Three Advance to Nationals on Final Day of East Prelims


Bendik, Shepherd Move On to Des Moines
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Liberty's redshirt senior duo of Melinda Bendik (women's hammer) and Kolby Shepherd (men's pole vault) both punched their tickets to the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships with their impressive performances on Saturday. Their efforts highlighted the final day of action at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at UNF's Hodges Stadium.

In addition to qualifying for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa for the first time, Bendik also broke her own school women's hammer record in the process. Her fifth throw sailed all the way out to 202-7, earning fourth place in Saturday's competition and eclipsing her previous mark of 201-3 from the ECAC Championship two weeks ago.

Bendik got off to a successful start on a sun-drenched, breezy Saturday afternoon with an opening attempt of 190-9. As it turns out, that would have been enough to remain in the top 12 and qualify for Des Moines.

However, by the time the Odessa, Texas native stepped up for her record-breaking fifth throw, she had dropped to 10th place in the standings. Then, Bendik's 202-7 heave removed all doubt and made her Liberty's first women's thrower ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Shepherd will pole vault in Des Moines for the second straight year, thanks to a second-attempt clearance at a season-best 17-3.5. That effort tied the Georgia native for 10th place, due to the fact that he had not missed on any vaults before that height.

Shepherd and his coaches made a bit of a gutsy decision to start out the competition. He had been limited by injuries this season and had not cleared a height over 16-10 during the 2012 outdoor campaign. Yet, the decision was made to have him pass through the first two heights (15-11.75 and 16-5.5). As a result, Shepherd's opening vault of the day was a big first-attempt clearance at a season-best height of 16-11.5.

Shepherd then got over 17-3.5 on his second attempt, marking his highest clearance since equaling the outdoor school record of 17-6.5 at the Texas Relays on April 9, 2011. Shepherd was unsuccessful on all three tries at 17-5.5 on Saturday, but had already accomplished enough to return to Des Moines.

Ryan Smith just missed out on making the men's shot put finals, late Saturday afternoon. His second throw reached 58-10.75, equaling the mark of Penn State's Logan Caldwell for the 16th spot. However, Caldwell's second-longest throw was superior to Smith's, and the Liberty redshirt junior was relegated to 17th place overall and thus denied a chance at three more attempts.

Freshman Kyle Wheeler got off to a flying start during his first trip to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in the men's high jump competition. He breezed through the first three heights (6-7.5, 6-9.5 and 6-11.5) without a miss, before coming up short at 7-1. If he would have gotten over 7-1, Wheeler would have equaled his personal best and the Liberty outdoor school record.

As it was, Wheeler's 6-11.5 clearance earned a tie for 19th place with Indiana State's Major Clay in the field of 48 men's high jumpers.

Liberty's final athlete to compete on Saturday was redshirt senior Mia Aghaji in the women's triple jump. Struggling to find the toe board with a strong tailwind at her back, Aghaji managed only one legal attempt on the day. It ended up at 38-11.5 and placed her 43rd. Aghaji wraps up her Liberty career as a six-time Big South event champion and the program record holder in the outdoor women's triple jump (42-1.25).

Bendik will be the first Liberty athlete to compete at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, throwing the hammer June 7 at 4 p.m. Eastern. Shepherd will then pole vault at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on June 8. The entire meet will be contested at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

Houston Headed to Nationals in 200m
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Taking 11th place overall, CSU sprinter Gabrielle Houston qualified for nationals in the 200-meter dash on Saturday at the 2012 NCAA East Preliminaries at Hodges Stadium Track & Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Houston ran a season-best 23.43 to take fourth in her heat and 11th overall, marking a new CSU program record. She dropped .14 seconds from her previous-season best of 23.57 set during yesterday's finals.

Prior to the NCAA Prelims, Houston had run a 23.65 to take first place in the event at the 2012 Big South Conference Championships in April.

"I said to Gabby earlier in the day that today was going to be a good day," said head coach Tosha Ansley. "And it was. I'm so proud of her and the way she represents our program. We look forward to putting in some hard work and competing with the best of the best in the next few weeks."

It marks the first time appearance at the national meet for the Lady Bucs since 2009 when CSU's 4 x 100 meter relay team of Houston, Misha Morris, Jessica Thomas and Dionne Gibson earned All-American designation with an eighth place finish in the event. Houston will be the first individual since Gibson to qualify for the finals, as Gibson also ran the 200-meter dash in Fayetteville, Ark., that season.

The 2012 NCAA National Championships will be held June 6-9 at Drake Stadium on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Peake and Patterson Wrap Up NCAA East Preliminary Round Action
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Shantelle Patterson and Erica Peake wrapped up the Coastal Carolina women's track and field season at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on Saturday at North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Peake, a junior, narrowly missed advancing to the NCAA Championship meet in the 200m-dash as she placed 14th in the quarterfinals. The Spartanburg, S.C., native stopped the clock at 23.59, placing fifth in the first and fastest heat of the day. Her time was only .15 second off that of the 12th and final NCAA Championship qualifier. Peake advanced to Saturday's quarterfinal after posting a 23.58, placing 14th overall in Friday's first round heats. 

Patterson placed 19th overall in the hammer throw. The senior from Pawleys Island finished with a final distance of 55.91m (183-05), her third best throw of the season. Patterson opened with a measurement of 54.03m (177-03) on her first attempt followed by her best distance of the day before concluding with a heave of 53.84m (176-07). She finishes her collegiate career ranked third on the CCU all-time list with a career-best throw of 56.55m (185-06).

Jason Flanagan will represent the Chanticleers at the NCAA Championship in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 6-8. The senior earned his first NCAA Championship appearance with a ninth-place showing in the javelin at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on Thursday.

Bucs' 4 x 100 Relay Team Takes 16th at NCAA Prelims
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With a solid all-round effort, Charleston Southern's 4 x 100-meter relay team took 16th place overall on Saturday evening at the 2012 NCAA Preliminaries, hosted by the University of North Florida at Hodges Stadium Track & Field in Jacksonville.

Lavon Allen stepped in for an injured Javon Young, helping the Bucs to fifth place in their heat. Allen teamed with Cornelius Tyler, Rozzie Johnson and Dantwan Spreads to run a 40.27 in the event. They had previously been seeded sixth overall with a time of 39.60 set at the Georgia Tech Invite.

Prior to today's meet the Buccaneers also held the facility record at Hodges Track & Stadium, with the team of Young, Spreads, Tyler and Johnson running a 39.78 at the 2011 UNF Invitational.

"I'm very proud of the way we performed," said head coach Tim Langford. "It may not have been the result we wanted in the end, but I couldn't have asked for anything more from these guys. They should be proud of what they've done this season."