Director of Track & Field and Cross Country
Brant Tolsma

Brant Tolsma, Liberty's Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, is in his 32nd year coaching the Flames in 2017-18. During his three-plus decades on campus, Tolsma has led Liberty to an amazing amount of success at the national and conference levels.

Tolsma was first hired at Liberty in 1986 by the Flames' first track & field coach, Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Jake Matthes, to serve as the head men's track & field coach. By 1991, Tolsma had assumed each of the coaching positions he still holds today, overseeing the men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track & field and men's and women's outdoor track & field programs.

Tolsma, who at the present time primarily coaches the Flames' decathletes, heptathletes and assists with the pole vaulters, celebrated his 100th conference championship at Liberty when the women's cross country team won the 2016 Big South title. Under Tolsma's guidance, Liberty's cross country and track & field squads have now won 94 Big South championships, seven Mason-Dixon championships and three IC4A team titles.

Tolsma guided Liberty to eight consecutive Big South men's Triple Crowns, as the Flames swept every conference men's cross country, men's indoor track & field and men's outdoor track & field title between fall 2006 and spring 2014. Tolsma and legendary Kansas head coach Bill Easton (1951-59, Big 8 Conference) are the only two coaches ever to lead their teams to eight straight men's Triple Crowns in an NCAA Division I conference.

The 2009-10 athletic year was one of the finest in program history, highlighted by the Big South Conference's first-ever "Double Triple." The unique achievement, which has only been accomplished by 10 different schools in NCAA Division I history, saw the Flames and Lady Flames sweep all six Big South titles (men's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field and women's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field). Liberty nearly repeated the feat in 2016-17, but fell seven points short in men's cross country.

Individually, Sam Chelanga closed his career in 2011 with a total of four NCAA national titles, including two apiece in cross country and outdoor track & field. Additionally, Heather (Sagan) Zealand won the mile at the 2002 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships and Josh McDougal was the national champion at the 2007 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Tolsma has been at the helm for each of the Flames' six individual national titles.

Chelanga's performance at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which included a 5K national championship and a runner-up finish in the 10K, helped Liberty tie for 12th place in the final men's team standings. That is the highest NCAA Division I team finish in program and Big South Conference history in either cross country or track & field.

Tolsma has won 67 Big South Coach of the Year honors and twice was named the NCAA District Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, Tolsma's athletes have earned a combined 55 All-America honors since the program moved to the NCAA Division I level in 1989.

Tolsma's student-athletes have also excelled in the classroom during his tenure at Liberty. Twelve Liberty cross country/track & field student-athletes have earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors at the Division I level under his guidance, with the most recent being Kat Bouton in 2017.

Tolsma's track coaching career began at Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C., where he served as the head men's cross country and track & field coach for seven years (1979-86). He then took the helm of the Camels' women's cross country and track & field programs when those sports were inaugurated in 1982-83.

Tolsma completed his undergraduate work with summa cum laude distinction in 1971 at Newark College of Engineering, since renamed New Jersey Institute of Technology. He went on to earn a master's degree in hydraulic engineering from Michigan in 1973 and a Ph.D. in the biomechanics of sport from Indiana in 1979. Tolsma's doctoral dissertation was entitled "Leg Dynamics of Maximum Speed Sprinting."

Tolsma has published several articles about track & field training and in 2001 released a book, The Surrendered Christian Athlete, which expounds the role of the Christian faith in athletics. He has also designed several athletic training devices.

Tolsma has been active as a master's track & field competitor for two decades. He won his age group in the World Double Decathlon Championship in both 2005 and 2010, as well as the Masters National Decathlon Championship in both 1993 and 2003. He placed second at the World Veterans Games decathlon in 1995 and at the 2002 World Double-Decathlon Championship in Finland.

Associate Head Track & Field Coach
Pete McFadden

Andrew "Pete" McFadden serves on the Liberty track & field coaching staff, primarily working with the sprints (up to 800 meters) and relays.

After serving in a part-time role during the 2007 season, he is working full-time with the Flames for a 11th consecutive season in 2018 and was promoted to Associate Head Track & Field Coach in January 2018.

Since McFadden joined the coaching staff, the Flames have won 33 Big South team championships and the men's squad captured back-to-back IC4A outdoor titles (2007 & 2008).

Last season, McFadden coached the Big South Indoor Women's Freshman of the Year (Tanner Ealum) and the Big South Outdoor Men's Outstanding Track Performer (Stephen Racanelli). The Flames also took down long-standing program records in the outdoor men's 800 (Michael Todd), indoor men's 4 x 400 and outdoor women's 4 x 400.

In 2016, the Flames won 13 of the 22 events McFadden coaches at the Big South Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Additionally, Liberty set five program records in women's relay events, including the indoor 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 and the outdoor 4 x 100, 4 x 200 and 4 x 800.

McFadden's charges also enjoyed a successful year in 2015, winning nine Big South event titles. Abigail Flower captured four Big South sprint championships (indoor 60, indoor 200, outdoor 100 and outdoor 200), while Stephen Racanelli won three Big South crowns (indoor 200, indoor 400, outdoor 400). Liberty also took top honors in the Big South men's indoor 4 x 400 relay and women's outdoor 4 x 100 relay.

In 2009-10, McFadden helped coach Jaime Watson to one of the finest seasons in school and conference history in the 400 and 800. She broke numerous Liberty and Big South Conference records and qualified for the 2010 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

McFadden was a standout sprinter for the Flames in the mid to late 90s and held the Big South Championship meet record at 100 meters (10.32) until 2010. In 1996, he led off for Liberty's victorious 4 x 100 meter relay squad at the IC4A Championship, helping the Flames capture the team title. The quartet ran a school-record 39.86 seconds. In total, he was a six-time All-East selection at 100 meters, 200 meters and in the 4 x 100 relay.

McFadden also excelled on the football field at Liberty. He played for the 1995 Flames who went 8-3 and were ranked No. 19 nationally. That season, McFadden returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged a school-record 37.8 yards per return. His 93-yard punt return against Delaware State is still a school record. At season's end, he was named a first-team All-American as a return specialist by both the Football Gazette and the Sports Network.

McFadden participated in the Indianapolis Colts' 1998 preseason training camp, but was released just before the team's last cut. He then spent the 1999 season with the Portland Forest Dragons of the Arena Football League.

In addition to his position on the Flames' coaching staff, he works part-time with troubled youth in Lynchburg as a home-based therapist. He also works with an inner-city youth group at Power of God Deliverance Church in Lynchburg and founded an organization called Dream Again Life, which teaches children the importance of being educated, while also motivating them to chase after their dreams.

Associate Head Track & Field Coach
Clendon Henderson

Clendon Henderson has served on the Liberty track & field staff as an assistant coach ever since becoming the second Flames track & field athlete to be both an All-American and an Academic All-American during his own collegiate career. In January 2018, he was promoted to Associate Head Track & Field Coach.

Henderson, who coaches Liberty's throwers, has helped guide Flames to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships during six of his nine years on staff. Most recently, Jocelyn Williams earned second team All-America honors in the women's hammer at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Additionally, Liberty throwers have won 46 Big South event titles and four ECAC event crowns, while breaking school records in seven different events during the past nine seasons, as well as a Bahamian national record (Denzel Pratt – men's javelin). Three of the five Liberty throwing event records which have not been broken during that time are owned by Henderson himself.

Certified as a Throwing Specialist by the USTFCCCA and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Henderson earned an All-America certificate during his final college meet, the 2008 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The senior recorded a third-place finish in the discus final, becoming the first thrower in Liberty history to win All-America recognition.

During his senior season of indoor track & field, Henderson qualified for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, placing 14th in the shot put. He ended his career with three Liberty and Big South records, including indoor shot put (61-10.5), outdoor shot put (61-3) and discus (204-3).

Henderson, who graduated with a 3.72 grade-point average in kinesiology in May 2008, garnered many academic awards, headlined by a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America notation. He was additionally a two-time U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic team member and won two Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Henderson was also presented with the inaugural Dr. Jerry Falwell Leadership award.

At Meadow High School, Henderson starred in both track & field and six-man football. He then began his collegiate career at South Plains College. As a sophomore at South Plains in 2005, Henderson was a junior college All-American, after placing second in the discus at the NJCAA national meet.

Henderson married Coach Brant Tolsma's daughter Brenda in June 2007, and the couple resides in the Lynchburg area. The Hendersons have two sons, Colton and Adrian, and a daughter, Cheyanne.

Assistant Track Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Shawn Venable

Shawn Venable joined the Liberty track & field staff as an assistant coach for jumps and hurdles in the fall of 2016, after spending the previous four seasons at Oral Roberts. In January 2018, he added the title of recruiting coordinator.

Venable enjoyed immediate success at Liberty, as his athletes won six Big South event titles in 2017 and broke six different school records. These included the men's 60 hurdles (Jovaine Atkinson), men's 110 hurdles (Atkinson), men's indoor shuttle hurdles relay, men's indoor triple jump (Darrel Jones), women's indoor triple jump (Janae Jones) and women's 400 hurdles (Mary Witmer).

Venable served as assistant track & field coach/recruiting coordinator for Oral Roberts, focusing on the jumps, hurdles, short sprints and throws. He coached a number of standout performers, including two All-Americans, eight qualifiers to the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round meet and 13 Southland Conference champions.

Prior to his time at Oral Roberts, Venable spent five seasons (2007-12) as head track & field/cross country coach at Bacone College. He reestablished the program in January 2007 and quickly guided his team to success. The Bacone men's track & field team captured Red River Conference titles in both 2009 and 2012, and Venable was named Red River Conference Coach of the Year both times. Additionally, his men's track & field squad placed inside the top 25 at both the NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2012.

During Venable's five years at Bacone, he coached 17 NAIA All-Americans, three NAIA Academic All-Americans, 65 NAIA national qualifiers, 15 Red River Conference champions, 103 all-conference honorees and 47 academic all-conference award winners.

Venable began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, Oral Roberts, working as a volunteer assistant track & field coach for the 2005-06 season.

As an athlete, Venable started out as a middle and long distance runner at Oral Roberts before transitioning to the pole vault and decathlon later in his career. He served as team captain and earned two Mid-Continent all-conference honors as a senior. During Venable's time on the squad, Oral Roberts captured four Mid-Continent Conference championships.

The native of Owasso, Okla., owns two degrees and is nearing completion of a third. He graduated from Oral Roberts with a bachelor's degree in theology – New Testament Biblical literature in 2005. Four years later, Venable earned a master's degree in theology – Judeo-Christian Studies from Oral Roberts. He is on track to graduate with a master's degree in secondary education – sports administration from East Central University during the 2017-18 academic year.

Venable has also shown a commitment to education within the sport of track & field, winning the 2015 Vern Gambetta Coaching Education Award from USA Track & Field (USATF). Since 2013, he has served as the USATF Coaching Education Southeast Regional Coordinator. Venable spends 8-10 weekends each year instructing USATF Level 1 schools.

Venable is an IAAF Level 5/USATF Level 3 certified in jumping events, sprinting events and combined events. He is also a USTFCCCA Strength & Conditioning Coach and a National Pole Vault Coaches Association (NPVCA) Certified Coach.

Venable and his wife, Ashley, have three sons, Keegan, Kolton and Kingston.

Men's Distance Coach
Isaac Wendland

Former Liberty standout, Isaac Wendland is the Flames assistant track & field/cross country coach. Wendland primarily works with the men's distance runners.

Wendland's stellar senior track & field season at Liberty in 2013 took him all the way to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's 1,500. That spring, he also won the IC4A men's 1,500 title and swept the Big South men's 800 and 1,500 crowns. Wendland was named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team for the second time in his career (also 2010).

Wendland ranks among Liberty's all-time top five performers for three different events, including the outdoor 1,500 (No. 2, 3:43.91), indoor 1,000 (No. 3, 2:24.74) and outdoor 800 (No. 5, 1:50.22). He was a seven-time All-Big South performer on the track during his career.

A native of Charles City, Iowa, Wendland was one of the most decorated runners in Iowa high school history. The Lighthouse Academy graduate became the first male to win the Iowa state 1,600-meter title four years in a row. He also claimed three state 800 crowns, three state sprint medley relay championships and a trio of state cross country titles. As a result, Wendland was inducted into the Iowa Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2018.

Women's Distance Coach
Rachel Johnson

ASICS professional runner and six-time All-American Rachel Johnson joined the Liberty staff as an assistant track & field/cross country coach during the summer of 2019. She primarily works with the Lady Flames' distance runners.

During her first cross country season at Liberty, Johnson coached the youthful Lady Flames to second place in the ASUN Conference and 13th place in the Southeast Region. Freshman Adelyn Ackley and sophomore Calli Parlier finished 1-2 individually at the ASUN meet with two of the top three 5K times in program history.

Johnson comes to Lynchburg from Flagstaff, Ariz., where she is coached by Olympian Ryan Hall. Johnson has also coached a number of high school athletes through her Run World Coaching program.

Since completing her eligibility from Baylor in 2015, Johnson has competed in the steeplechase at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials and finished seventh in the 2016 USATF 5K Championship on the roads. Johnson also posted a 10K PR of 32:32.84 at the 2018 Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif.

Johnson earned six All-America honors at Baylor with a top finish of second in the 5K at the 2015 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. She also captured four Big 12 Conference titles, including back-to-back steeplechase crowns in 2014 and 2015 and a sweep of the 2015 indoor 3K and 5K championships.

During her time at Baylor, Johnson captured a gold medal for Team USA in the steeplechase at the 2014 NACAC Under-23 Championships. That same year, she placed fifth in the event at the USATF Outdoor Championships in a personal-best 9:41.56.

Johnson has enjoyed success ever since her days at Plano Senior High School in Plano, Texas. As a senior, she won the 2010 Nike Cross Nationals individual title and was the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships national runner-up.

Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology from Baylor, graduating in 2016.