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Klugh to Close Career at NCAA XC Championship
Four years and three months after arriving at Liberty fresh off of a torn ACL, Liberty redshirt senior Jennifer Klugh will close out her sterling collegiate career in fine style this weekend. On Saturday, she will be Liberty and the Big South Conference's lone representative in the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
For the first time since 2003, the meet will be held somewhere other than Terre Haute, Ind. This year's meet will be contested at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. The women's 6K championship will begin at noon, followed by the men's 10K at 1:15 p.m.
How to Keep up with Klugh
Both of Saturday's races will be video streamed on NCAA.com, free of charge.
Results are expected to be posted on Delta Timing's website, shortly after the conclusion of each race.
Flotrack will be on hand in Louisville, providing two live prerace shows, highlights and interviews.
Liberty has enjoyed quite favorable running conditions throughout the 2012 cross country season, and Saturday should be no different. The Louisville forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 58 degrees, with light wind out of the northeast. After a dry week in the Louisville area, the race course should be firm and fast.
The course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park will play host to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the first time on Saturday. The course previously served as the site of the 2010 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships and has been the venue for five of the last seven NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.
Klugh has become well acquainted with the mostly flat and traditionally fast E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park course during her career. She has run there three times for the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, earning all-region honors in 2010 and 2011.
In 2010, Klugh clocked a 6K time of 20:55.5 at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. That stood as the school record until she ran 20:35.78 last Friday at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships in Charlotte, N.C., while placing sixth and punching her ticket to the national meet.
The course location is favorable for Klugh's friends and family members who plan to cheer her on this weekend. Louisville is located just a four-hour drive southwest from Klugh's hometown of Centerburg, Ohio.
How She Got Here
As referenced above, Klugh sped to a 6K school-record time of 20:35.78 at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, contested Nov. 9 at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte, N.C. As a result, she finished sixth overall in the race.
Klugh did not find out for sure that she was bound for Louisville until the following day, since she was the fifth-fastest individual in the region who was not part of a national-qualifying team. However, it turns out that Klugh was the highest-finishing fifth individual in any of the nation's nine regions and she earned an at-large berth into the national meet.
Saturday will mark Klugh's first-ever appearance in an NCAA national championship event, after the Buckeye State native came close several other times.
Klugh earned all-region honors at both the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships, after placing 15th and 20th, respectively, in those races.
On the track, Klugh ran the 1,500 at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in 2010, 2011 and 2012. However, she was unable to advance to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships each time.
In Good Company
Klugh is just the second Lady Flame ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, joining Heather Sagan in that exclusive club. Best known for her national title in the mile at the 2002 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, Sagan competed at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in both 2000 and 2001. Her best finish was a 59th-place effort in 2000 in Ames, Iowa.
Something to Strive For
The top 40 women's finishers in Saturday's race will be honored as All-Americans. If Klugh achieves a top 40 placement, she would earn her first career All-America plaudit and would be the first NCAA Division I women's cross country All-American in program history. Klugh is projected to finish 51st in the Butler Projections, as posted on Flotrack.org this week.
Klugh's participation in the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will mark the eighth time in the last nine years that Liberty has been represented at this meet. Three of those visits saw Flames walk away with the men's individual national championship, including current assistant coach Josh McDougal in 2007 and Sam Chelanga in both 2009 and 2010.
An Unlikely Story
As mentioned previously, Klugh's collegiate career did not begin ideally. She tore her ACL during her senior basketball season at Highland High School, wiping out her senior track & field season and setting her well behind for her first cross country campaign at Liberty in 2008.
Klugh, who was redshirted that fall as she worked to battle back from her injury, competed in one race unattached during the season. She clocked a 5K time of 22:09.9 to place 36th out of 52 runners at the Big South Preview on Sept. 20, 2008, three minutes behind race winner Zsanett Kis of High Point.
Klugh has been steadily improving ever since then, culminating with her qualification for Saturday's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Big South's Best
On Oct. 27, Klugh won her third consecutive Big South Conference title, in a 5K school-record time of 17:18.72, cementing her place as one of the top women's distance runners in conference history.
She is the first Lady Flame ever to win three Big South women's cross country championships and only the fourth runner in conference history to do so, joining Coastal Carolina's Catherine Conder (1994-96), Jolene Williams (1997-99) and Anne Marie Moutsinga (2002-03 and 2005).
Klugh finished her career as a 10-time Big South individual champion, including three in cross country, four in indoor track & field and three in outdoor track & field. Additionally, she did not lose a Big South Championship race to anyone other than a Liberty teammate from the 2010 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships through the end of her career, totaling 18 All-Big South honors.
Rewriting the Record Books
When Klugh arrived at Liberty in the fall of 2008, the program cross country records stood at 17:35 in the 5K and 21:07.7 in the 6K. She has posted the four fastest 5K times in Liberty history and the five fastest 6K clockings. Below is a chart of the top five Liberty women's cross country 5K and 6K performances, entering Saturday's race.
1) 17:18.72 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 Big South Championship
2) 17:28.29 – Jennifer Klugh, 2011 Charlotte Invitational
3) 17:29 – Jennifer Klugh, 2011 Big South Championship
4) 17:33 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 Notre Dame Invitational
5) 17:35 – Lori Lingenfelter, 1987 Tar Heel Invitational
1) 20:35.78 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
2) 20:55.5 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
3) 20:57.5 – Jennifer Klugh, 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
4) 20:58 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run
5) 21:01.6 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 Pre-Nationals
Saturday's race will be the final competition of Klugh's collegiate career. She has already exhausted all four years of indoor track & field and outdoor track & field eligibility. As a result, she will be student teaching this spring instead of racing around the oval.