Friday, April 11, 2008

Big Competition? Big South!

Let's talk about some serious competition does the Big South stack up against some other conferences and athletes right now?

It's a good time to ask the question--first a quick glance at the baseball/softball showdowns against ACC schools from this week...on the baseball side, High Point and Coastal Carolina topped Wake Forest and NC State, respectively, while Liberty dropped one to Virginia...and in softball, Liberty (vs. UVa) and Radford (vs. NC St.) each split doubleheaders. For the week, that's a 4-3 record against a neighboring major conference in the two sports. Not too shabby.

Before we leave the diamond--another note about the Chanticleers: Coastal Carolina is ranked in the nation's top 25 in three of the five popularly recognized baseball polls. Bravo!

Now to the major newsmakers and record breakers for the Big South against opponents and competitors across the nation and around the world: the stellar student-athletes of Big South Conference track and field.

I'll start out with Liberty senior and Big South Track & Field Athlete of the Week Clendon Henderson (pictured), who's rewriting his name on the Conference record books in the throwing events. Henderson's finest day came in the recent Texas Relays. He must have liked the air back in his home state, because Henderson set school and Big South Conference records in the discus (204'3" / 62.26m) and shot put (61'3" / 18.67m), along with a personal best in the hammer (190'). Perspective is necessary...all three marks are good enough for automatic NCAA qualifier status (more on that below), and the discus distance is best in the NCAA this year and TENTH IN THE WORLD. You read that right: the Big South goes global!

Not to be overlooked, Flames teammate Brandon Hoskins set a new Conference record in the decathlon (7800 points), which earned him NCAA qualifier status as well.

In fact, the qualifier list is absolutely riddled with student-athletes from Big South members!

In addition to Henderson and Hoskins in the events listed above, Liberty has six more on the books: Evans Kigen (3000m steeplechase), Kolby Shepherd (pole vault), Matt Parker (high jump), Clarence Powell (triple jump), Dan Newell (decathlon), and Jon Hart (shot put).

Impressed yet? That's just one school.
Let's talk about the sprinting quartet from Charleston Southern for a moment: Alonzo Spurley, Michael Rhue (pictured from indoor race), Cornelius Tyler, and Levi Brooks have made the field as CSU's 4x100m relay squad AND as the 4x400m relay team. But wait, there's more...they have all made individual events as well: Spurley in 100m/200m, Rhue in 200m/400m, Tyler in 200m, and Brooks in 400m. Each one of these guys could steal a line from Lightning McQueen: "Speed--I am speed."

More? You bet.
Try Coastal Carolina with seven: Thomas Jordan and Kyle Hoddy in the javelin, Galen Jones and Jake Edelman in the hammer, Jacques Watson in the high jump, Keith Graham in the long jump, and Tyrone Murphy in the 400m hurdles.

Rounding out the group, let's add Tamas Kovacs of High Point (5000m), Jason Williams of Winthrop (high jump), and Timothy Morse of Radford (hammer).

By my count, that's already 22 NCAA qualifiers...just from the men! The women add four more to the list: Dionne Gibson (CSU, 200m), Felicitas Mensing (CCU, 3000m steeplechase), LeAuna Sistrunk (CCU, 100m hurdles, pictured), and Ashley Howard (WU, discus).

So at least 26 so far--quite a feat (and if I missed anybody, I'm sorry, it's a lot of names to sort through--and that's actually a good problem to have)!

I started with the Liberty men's team, and I will end with them too...they're ranked 14th in the nation right now (and that's the "USTFCCCA" poll, rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?). Again, some perspective may help understand how significant that ranking is--only two schools from "non-BCS conferences" are on that list (Liberty and UTEP). But for those two, the whole list consists of what most of us would consider major universities from power conferences. What's more, the Flames got there without any points from one of the best distance runners in the country--senior Josh McDougal has not run outdoor in any NCAA events this spring!

Why did I go on at such length?
First of all, they earned it, plain and simple.
Secondly, the 2008 New Balance Track and Field Championships are next week at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, April 17th-19th. Go if you can, but if you can't, look to The Edge (presented by State Farm) for video coverage of all three days of competition and to for results. The Edge will also have coverage of the Men's and Women's Tennis Championships going on at the same time across the same athletic complex at WU.

Another great subject, but I'll save that one for later...consider that a fault for not squeezing it in today, but a net gain for another day. And while all this is going on, there's GOLF, too. No, I'm not talking about The Masters, but after that: the Big South Women's Championship 4/14-16 and the Men's Championship 4/20-22. Spring championship season is in full swing, folks...
Wow--have a great weekend and enjoy the championship weeks ahead!

No comments: