Sep 12, 2006

Liberty Cross Country has solid showing

by David Hunt
 
 
Championship dreams start now. The beginning of a new season is where the dream breathes its first breath. 

As the 2006 cross country season kicked off Saturday morning, Liberty University runners showed the Big South Conference that this year there would be a battle towards the National Championships.

In preseason polls, Liberty’s men were the clear favorite to once again win the Big South Conference championship, while the women’s team was picked to capture second in the conference, according to conference coaches.

On Saturday, the teams traveled to Charlottesville, Va., to compete in University of Virginia’s Lou Onesty Invitational. The Invitational served as Liberty’s first race of the season.

Despite early morning starts for the men and women, they proved that they were ready. With a lopsided victory for the men and a fourth-place finish for the women, Liberty looked to be in fine fashion for the year.

On the men’s side, All-American Josh McDougal took first place overall with a time of 24:14, finishing 18 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, David Kemboi of Norfolk State. 

McDougal, who won last year’s Big South cross country championships, also finished fourth in the nation at the National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

“I pretty much just held a tempo pace for the first three miles before breaking away,” McDougal said. “This was a good opener for us to build confidence and finally race after all the training.”

Then a battle for third emerged with Liberty’s own Jarvis Jelen and Jordan McDougal. With a photo finish, third place was won by Jelen with a time of 25:00.10, with the younger McDougal less than a tick behind in 25:00.50. Both runners are expected to be forces this year and challengers to make the national meet.

Liberty’s fourth runner and 16th overall was Drew Ponder with a time of 25:55. Ponder, coming off a successful outdoor track season, looked ready for the cross-country trails.

“We have a very solid top-five and we really worked together today as a team pulling each other along,” Ponder said. “Our goal is to make nationals and perform.”    

Just behind Ponder, coming in 19th place overall, was Joshua Edmonds in 25:57. Edmonds is a promising new runner in the Liberty program.

Rounding out the Liberty men’s top seven were Nate Edwards and James Doak, who came in 61st and 81st respectfully. Both runners are veterans in the Liberty program. Also competing for Liberty was new-comer Amos Mburu, coming in 101st place with a time of 30:05.

Liberty University’s men held a 47-point advantage over the second place University of Virginia and won easily despite this being a 12-team meet. William and Mary, Wake Forest and Norfolk State rounded out the top five teams.

On the women’s side and just outside of the top 10, Piper Newby was Liberty’s first finisher in a time of 18:38, good for 11th overall. Newby is showing great promise after having an excellent spring in the 3,000m steeplechase last year where she placed third in the conference championships.

Easily won was Saturday’s race by Wake Forest’s Michelle Sikes with a time of 17:20. 

Trailing 15 seconds behind Newby was Sarah Roberts in17th place overall, in 18:53. Carol Jefferson claimed 34th place as Liberty’s third finisher. Jefferson was last spring’s conference champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m events.

Then came a group of Liberty jerseys in 44th, 46th, and 48th place. Those runners were, Rebekah Ricksecker, Reyna Quiroz, and Ashley Osborne.

Other Liberty women were Jo Welch, 20:24, new-comer Leah Ramey, 21:12, Molly Morgan, 21:23, Rebekah Wahlquist, 21:27 and Meleia Johnson, 22:51.

While the University of Virginia women claimed first overall, the Flames finished a highly respectable fourth place out of 11 teams. Liberty finished right behind second and third place teams Wake Forest and William and Mary and just ahead of fifth place High Point.

Saturday’s race marked the beginning of a long year for Liberty’s runners. They travel next to the Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, Minn., on September 23 and will make stops in Louisville, Ky., Terre Haute, Ind. and Lexington, Va., before the conference championships in Charleston, S.C., on October 28.
Liberty coaches were happy with the performances and the athletes are already looking forward to the new challenges that this year presents.

“We’re all excited about the potential this team has this year,” stated Assistant Coach Greg Jimmerson.  “We have the best shot in a long time for the NCAA championships. This program is really making strides.”

This looks to be just the beginning for a successful men’s and women’s cross country season for Liberty University.
 

Contact David Hunt at dhunt@liberty.edu.
 
 
 

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