Sep 9, 2008

Cross country opens with first, second place finishes at VTech

by Adam Palmer

The Liberty men’s cross country team finished in first place leading the field with ten points while the Lady Flames finished just one point behind Virginia Tech in the season-opening Virginia Tech Cross Country Relay.

The 2008 cross country season opener was hosted at the Virginia Tech Cross Country Course. The race was a cross country relay where two runners team up to run a total of 16k in four legs. Points are awarded to each team depending on the finish, and the top three finishes are totaled for a team score. The event is scored based on the least amount of points, so top-10 finishes are crucial.

The women and the men both had three top-10 finishes in the first meet of the season, and head coach Brant Tolsma expressed his excitement.

“This is the fifth year in a row where I feel that our team has the talent to win any race,” Tolsma said.

Unlike the past four years, however, this season is different, as NCAA Champion Josh McDougal is no longer donning the red, white and blue, leaving the Flames with enormous shoes to fill. Poised to fill those shoes is redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga from Nairobi, Kenya. Towards the end of the 2007-2008 season, while redshirting, Chelanga recorded a new personal-best 5k with a posting of (13:24.73) at the Reebok Grand Prix, defeating 2008 Olympians Alistair Cragg and Scott Overall.

Chelanga dominated his competition by outrunning the second place finisher in the relay by half a minute. Most runners in the field added about 25 seconds onto their second leg. Chelanga, however, was able to run 11:29 in his first 4K leg, which he followed with 11:31 in his second leg. This helped shave the 12 seconds that the pairing of Chelanga and redshirt freshman Mark Hopely needed to jump from a third place finish to a first place win. The Liberty men finished with 12 points to ensure the victory. The second best team was VCU, which posted a 22.

Competing well for the Flames was true freshman Kyle Powers.

Powers and teammate Mike Koech clocked in at 51:42, placing 10th out of 30 relay squads.

Like the combination of Chelanga and Hopely, the women also had a duo that finished first in the race. Seniors Rebeka Ricksecker and Ashley Osbourne were able to post a 45:11 in their 4x3K relay. The pairing outran the second place team by 49 seconds as Virginia Tech’s Samantha Dow and Lauren Pinkston captured second place behind Ricksecker and Osbourne. In third place for the Lady Flames was redshirt sophomore Melissa Martens and sophomore Dacia Bushman.

Albright was a victim of bad luck during her last leg of the race when she sprained her ankle after stepping into the hole. The injury only set the Lady Flames back during this race, as they ran well and had a solid showing, finishing second behind Virginia Tech by only one point.

Both the men and the women have the opportunity of running at home twice this season at the Big South Preview. The action begins Sept. 20 with the men’s 8K race starting at 9:15 a.m., followed by the women’s 5K race at 10 a.m. The races will be held at the East Campus intramural fields.

 


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