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Liberty to Compete in NCAA Southeast Regional

November 13, 2009
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Lady Flame Jennifer Klugh will be making her NCAA Southeast Regional debut this weekend in Louisville, Ky.

Lady Flame Jennifer Klugh will be making her NCAA Southeast Regional debut this weekend in Louisville, Ky.

The Liberty men's and women's cross country squads will line up against the top teams in the region on Saturday, competing in the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championship in Louisville, Ky. The men's 10K race is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., followed by the women's 6K event at 11:15 a.m. at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.

A total of 45 teams are slated to participate in the race, including defending men's champion William & Mary, currently ranked first in the Southeast region and No. 8 in the nation. Virginia took top honors on the women's side at last year's event.

The top two teams automatically qualify for the national meet, and 13 at-large teams will be selected by the NCAA on Sunday. In addition, the first four individual finishers not on a qualifying team will be automatic qualifiers to the NCAA championship meet.

"Currently, our men are ranked 10th and our women are unranked," said Head Coach Brant Tolsma. "Our goal is to finish higher than expected. I feel like the team is ready and focused.

"This will be the first 10,000-meter race for the men this season, and I think that should work in our favor. Sam Chelanga is the defending champion and we are looking for him to repeat. Virginia's Emil Heineking is the ACC champion and undefeated this year, and he may provide a challenge."

In last year's event, Liberty's Sam Chelanga was the overall men's winner, crossing the line with a time of 29:53.4, a personal best at the time, which enabled him to run at the national meet for the second time. His victory marked the fourth in five years by a Liberty men's runner at the regional meet, as Josh McDougal captured Southeast Regional titles in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Jordan McDougal and Josh Edmonds finished 12th and 18th, respectively, giving the Flames three top-20 finishers.

As a team, the men's squad finished fifth in the 2008 regional meet, matching its highest-ever finish.

On the women's side, the Lady Flames came in 15th out of 33 teams, edging Big South opponents High Point (16th) and Coastal Carolina (19th). Rebekah Ricksecker was the top Liberty finisher, recording a personal-best time of 21:24.6, placing 11th. Dacia Bushman was the top returning runner, finishing 87th with a time of 22:51.9.

The Flames and Lady Flames are enjoying a solid season, as both squads claimed the Big South Championship titles on Oct. 31 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Chelanga won the men's 8K race with a time of 23:50, while Evans Kigen finished second, clocking a time of 25:13.
Bushman finished second in the women's 5K, crossing the line in 18:32, followed by Jennifer Klugh in third (18:37).