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NCAA Southeast Regional Next Up for Liberty XC

November 12, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Redshirt senior Josh MacDonald placed 15th at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships last season.

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After the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams both finished second at the Big South Cross Country Championships, they will now turn their attention to Friday's 2014 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The meet, which will determine the qualifiers for the 2014 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, will take place at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky.

Friday's first race of the day will be the women's 6K at noon, followed by the men's 10K at 1 p.m. Liberty will be racing at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park for the second time this season, after competing in the Greater Louisville Classic on Oct. 4.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Flash Results, Inc., will provide live results for both races on Friday, including intermediate splits and team scores.

Weather Report
Just like the Big South Championships, the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships promise chilly temperatures, with Friday's high forecasted in the upper 30s. However, this time around, sunny skies and a light breeze out of the northwest should replace the strong wind and rain which battered the runners in Boiling Springs, N.C., two weeks ago.

Checking Out the Course
The mostly flat, fast course at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park is no stranger to hosting big meets. In fact, it was the site of the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, where the Lady Flames' Jennifer Klugh competed as an individual. It is also slated to host the 2015 and 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, in addition to the 2014 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships and 2016 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Friday will mark the first time the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships have been contested in Louisville since 2011. That year, current Liberty volunteer assistant Zac Edwards placed 23rd in the men's race to earn all-region honors, while Klugh came in 20th in the women's 6K.

The 2014 Flames and Lady Flames previewed the terrain on Oct. 4 at the Greater Louisville Classic, and the biggest highlight of the day was Jacy Christiansen's first collegiate cross country victory in a 5K personal-best time of 17:32.09.

How to Punch Your Ticket to Terre Haute
The common goal for all men's and women's teams competing in Louisville on Friday is to qualify for the 2014 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, to be contested Nov. 22 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.

Women's 6K Preview
Team Outlook: The Big South runner-up Liberty women's cross country team will look to improve on its 23rd-place showing at the 2013 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The Lady Flames have placed inside the top 15 at this meet six times in the last nine years.

Only three of Liberty's competitors from the 2013 regional meet will be back on the starting line on Friday, including senior Jacy Christiansen and sophomores Kat Bouton and Jessie Proehl. Redshirt junior Meredith Mistretta missed last year's meet due to illness, but previously raced at the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. Redshirt junior Caroline Parris and sophomores Lindsey Bray and Terrill Zentmeyer will be making their regional debuts.

The top five women's teams at the Big South Championships (High Point, Liberty, Radford, Campbell and Coastal Carolina) were separated by only 20 points and will square off head to head again on Friday.

Defending regional champion Virginia is one of three nationally ranked women's teams in the field, at No. 14. They expect to battle ACC foes No. 11 North Carolina and No. 18 NC State for top honors in the Southeast Region.

Individual Outlook: Jacy Christiansen will be the lone senior to race for the Lady Flames on Friday and possesses the team's best chance at qualification to Terre Haute. She is coming off of an impressive individual victory at the Big South Championships. Liberty's other two Big South women's cross country individual champions (Heather Sagan and Jennifer Klugh) both went on to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships during their careers.

Christiansen has good memories of the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park course, as she captured her first collegiate cross country title there at the Oct. 4 Greater Louisville Classic. In three previous regional appearances, she has improved from 129th place to 118th to 57th a year ago.

Christiansen, who is seeking her first NCAA national meet appearance, should not be impacted by the cold weather on Friday. The New Hampshire native has won a pair of Big South titles (2014 outdoor track 5K and 2014 cross country) in chilly, rainy conditions.

North Carolina's Annie LeHardy, who placed fourth at the ACC meet, and Southern Conference champion Allie Buchalski of Furman could be two of the top individual contenders on Friday.

Men's 10K Preview
Team Outlook: A year ago, the Liberty men's cross country team placed 10th at the 2013 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships for its eighth top-10 finish in the last nine years at this meet. The Flames, who saw their nine-year string of Big South team titles halted by High Point, enter the meet ranked No. 12 in the Southeast.

High Point has defeated Liberty the last four times the two teams have raced head to head, a streak that began with the Panthers' ninth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.

Redshirt senior Josh MacDonald and junior Sam Hibbs are the only two Flames returnees from last year's regional meet. Redshirt sophomore Will Templeton raced at the 2012 regional meet, but redshirt sophomore Josh Showalter and freshmen Graham Hansel, Titus Koech and Stalline Kurgat will all make their regional debuts this weekend. For the three freshmen, it will be their first collegiate 10K race.

MacDonald (29:57.64 personal best) and Hibbs (31:02.65 personal best) own the top times among the current Flames at the 10K distance on the track. At the 2014 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, MacDonald was the 10K runner-up and Hibbs placed sixth.

Eastern Kentucky is the defending regional champion on the men's side, but is not one of the four nationally ranked teams in the Southeast Region. That list features No. 16 Furman, No. 18 NC State, No. 22 North Carolina and No. 28 Virginia. Furman, which placed just 15th at this meet a year ago, has been one of the nation's most improved teams in 2014. Most recently, the Paladins won the Southern Conference title with a perfect score of 15.

Individual Outlook: It is uncertain which Liberty men's runner will cross the finish line first on Friday afternoon, as redshirt senior Josh MacDonald, junior Sam Hibbs and freshmen Titus Koech and Stalline Kurgat have taken turns as the Flames' No. 1 finisher this season.

Koech led the way for Liberty at the Big South meet with a fourth-place finish, two spots ahead of Hibbs. Koech also found success on this course at the Greater Louisville Classic, placing fifth overall and first on the team.

MacDonald will look to improve upon his outstanding performance at the 2013 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships and bounce back from a disappointing 19th-place finish at the Big South meet two weeks ago.

At last year's regional meet, MacDonald placed 15th overall and first among Big South entrants to earn all-region distinction. The California native was just four places and 11 seconds away from becoming the first Liberty men's cross country runner to qualify for the national meet since Sam Chelanga and Evans Kigen both did so in 2010.

Host Louisville boasts a couple contenders for the men's individual title in Ernest Kibet and Edwin Kibichiy. Virginia's Kyle King is the top returnee from 2013, where he finished fifth. However, he came in only 29th at the ACC meet on his home course two weeks ago.