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Liberty XC Set for NCAA SE Regional Championship
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Panorama Farms Information
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Coming off of a strong showing at the Big South Cross Country Championships, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will now compete at Friday's 2013 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The meet at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va., will determine the region's team and individual qualifiers for the 2013 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Friday's action will begin with the men's 10K at noon, followed by the women's 6K championship race at 1:15. It will be Liberty's third race at Panorama Farms this season, following the Aug. 30 UVa Duals and Sept. 28 Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results will be available for Friday's races, courtesy of Flash Results, Inc.
Liberty fans will also be able to keep up with the teams on Friday via live Twitter updates from the course. Fans are urged to follow the official Liberty Flames Twitter account (twitter.com/libertyflames) for updates throughout both of the day's races.
The weather in Earlysville is expected to be pretty pleasant for distance running on Friday, with mostly cloudy skies and a high temperature around 60. The ground should be pretty firm and fast for the day's races, with the recent stretch of dry weather in central Virginia.
Checking Out the Course
The Panorama Farms course features a challenging climb during the second half of each race, but it is not nearly as challenging as the Vista Links Golf Course, which played host to the Big South Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2.
Panorama Farms, which is hosting the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships for the first time, does yield some fast times. At the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational on Sept. 28, Josh MacDonald broke 24 minutes in the 8K for the first time (23:59.3) and Jacy Christiansen dipped under the 18-minute barrier in the 5K (17:58.2).
Located less than 80 miles from Liberty's campus, Panorama Farms is a familiar venue for the Flames and Lady Flames. This is Liberty's third meet at the course this season, but the first time they will cover the full men's 10K course and women's 6K track. At the UVa Duals, both the men's and women's races were 4Ks, while the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational featured a men's 8K and a women's 5K.
How to Punch Your Ticket to Terre Haute
The common goal for all men's and women's teams competing at Panorama Farms on Friday is to qualify for the 2013 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, to be contested Nov. 23 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. Here's what it takes:
Team Qualification: The top two teams at each of Friday's nine regional meets will automatically advance to the national meet. The national field will then be filled with 13 at-large selections, comprising a total of 31 men's and 31 women's teams which will compete in Terre Haute. The at-large squads will be determined using a formula based upon head-to-head success against other national qualifiers during the regular season.
Individual Qualification: All runners who place in the top 25 at the regional meet earn all-region recognition and become eligible for advancement to Terre Haute. The national meet features 38 individual competitors not on advancing teams. The top four finishers from each regional meet who are not part of a national-qualifying squad will punch their ticket to Terre Haute. Then, two at-large individuals will be added to round out the national field.
In summary, the only people who will know for sure that they are bound for Terre Haute on Friday are the top two teams in each race and the first four individuals who cross the finish line. The complete field of team and individual qualifiers to Terre Haute will be revealed Saturday on NCAA.com.
Men's Meet Preview
Team Outlook: This meet has been highlighted on the Flames' schedule for quite some time, as Liberty aims to qualify its men's team to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the first time in program history.
The Flames, who enter the meet ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region, have become a regular fixture near the top of the regional meet standings in recent years. Last year's seventh-place finish marked Liberty's seventh appearance in the region's top 10 in the last eight seasons.
Five of the Flames' seven entrants from the 2012 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships are back, along with Josh MacDonald, who placed 61st at this meet in 2011 before redshirting the 2012 campaign.
Liberty displayed impressive depth in winning its ninth consecutive Big South title on Nov. 2, placing seven runners inside the top 17. The Flames are 3-0 against conference rival High Point in 2013 and will look to top the Panthers again on Friday.
Racing at the 10K distance could benefit the Flames, as each of Liberty's top four runners have experienced 10K success on the track. Ngetich Kipchirchir was the 2012 Big South 10K champion, MacDonald clocked a 10K time of 29:57.64 at the 2013 Stanford Invitational. Caleb Edmonds and Jeremie Bourget finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 2013 Big South 10K final.
No. 17 Eastern Kentucky and No. 18 North Carolina are expected to be the top two contenders for the team title. But don't expect defending Southeast Region champion and meet host Virginia to go down without a fight.
Individual Outlook: Liberty does not have any men's runners who are likely to qualify for Terre Haute as an individual. However, senior Caleb Edmonds, redshirt junior Josh MacDonald, redshirt sophomore Ngetich Kipchirchir and sophomore Jeremie Bourget could all be in the running for a top 25 finish and all-region honors. Kipchirchir just missed out on all-region notation last season, placing 26th, while Edmonds, MacDonald and Bourget have all finished inside the top 61 during past Southeast Region races.
MacDonald was Liberty's No. 1 runner the last time the Flames competed at Panorama Farms, placing ninth at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational on Sept. 28. Meanwhile, Bourget was the Flames' top finisher at the Big South meet, where the Canadian recorded a third-place finish.
Liberty has had nine men's runners earn all-region honors in meet history, headlined by current assistant coach Josh McDougal and Sam Chelanga, who won three Southeast Region individual titles apiece.
Up front, Eastern Kentucky's Soufiane Bouchikhi is favored to repeat as regional champion, but could face strong opposition from the UNCG duo of Paul Chelimo and Paul Katam as well as ACC champion Andrew Colley of NC State.
Women's Meet Preview
Team Outlook: The Big South runner-up Liberty women's team moved up from 22nd at the 2011 regional meet to 15th in 2012. If the Lady Flames are to post their seventh top-15 regional finish in the last nine years, however, they will have to do so with some fresh faces. Only two of the seven runners who competed for Liberty at the 2012 Southeast Regional meet (Jacy Christiansen and Jessica Gass) will race at Panorama Farms this time around.
Liberty's team on Friday will feature a nice mix of experience (seniors Lyndi Fielitz, Jessica Gass and Katie Russo) and youth (freshmen Kat Bouton, Chelsea Page and Jessie Proehl). They will have another opportunity to go head to head with competitive Big South rivals Coastal Carolina, UNC Asheville, High Point and Campbell, two weeks after the conference meet.
Duke is the defending regional champion, but the Blue Devils will be challenged by the ACC runner-up and host squad, No. 11 Virginia, and the CAA champion, No. 19 William & Mary.
Individual Outlook: Last year, Jennifer Klugh finished sixth at this meet to become the Lady Flames' first NCAA national qualifier since Heather Sagan in 2001.
As with the Liberty men's team, it will be difficult for any Lady Flames to qualify for Terre Haute as individuals on Friday. However, junior Jacy Christiansen will shoot for a top 25 finish and all-region honors after her gutsy third-place Big South showing. Christiansen's best regional placement during her first two seasons was a 118th-place finish in 2012.
Another interesting storyline to track will be the performance of Liberty redshirt senior Lyndi Fielitz, who chose to compete in Friday's race instead of Saturday's Richmond Marathon. Fielitz joined the Lady Flames at midseason and played a key role in their Big South runner-up finish by placing 18th at the conference meet. This will be Fielitz's first-ever appearance at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.
Defending regional champion Cally Macumber of Kentucky and regional runner-up Juliet Bottorff of Duke are expected to be near the front of the pack again Friday afternoon, along with the William & Mary duo of Elaina Balouris and Emily Stites.