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Liberty Cross Country to Preview BSC Course
Buena Vista Weather
After a three-week layoff from competition, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will return to action Saturday morning. The Flames and Lady Flames are entered in the VMI Invitational at the Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va.
The men's 8K race will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the women's 5K at 10:30. Both races will allow runners to preview the courses which will be utilized for the 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2.
The temperature in Buena Vista is expected to be in the mid-60s Saturday morning, with a chance of thunderstorms. Any significant rainfall could make footing treacherous on Vista Links' hilly terrain.
Scouting the Competition
Nine of the Big South's 12 cross country teams are entered in the VMI Invitational, including Campbell, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, High Point, Liberty, Longwood, Radford, UNC Asheville and host VMI. The only non-conference squad expected to compete is Division II Tusculum.
Saturday's meet could provide a nice preview of the Big South Cross Country Championships, as the top six men's teams and eight of the top nine women's squads from the Big South preseason poll are slated to compete.
Checking Out the Course
VMI will debut a new home course at the Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va., on Saturday, after hosting its meets at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va., in previous years. The course, which features rolling hills, will also host the 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships in November.
Last Time in Lexington
Saturday's meet will mark the first time Liberty has competed in a meet hosted by VMI since the 2005 Big South Cross Country Championships. That event was contested at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va., on Oct. 29, 2005.
Current Liberty assistant coach Josh McDougal won the men's individual title by more than a minute, helping the Flames win the first of their now eight consecutive Big South team championships.
On the women's side, current assistant Rebekah Ricksecker placed 16th overall and sixth among the Lady Flames, who finished as the team runner-up to Coastal Carolina.
A Sign of Things to Come?
For two years running, the top Big South teams at this meet have gone on to claim conference titles on the same course six weeks later. In 2011, the top conference squads at the Coastal Carolina Invitational/Big South Preview were the Liberty men's team and the High Point women. Both later claimed the Big South team crowns.
Last year, the Liberty men's and women's squads both placed first among Big South entrants at the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational, previewing their sweep of the team titles at the 2012 Big South Cross Country Championships.
The Liberty and High Point men's teams have finished first and second, respectively, at the Big South Cross Country Championships for six straight seasons. The Flames and Panthers appear to be among the top teams in the Big South Conference and the NCAA's Southeast Region once again in 2013.
Liberty was named the unanimous favorite to win its ninth straight conference title in the preseason Big South poll, with the Panthers tabbed for second place. Last week, High Point posted an impressive runner-up finish at the Furman Cross Country Classic, moving the Panthers up to No. 8 in the Southeast Region, two places ahead of Liberty.
Saturday's meet will be the first of four matchups between Liberty and High Point this season. They will also face off at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational (Sept. 28), Big South Cross Country Championships (Nov. 2) and NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships (Nov. 15).
Freshmen will play a key role in the success of the Liberty women's cross country team this fall, as evidenced by the season-opening UVa Duals on Aug. 30. Five of the Lady Flames' top 10 finishers that day were newcomers, including Kat Bouton, Lindsey Bray, Chelsea Page, Jessie Proehl and Alexis Taylor.
Back to Work
The VMI Invitational will be Liberty's first meet in 22 days, as the Flames have enjoyed an extended break from competition since the Aug. 30 UVa Duals. Saturday's meet is the first of the Flames' pair of competitions in eight days, with Liberty returning to the course on Sept. 28 for the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational.