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Liberty Gears Up for Pre-Nationals

October 16, 2009
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Jennifer Klugh and the Liberty cross country teams will compete in the NCAA Pre-Nationals this weekend in Terre Haute, Ind.

Jennifer Klugh and the Liberty cross country teams will compete in the NCAA Pre-Nationals this weekend in Terre Haute, Ind.

The Liberty men's and women's cross country squads will continue the 2009 season this weekend, competing in the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. The men's 8K white race begins at 11:40 a.m., followed by the women's 6K blue race at 12:20 p.m.

Both the Flames and Lady Flames will face hefty competition at this year's meet, held at the site of next month's 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The men are up against 10 teams ranked in the top 30 nationally, including the current first-place squad, Stanford. The Lady Flames face a strong field as well, and are grouped with eight Top-30 teams, including No. 4 Oregon, No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 Iowa State.

Head Coach Brant Tolsma has high hopes for his teams at the event.

"We are looking for our men to finish in the top half of the field, which will include many of the best teams in the country," commented Tolsma. "I'm also looking forward to seeing how Sam and Evans perform when they are pushed.

"I believe our women should be able to register a significant improvement from last year's finish. This will be our first race this season in a very large field, so it will be a major challenge for our teams."

The Flames saw success at the 2008 meet, as Sam Chelanga set a new course record at the event with a time of 22:51.3. His winning time also shattered Josh McDougal's school, meet and Big South 8K records. Chelanga's 44-second win helped the Liberty men's team finish 18th in a 40-team field with 545 points.

The women's team finished 36th in last year's event, highlighted by a 69th-place finish by Rebekah Ricksecker. Dacia Bushman, this year's No. 1 runner for the Lady Flames, finished 200th with a time of 22:52.9.

Both the men's and women's teams have seen success this season. The men's team is coming off a stellar performance at the Hagan Stone Park Classic on Oct. 3 in Greensboro, N.C., taking the first six slots among collegiate athletes and winning the event with a perfect score of 15. Chelanga made his season debut at the event, finishing first overall with a time of 24:45, followed by Evans Kigen, who clocked a 25:08 time. The Flames are currently ranked No. 9 in the Southeast Region.

The women's team, which finished second overall at the Hagan Stone Park Classic behind Duke, won the Big South Preview on Sept. 19 in Winston-Salem, N.C. In that meet, Bushman took second place overall among 57 runners, finishing with a time of 18:59 in the 5K.