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Pre-Nationals XC Meet Slated for Saturday
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The Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will face their toughest competition so far this season on Saturday, when they compete in the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind. The Flames will square off with 10 nationally-ranked squads, while the Lady Flames will meet nine nationally-ranked teams in their race.
Liberty has been assigned to the very first race of the day, the women's 6K blue race at 11 a.m. The men's squad will then take the course at 12:50 p.m., in the men's 8K white race. All of Saturday's races will be contested at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, which will be the site of next month's 2010 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
How to Follow the Flames
LibertyFlames.com will be on hand at Pre-Nationals, providing text and photo updates on the website's official Twitter account (twitter.com/libertyflames) throughout both of Saturday's races.
Additionally, Flotrack.org plans to air live video streaming coverage of all of Saturday's action, as well as post-race interviews.
The weather should be nearly ideal on Saturday, with sunny skies and a high of 72 degrees in Terre Haute. The course is expected to be firm and fast, since the Terre Haute area has received little rainfall in recent weeks.
Scouting the Competition
As mentioned previously, nationally-ranked teams will be abundant on Saturday in Terre Haute. Ten of the 36 teams in the men's white race appear in this week's national poll, led by No. 4 Colorado and No. 8 Portland. The Flames will also match up with two of the teams ranked ahead of them in the Southeast Region poll. N.C. State currently sits No. 2 in the region and Eastern Kentucky is No. 7, two spots ahead of Liberty's No. 9 regional ranking.
From an individual perspective, Sam Chelanga does not have a clearly defined top challenger in Saturday's race. Most of the nation's top individuals, including Stanford's Chris Derrick, Northern Arizona's David McNeill, Arizona's Stephen Sambu and Iona's Ryan Sheridan, have been assigned to the men's blue race instead.
The Lady Flames will have nine nationally-ranked foes in their race, highlighted by No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Arizona. The women's blue race will have a strong Southeast Region flavor, as the field also includes regionally-ranked Clemson (No. 5), Richmond (No. 9), Eastern Kentucky (No. 11) and William & Mary (No. 14).
The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
Saturday will mark Sam Chelanga's sixth race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, and he has experienced a full gamut of race outcomes in Terre Haute.
Chelanga's biggest highlight at Terre Haute came during the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, when he dominated the field to claim his first NCAA national championship. His winning time of 28:41.3 stands as the 10K course record.
Chelanga also owns the 8K course record, which he set at the 2008 Pre-Nationals. He blazed a 4:16 opening mile and never looked back, clocking a 22:51.3.
However, Chelanga has lost the other three times he has visited Terre Haute, marking his only three collegiate cross country setbacks. He placed 16th (first among freshmen) at the 2006 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and second to Oregon's Galen Rupp at the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. In last year's Pre-Nationals white race, Stanford's Chris Derrick came from behind to defeat Chelanga.
Three Liberty freshmen (Caleb Edmonds, Josh MacDonald and Katie Russo) will make their first appearances at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Saturday. The Flames' other 11 competitors have all raced in Terre Haute before.
The Lady Flames' lineup for Saturday's blue race is almost the same as their grouping from the 2009 Pre-Nationals. The only substitution is Russo for Betel Yosef. Last year, Liberty placed 33rd in the blue race.
Rewriting the Record Book
The Lady Flames rewrote the program record book at their most recent race, the Brooks Paul Short Run on Oct. 1. Jennifer Klugh clocked a 20:58 to break the school 6K record, while Dacia Bushman's 21:13 ranks third in program history and Hailey Neal's 21:27 ranks sixth.
Here is a look at the top 6K performances in Liberty women's cross country history.
1) 20:58 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run
2) 21:07.7 – Piper Newby, 2007 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
3) 21:17 – Dacia Bushman, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run
4) 21:22.5 – Piper Newby, 2007 Pre-Nationals
5) 21:24.6 – Rebekah Ricksecker, 2008 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
6) 21:27 – Hailey Neal, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run
Past Results at Pre-Nationals
Liberty has enjoyed considerable success at Pre-Nationals in recent years, especially in the men's individual category. Josh McDougal and Sam Chelanga teamed up to win four straight individual crowns at the meet, between 2005 and 2008, before the streak ended last year. Three times (McDougal in 2005 & 2007, Chelanga in 2008), Liberty runners eclipsed the course record in the process.
Here is a look at Liberty's team and individual performances at Pre-Nationals in the last five years.
2005: Team – 16th in white race. Top individual - Josh McDougal (1st, 23:12.6)
2006: Team – 19th in white race. Top individual – Josh McDougal (1st, 23:14.0)
2007: Team – 17th in white race. Top individual – Josh McDougal (1st, 22:56.4)
2008: Team – 18th in white race. Top individual – Sam Chelanga (1st, 22:51.3)
2009: Team – 29th in white race. Top individual – Sam Chelanga (2nd, 23:34.6)
2005: Team – 27th in blue race. Top individual – Sarah Roberts (91st, 21:54.1)
2006: Team – 31st in blue race. Top individual – Piper Newby (82nd, 21:31.4)
2007: Team – 23rd in white race. Top individual – Piper Newby (63rd, 21:22.5)
2008: Team – 36th in white race. Top individual – Rebekah Ricksecker (69th, 21:34.0)
2009: Team – 33rd in blue race. Top individual – Dacia Bushman (111th, 22:12.2)