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Liberty XC to Preview Big South Course
Boiling Springs Weather
Liberty will get its first look at the course for the 2014 Big South Cross Country Championships this weekend, when the Flames and Lady Flames travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., for Saturday's Gardner-Webb XC Invitational.
The women's 5K race will begin at 9:45 a.m., followed by the men's 8K at 10:30 at the on-campus course.
The weather is forecasted to be around 70 degrees Saturday morning, with a chance of thunderstorms.
Scouting the Competition
Saturday's meet will provide an early preview of the 2014 Big South Cross Country Championships, with 10 of 11 conference teams scheduled to compete. Longwood is the only Big South team not making the trip to Boiling Springs this weekend.
Liberty will get its first look at its top conference rivals this season, headlined by defending women's conference champion Coastal Carolina and perennial men's rival High Point.
Checking Out the Course
Gardner-Webb is hosting the Big South Cross Country Championships for the first time this season, so all conference teams will be eager to preview the course. It is characterized as a spectator-friendly, rolling course featuring repeats of a 2K loop. The course is approximately 90 percent grass and 10 percent dirt and gravel.
A Sign of Things to Come?
In each of the last three seasons, the same men's and women's teams who have finished first at the September Big South preview meet have gone on to win the conference title later in the year.
A year ago, the Liberty men's team and the Coastal Carolina women's squad took top honors at the VMI Invitational on Sept. 21, 2013. Six weeks later, the Flames and Chanticleers were each victorious when they returned to the Vista Links Golf Course for the 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships.
Terrific in the Tar Heel State
The Big South Cross Country Championships will be contested in North Carolina for the third time in meet history in 2014. Liberty hopes that history repeats itself, as the Flames and Lady Flames have swept the men's and women's team championships the previous two times the meet has been hosted in the Tar Heel State.
In 2007, the Flames and Lady Flames were victorious at Jackson Park in Hendersonville, N.C. Current assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker placed seventh in the women's race that morning.
Two years later, Liberty again captured the Big South men's and women's team titles at Shady Oaks in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A pair of Flames are expected to make their Liberty cross country debuts on Saturday, including freshman Titus Koech and redshirt sophomore Josh Showalter. Like teammate Stalline Kurgat, Koech hails from Eldoret, Kenya. Meanwhile, Showalter was the 2012 USA South Rookie of the Year at Christopher Newport before transferring to Liberty, where he was redshirted during the 2013 season.
For the Lady Flames, sophomore Jessie Proehl and junior Courtney Russo will each race for the first time in 2014. Proehl enjoyed a strong freshman season a year ago, highlighted by a ninth-place finish at the Big South Championship. Russo also fared well as a freshman, placing 18th at the 2012 Big South Championship, before injuries hindered her 2013 campaign.