID office, although the video streaming link is not yet available. Flotrack will also be on hand, conducting interviews and posting highlights throughout the meet.

Felix Kitur: Kitur has enjoyed a banner fifth outdoor year at VMI, a season that has included completing the 800/1500 double at the Big South Championships for the second straight year, as well as winning his second consecutive outdoor IC4A crown. His best time of the season came at the Fred Hardy Invitational, a 1:48.14 that has him seeded seventh. This will be Kitur's first race in Florida, a climate that he prefers, since his 1:46.75, Big South-record clocking at the 2008 NCAA Regionals.

Jennifer Sing: This will be Sing's first Preliminary Round appearance, after she cleared a VMI record 4.05 meters at the VMI/W&L Carnival in March. That has her tied for 18th-best in the region, and it also was the second-highest clearance in Big South history.

The top two 800-meter runners in Division I, Charles Jock (UC Irvine) and Ryan Martin (UC Santa Barbara) will compete in the West Preliminary meet, but the East is not short on talent. Former Kitur opponents Casimir Loxsom (Penn State) and Lance Roller (Virginia) have the top two times in this region, while Kitur is seeded just behind David Mokone of Western Kentucky, whose best time of the year is just five-hundredths quicker than the Keydet standout's. Of note is the fact that one of Kitur's career races against Roller came at this meet just one year ago, when the now-VMI graduate beat the UVA standout in the preliminaries.

Also of note is another runner in Kitur's opening heat, Zavior Brown of Maryland Eastern Shore. Brown is one of two collegiate runners to best Kitur in the 800-meters this year, but his best time is ranked just 34th in the region.

The top three from Thursday's first round, plus the next fastest times, advance to Friday's heats. There, the top three from each race plus the three fastest will advance on to Des Moines.

Meanwhile, in the pole vault, Sing will jump 23rd of 24 jumpers in the second of two pits. She comes in seeded 18th after her 4.05 meter clearance in March, and the one person who beat her on that occasion was Mandissa Marshall of George Mason, who cleared 4.30 M. Marshall is seeded third here, is considered one of the favorites and was projected to finish 10th nationally by Track and Field News in its latest prognostications.

The top 12 pole vaulters will advance to Des Moines, with a jump-off being utilized at #12 if necessary.

GWU's Carson Sears to Compete at NCAA East Regional in Jacksonville, Fla.
oBoiling Springs, N.C. - Sophomore thrower Carson Sears has earned a spot to compete among the nation's elite at the NCAA East Regional, taking place May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. hosted by the University of North Florida.

Sears, a native of Suwanee, Ga., will compete on Day 2 of the Regional in the Hammer Throw with the preliminary round of the event scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.
 
The GWU sophomore set a school record earlier this year at the Pepsi Florida Relays, tossing a personal best 64.48 m. That performance has earned Sears a 9th place seed heading into the Regional competition, with the top 12 performers advancing to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa June 6-9.
 
Winthrop Javelin Thrower Jared Baird Heads To NCAA First Round Meet
ROCK HILL, SC - Winthrop senior javelin thrower Jared Baird will be returning to the scene of one of his greatest athletic moments when he competes in the first round of the NCAA track and field championships May 24 in Jacksonville, FL. Baird has qualified for the first round in all four years of his collegiate career.

Ristic Qualfies for Preliminaries
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - UNC Asheville sophomore sprinter Milan Ristic has qualified for the NCAA East Regional in the 110 meter high hurdles that will be held this weekend at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Ristic's best time was a school-record 13.94 this season.  He will run Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. and if he qualifies for the finals that will be on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

"I'm really proud of Milan," stated Bulldog coach Jesse Norman. "To make the regionals as a sophomore is a testament to how hard he's worked this year."

Ristic won the Big South Conference championship in the 110 High Hurdles last month at Coastal Carolina.

If Ristic can finish in the top 12, he'll qualify for the nationals at Drake University starting June 6.

Six Bucs Headed to NCAA Prelims
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Six members of the Charleston Southern track & field team will head to the 2012 NCAA East Preliminaries this Thursday. The meet will be hosted by the Osprey of North Florida at Hodges Stadium Track & Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Participants had to reach qualifying standards to be invited to the event.

Javon Young leads all Bucs with three entries at the meet. The Big South Outdoor Performer of the Year will compete in the 100-meter dash after running a season-best 10.34 to win the event at the 2012 Big South Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships last month in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last month. Young will also compete in the 200-meter dash after taking home the gold in that event as well at the BSC meet. He ran a season-best 20.69 in the event at the Georgia Tech Invite.

Rozzie Johnson and Cornelius Tyler will join Young in the 200-meter dash after the trio swept the podium at the BSC meet. Johnson qualified with a season-best time of 21.13 at the Big South Championships, while Tyler ran a 21.17 at the meet to earn his bid. Young, Tyler and Johnson will combine with Dantwan Spreads to compete in the 4 x 100-meter relay. The quartet's time of 39.60, a school record set at the Georgia Tech Invite, ranks them sixth in the event prior to the meet.

The Bucs will have two participants in the long jump, with Lavon Allen and Braxton Drummond both qualifying. Allen will enter with distance of 7.61 meters, set a the 2012 Pepsi Florida Relays in April. Drummond is close behind after recording a distance of 7.48 meters at the Georgia Tech Invite earlier this month.

Live stats and a webcast will be available via the UNF host page.

Jean, Houston Head to Jacksonville for NCAA Prelims
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Senior Gabrielle Houston and freshman Mulern Jean, along with head coach Tosha Ansley, will represent the Charleston Southern track & field team at the 2012 NCAA East Preliminaries meet this weekend. The event will be hosted by the University of North Florida at Hodges Stadium Track & Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Houston will compete in both the 100- and 200-meter dash at the meet. She qualified with a season-best time of 11.49 in the 100-meter at the Georgia Tech Invite earlier this month after taking home a silver medal in the event at the 2012 Big South Conference Outdoor track & field championships. Houston enters the meet with a season best of 23.65in the 200-meter dash, also finishing second in that event at the BSC meet.

The 2012 Big South Conference Freshman of the Year, Jean will run her signature event - the 100-meter hurdles - at the meet. The Pompano Beach, Fla., broke the meet, conference and track record at the BSC meet, breezing through the finals to a first-place finish with a time of 13.45. Her mark currently ranks her 22nd in the East Region.

Live results and a live webcast will be available via the UNF host site.

Winthrop's Jared Baird Trying To Qualify For NCAA Championships During East Prelims
ROCK HILL, SC--Winthrop senior javelin athlete Jared Baird will be competing this weekend at the East Preliminaries of the NCAA Track and Field Championships that are being held in Jacksonville, FL at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium.

Baird (Truro, Nova Scotia) is making the fourth bid of his career to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships from June 6-9 at Drake University in Des Moines, IA.  Baird is among nearly 1,600 athletes from 152 schools who are competing in Jacksonville.  The three-day event features athletes from colleges in the eastern half of the United States who have qualified by posting either a time or mark that ranks among the top 48 individually in the East. 

Baird comes into the meet ranked 13th after establishing a new school record back in March at this same facility at UNF when he threw the javelin 71.30 meters.

His competition is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Thursday.

"Jared is currently ranked 13 in the East so he is in a great position," said Winthrop head coach Ben Paxton. "After opening the spring big and overcoming an early season injury, we feel that with his rested arm and experience of making his fourth NCAA appearance he has a great shot to get to Des Moines in two weeks. . He is in a similar position as former Eagle Ashley Howard who made it to finals in 2010."

Big South East Regional Men's Qualifiers
100 Meter Dash
Evan Emery, High Point - 10.28
Javon Young, Charleston Southern - 10.34

200 Meter Dash
Javon Young, Charleston Southern - 20.59
Rozzie Johnson, Charleston Southern - 21.13
Cornelius Tyler, Charleston Southern - 21.17

800 Meters
Felix Kitur, VMI - 1:48.14

3,000 Meter Steeplechase
Jacob Smith, High Point - 8:54.56
Josh MacDonald, Liberty - 8:56.65
Dakota Peachee, High Point - 9:02.70

110 Meter Hurdles
Milan Ristic, UNC Asheville - 13.94

400 Meter Hurdles
Taylor Courtney, Liberty - 52.46

4x100 Meter Relay
Charleston Southern - 39.60

High Jump
Kyle Wheeler, Liberty - 2.16m

Pole Vault
Kolby Shepherd, Liberty - 5.13m

Long Jump
Lavon Allen, Charleston Southern - 7.61m
Braxton Drummond, Charleston Southern - 7.48

Shot Put
Ryan Smith, Liberty - 18.23m

Discus
Ryan Smith, Liberty - 169' 11"

Hammer
Carson Sears, Gardner-Webb - 64.48m
Ryan Smith, Liberty - 59.42m

Javelin
Jason Flanagan, Coastal Carolina - 73.01m
Jared Baird, Winthrop - 71.30m
Christian Spaulding, High Point - 64.45m

Big South East Regional Women's Qualifiers
100 Meter Dash
Gabrielle Houston, Charleston Southern - 11.49

200 Meter Dash
Gabrielle Houston, Charleston Southern - 23.65
Erica Peake, Coastal Carolina - 23.70

100 Meter Hurdles
Mulern Jean, Charleston Southern - 13.45

400 Meter Hurdles
Manika Gamble, High Point - 58.85

1,500 Meters
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty

High Jump
Kierra Gabe, Coastal Carolina - 1.76m
Mia Aghaji, Liberty - 1.76m

Pole Vault
Jennifer Sing, VMI - 4.05m
Mary Lawrence, Coastal Carolina - 3.85m

Shot Put
Mychelle Cummings, Liberty - 15.61m

Discus
Mychelle Cumming, Liberty - 50.91m

Hammer
Melinda Bendik, Liberty - 61.35m
Shantelle Patterson, Coastal Carolina - 56.55m

Javelin
Christina Mitchell, Liberty - 44.54m
Danielle England, Coastal Carolina - 43.27m