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Liberty Tabbed to Sweep Big South Cross Country Titles
Liberty's men's and women's cross country squads were both selected as the favorites in the Big South Conference preseason polls, as voted upon by the league's head cross country coaches.
Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's team was a unanimous selection to capture its sixth consecutive Big South title, capturing all 10 first-place votes and accumulating 100 total points. The Flames, who boast a veteran squad led by defending national champion Sam Chelanga, will attempt to equal Radford's conference record of six straight Big South men's cross country crowns, achieved between 1985 and 1990.
High Point, the 2009 Big South runner-up, finished second in the voting with 90 points, followed by VMI in third place with 79 points. Coastal Carolina (fourth place, 65 points) and UNC Asheville (fifth place, 59 points) rounded out the top half of the men's balloting.
Winthrop came in sixth with 54 points, while Gardner-Webb's 35 points netted seventh place. Charleston Southern (eighth place, 32 points), Radford (ninth place, 27 points) and Presbyterian College (10th place, 11 points) closed out the voting.
Chelanga will be complemented by fellow redshirt senior and 2009 cross country All-American Evans Kigen, who placed 20th at the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship. The Flames also boast three other runners who have earned All-Big South honors on the cross country course during their careers. Redshirt senior Josh Edmonds is a three-time All-Big South cross country runner, redshirt senior Jake Reed has picked up two All-Big South accolades and junior David Ricksecker placed eighth at the 2009 Big South Cross Country Championship.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames were also a convincing pick to repeat their Big South title from 2009. Liberty took seven first-place votes and racked up 97 total points, giving the Lady Flames a 12-point cushion over Coastal Carolina. The Lady Flames, who have won three of the last four Big South women's cross country championships, did not lose a single runner from last year's squad to graduation.
Coastal Carolina earned two first-place votes and 85 total points to edge out 2009 Big South runner-up VMI for second place. The Keydets took the final first-place vote and 83 points for third. High Point was fourth with 74 points, while Winthrop came in fifth with 58 points.
UNC Asheville's 50 points put the Bulldogs in sixth place, with Radford following in the seventh spot with 35 points. Gardner-Webb (eighth place, 33 points), Charleston Southern (ninth place, 20 points) and Presbyterian College (10th place, 14 points) rounded out the voting.
The Lady Flames are expected to be led by the trio of senior Dacia Bushman, redshirt sophomore Jennifer Klugh and senior Hailey Neal. Bushman and Klugh finished second and third, respectively, at the 2009 Big South Cross Country Championship. Meanwhile, Neal placed 12th at last year's conference meet and later went on to win the steeplechase title at the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
Liberty will begin the 2010 season on Sept. 3, when the Flames and Lady Flames travel to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Cross Country Relays. The two-person women's relay will begin at 5 p.m., with the two-person men's relay to follow at 6 p.m.
Radford will host the 2010 Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships. The meet will be held Oct. 30 in Blacksburg, Va.
2010 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (10 first-place votes) – 100 total points
2) High Point – 90
3) VMI – 79
4) Coastal Carolina – 65
5) UNC Asheville – 59
6) Winthrop – 54
7) Gardner-Webb – 35
8) Charleston Southern – 32
9) Radford – 27
10) Presbyterian College – 11
2010 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (7 first-place votes) – 97 total points
2) Coastal Carolina (2) – 85
3) VMI (1) – 83
4) High Point – 74
5) Winthrop – 58
6) UNC Asheville – 50
7) Radford – 35
8) Gardner-Webb – 33
9) Charleston Southern – 20
10) Presbyterian College – 14