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Liberty XC Set for ISU Pre-National Invitational
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Terre Haute Weather
The Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Terre Haute, Ind., for Saturday's ISU Pre-National Invitational to compete against many squads who aspire to return in five weeks for the 2013 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
The Flames will compete in the day's first race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the 11 a.m. men's 8K blue race. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames are entered in the women's 6K white race at 12:55.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Flotrack will be on hand in Terre Haute, providing live video streaming coverage (paid registration required) of the day's races, as well as post-race interviews.
Saturday's weather forecast in Terre Haute calls for a chance of morning rain showers and a high in the upper 50s.
Scouting the Competition
The Liberty men's squad will race against nine nationally ranked teams on Saturday, headlined by No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Colorado, No. 4 Oregon, No. 9 Tulsa and No. 10 Princeton. All 52 teams entered in the men's 8K blue race are regionally ranked, including seven from the Flames' Southeast Region.
The Flames, currently ranked No. 7 in the Southeast Region, will go head to head against regional No. 4 Duke, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 8 Furman, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 11 William & Mary and No. 13 Wake Forest.
The Lady Flames will face 10 regionally ranked opponents, including Virginia Tech, which sits No. 14 in the Southeast Region. Liberty will also go head-to-head against Big South foe Campbell for the second time this season. At the VMI Invitational (Sept. 21), the Lady Flames came in second while the Camels took fourth place.
Checking Out the Course
The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course has become the most renowned venue in collegiate cross country in recent years. On Nov. 23, the course will play host to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons.
Liberty has fared quite well in Terre Haute over the years, highlighted by individual national championships by Josh McDougal (2007) and Sam Chelanga (2009 and 2010).
The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course features some rolling hills, but it has produced fast times. Chelanga set the program cross country 10K record at 28:41.3 while winning the 2009 NCAA title. Meanwhile, Chelanga (22:51.3 in 2008) and McDougal (22:56.4 in 2007) own the two fastest 8K times ever posted at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Take Me Back to Terre Haute
Saturday will mark the first time Liberty has competed in Terre Haute since Nov. 22, 2010. That day, Sam Chelanga raced to his second consecutive NCAA Division I men's cross country national championship, covering the 10K course in 29:22.2. Teammate Evans Kigen earned All-America honors for the second year in a row, crossing the finish line in 31st place.
Previous Trip to Pre-Nationals
Liberty most recently raced at Pre-Nationals on Oct. 16, 2010 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. Paced by Sam Chelanga's individual victory, the men's squad finished 10th in the white race for its highest-ever Pre-Nationals placement. In the process, the Flames defeated two nationally ranked opponents (No. 21 Tulsa and No. 25 Minnesota). Senior Caleb Edmonds and redshirt junior Josh MacDonald both competed for Liberty as freshmen in that race.
Senior Katie Russo is the lone returnee from the Lady Flames' appearance at the 2010 Pre-Nationals. Liberty came in 28th out of 38 squads in the blue race.
What's at Stake
Saturday's meet will provide the Liberty men's team with a golden opportunity to earn at-large points toward qualification to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. These are earned by defeating strong teams from other regions in head-to-head competition. The Flames will face 45 opponents who are ranked in other regions at the ISU Pre-National Invitational.
Liberty also has a chance to move up from seventh place in the Southeast Region men's rankings with a strong performance. In 2010, the Flames' showing at Pre-Nationals bumped the team from ninth place to seventh in the region.
Redshirt senior Lyndi Fielitz joined the women's cross country roster two weeks ago to utilize her final year of eligibility and will make her season debut on Saturday. It will be her first cross country race since Oct. 27, 2012, when she finished 51st at the Big South Cross Country Championships.
Fielitz enjoyed a strong summer of road racing, as she was the female champion at the Lynchburg Half Marathon on Aug. 10 in a time of 1:33:22. That put her 55 seconds ahead of teammate Chelsea Page.
Last Stop Before Buena Vista
After Saturday's meet, Liberty will take a weekend off from competition before returning to action on Nov. 2 at the Big South Cross Country Championships. VMI will play host to the meet at the hilly Vista Links Golf Course, with the men's 8K scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and the women's 5K to follow at 11:30. The Flames and Lady Flames will each attempt to defend their conference titles from 2012.