The Liberty men’s cross country team is looking to win the Big South Conference for the ninth straight year, while the women look to win their second consecutive title. Each team hopes to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the first time.
Both teams opened their seasons Fri. Aug 30 at the University of Virginia duals, competing against the 17th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers and the Radford Highlanders. The men fell to Virginia 20-35 and defeated Radford 40-15, while the women also fell to Virginia by a score of 40-15 and fell to defeated Radford 35-20.
The women’s cross country team will be comprised of a number of new racers as three of four of last season’s top runners graduated in May. Junior Jacy Christiansen is predicted to be the top runner for Liberty’s squad this season. Junior Meredith Mistretta and senior Jessica Gass will also be returning to bolster the Lady Flames. The women’s roster features a dozen new runners on the 20-member team.
“As a team, we of course, would love to defend our Big South title,” Christiansen said. “But we’re trying to set our focus beyond that and work toward being regionally and nationally competitive as well.”
The men’s team only lost one runner to graduation, and has experienced runners Caleb Edmonds, Ngetich Kipchirchir and Jeremie Bourget returning for this season. In 2012, Edmonds finished third in the Big South Cross Country Championships.
“We’re excited about the upcoming season because we have such a veteran team,” Head Coach Brant Tolsma said. “We have essentially the same team as last year, but with another year of running under their belts. Once again, our big goal is to make it to the national championship meet as a team.”
Other male returners include Sam Hibbs, Zach Barker and Nate Jones. Most likely to make an impact on the men’s team this season is sophomore transfer Josh Showalter, named USA South Men’s Cross Country Rookie of the Year at Christopher Newport last year.
Overall, Liberty is expected to perform well this season. In a Big South preseason Poll, both men’s and women’s teams were picked to win the conference. The men’s team is ranked eighth in the Southeast Region.
Christiansen discussed the importance of the teams seeking to glorify God in their running this season.
“Being sold out to Jesus is the main goal of our team(s) ,” Christiansen said, “There will be challenges throughout the season, but I know God is faithful and will bring us through them all.”
The next for the men and women cross country teams will be Sept. 21 at the VMI Invitational.