Sep 8, 2009

Flames take 2nd at Hokie Invitational

by Jeffery Scott

The Liberty Flames men’s and women’s cross country teams both looked to start the 2009 season off on the right foot Friday as they competed at the Virginia Tech Relays in Blacksburg, Va.

The defending Big South Champion men’s squad enters the season in hopes of defending that title for the fifth year in a row, while the women’s team will look to capture the Big South title after finishing second behind Coastal Carolina by one point in 2008.

The men’s team will look to top performers Sam Chelanga (pictured at right) and Evans Kigen to lead the charge this season. Chelanga, who won five out of six races last year and is considered one of the best runners in the nation, finished in second place at last year’s NCAA National Championship when he posted a time of 29:08 in the 10K event. Kigen, a transfer from the New York Institute of Technology who redshirted last season but ran with the Flames track and field team, nor Chelanga have been defeated in a collegiate invitational race.

Three other runners that could contribute include sophomore Will Reeves, sophomore transfer from Biola University David Ricksecker, and freshman Andrew Rigler. Reeves and Ricksecker ran 4:19 indoors in the mile last season and head coach Brant Tolsma expects them to help the team significantly in the fall cross-country campaign.

The Women’s team looks to rebound from the second place Big South finish they received last year. Only three points separated them and third place High Point last season, and the same type of intense competition is expected from the top teams again this year.

The Lady Flames top returning runner this season is junior Dacia Bushman, who placed sixth in the Big South as a freshman and 11th as a sophomore. Redshirt sophomore Katie Albright looks to rebound from ankle injury that kept her sidelined last season. As a freshman Albright finished eighth at the Big South meet in 2007.
Tolsma expects them to be the front-runners to lead the team to a Big South Championship.

“Those girls have all run under 18 minutes at one time or another in the 5,000 meters.” Tolsma said. “So on paper, they are our top three runners. However there are several girls who look ready to challenge.

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams started the 2009 season off on the right foot Friday as they competed at the Virginia Tech Relays in Blacksburg, Va., as each squad finished second behind host Virginia Tech.

The top runners in the women’s relay were Albright and redshirt freshman Jennifer Klugh with a time of 38:12 in the 10K meter race. The top men’s pair for Liberty were Ricksecker and Reeves, who ran a time of 45:48 with each running a pair of 3.5K legs.

“I was pleased with mostly everyone. I still don’t like losing, though,” Tolsma said. “But it was good to beat Radford. Our better runners didn’t run, but the others were very close. This wasn’t a high pressure meet, but it was good that we could assess where everyone is.”

He also was impressed with the depth of the women’s team, who posted very strong times.

“Jennifer Klugh is our top runner, but there were nine other girls that were close in their times,” Tolsma said.

Though they did well in the opener, Tolsma knows the best competition is yet to come.

“All our important meets aren’t until October, but it will be good to see what the competition is like.”

The Big South Preview meet is scheduled for Sept. 19 in Winston-Salem, N.C. The cross-country schedule for both teams in October is stacked, with the Hagan Stone Park Classic on Oct. 3, the Pre-Nationals on the Oct. 17, and the Big South Championship on Oct. 31, which will also be held in Winston Salem.

Contact Jeffery Scott at jdscott@liberty.edu.
 


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