Oct 31, 2006

Cross Country dominates Big South – again

by Dave Hunt
With a one-two punch, the Liberty men’s and women’s cross country teams each won a Big South Cross Country Championship on Saturday morning. The skies threatened rain the day before but only showed sprays of sun the morning of the race.

The Liberty men showed dominance in the 8-kilometer event, taking the first three positions. Josh McDougal once again won in convincing fashion, running in tandem with Liberty’s two other star runners, Jarvis Jelen and Jordan McDougal.

The three ran together on purpose to urge each other on and use the race as a workout.
“It was great in the team aspect, and it felt easy like a tempo run,” said Josh McDougal.

The three ran identical times of 24:46 with Coastal Carolina’s Jamie McCarthy coming in 23 seconds later to claim fourth place.

“We broke away early, made a big gap and cruised it in,” said Jelen. “The plan was to pack-run. It was a lot of fun to run together up front like that.”

Sneaking into the top 10 was Liberty’s Josh Edmonds. The freshman runner placed ninth overall, making the Big South Conference Team.

Battling a possible hernia a week earlier, Drew Ponder dropped under the 26-minute mark with a 17th place finish with a time of 25:58. Ponder was feared to have a hernia after a series of strains but found out only days before the race that it was merely a muscle pull.

“I’m just overly excited that I don’t have a hernia and glad that the team was able to pull together for a win,” said Ponder. He was also named to the Big South All-Academic Team.

Also scoring for Liberty were Nate Edwards and Travis Campbell, who finished in 47th and 57th place, respectively. Edwards was timed in 27:52 and Campbell in 28:35.

A surprise — from the Flames’ perspective, a good one — happened for the Liberty women’s team on Saturday as they beat favored Coastal Carolina for a Big South Conference win.

The women were led by all-academic team runner Piper Newby, who continues to speed away after setting Liberty’s 6-kilometer race record two weeks ago. Newby placed third overall in the race with a lightning fast 17:55 for the 5-kilometer race.

Newby was only bested by Coastal Carolina’s Julia Vielleher and Diana Jepchir-chir, who completed the race in 17:30 and 17:53, respectively.

Following Newby through the muddy cross country trails on Saturday was a pack of four Liberty women, all of whom placed in the top 10.

Carol Jefferson found the finish line first, coming in fifth overall. Sarah Roberts followed her in sixth, Rebekah Ricksecker in seventh and Ashley Osborne in eighth. It was these fleet-footed women who propelled Liberty to victory with a strong punch.

Also scoring for Liberty was seventh runner Jo Welch in 21st place with a time of exactly 19 minutes.
Other Liberty runners were Reyna Quiroz (23rd), Leah Ramey (42nd), Rebekah Wahlquist (46th) and Melia Johnson (56th).

Although the Liberty women were not expected to win, they surpassed powerhouses Coastal Carolina and High Point University.

Even before the race, Head Coach Brant Tolsma stated, “Coastal will be our toughest competition, and right now it appears that they have the advantage.”

Liberty continues to assert its dominance in the Big South Conference with the men’s second win in a row and the women breaking Coastal Carolina’s five-year hold on the competition.

Two weeks from Saturday, Liberty competes in its most important race yet in Louisville, Ky., at the Southeast Regional Championships. There, Liberty will attempt to win its first national championship in its rich running history.

“Today was a confidence booster towards nationals. We want to be there and be fresh,” said McDougal.

Contact Dave Hunt at dhunt@liberty.edu.

Photo - Josh McDougal leads Jordan McDougal and Jarvis Jelen during Saturday's win at the Big South Conference Tournament. Photo by Les Schofer.

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