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Lady Flames Picked to Win Big South XC Title

August 24, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Liberty women's cross country team was selected as the favorite to win its third consecutive Big South Conference title.

The Liberty women's cross country team has been tabbed the favorite to win its third straight Big South Conference title, while the men's squad was picked second. Both preseason polls were voted upon by the conference's head cross country coaches.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's Lady Flames, who have won four of the last five Big South titles, earned five first-place votes and 115 total points. That made them a narrow favorite over Coastal Carolina, which picked up the remaining six first-place nods and 111 points.

VMI (98 points) and High Point (90 points) were also tightly bunched for the third and fourth spots in the women's poll. UNC Asheville was listed fifth with 73 points, followed by Winthrop in sixth (60 points) and conference newcomer Campbell in seventh (59 points).

Gardner-Webb (eighth place, 46 points), Radford (ninth place, 33 points), Charleston Southern (10th place, 30 points) and Presbyterian College (11th place, 11 points) rounded out the voting on the women's side.

Redshirt junior Jennifer Klugh returns to defend the individual title she won at the 2010 Big South Cross Country Championships. She will be complemented by junior Khristina Kanagy, the 12th-place finisher at last year's Big South meet, and promising freshman Jacy Christiansen of New Ipswich, N.H.

Meanwhile, the Liberty men's cross country team has tied a conference record by winning six straight Big South titles. However, 2010 conference runner-up High Point is this year's conference favorite. The Panthers collected eight of 11 first-place votes and 118 total points. The Flames notched two first-place nods and 108 points, while third-place VMI earned the final first-place vote and 103 points.

Winthrop (80 points) and Campbell (71 points) were listed fourth and fifth, respectively. Following them, Radford (sixth place, 58 points), Coastal Carolina (seventh place, 57 points) and UNC Asheville (eighth place, 50 points) were separated by only eight points.

Charleston Southern (ninth place, 36 points), Gardner-Webb (10th place, 32 points) and Presbyterian College (11th place, 13 points) ended up in the final three spots in the men's standings.

Liberty will have a tough task to replace the graduated trio of Sam Chelanga, Evans Kigen and Josh Edmonds, who swept the top three spots at the 2010 Big South Cross Country Championships.

Sophomore Josh MacDonald is the Flames' top returnee from the 2010 conference meet, where he finished 11th. Redshirt junior David Ricksecker returns to action after taking a medical redshirt in 2010. He placed eighth at the 2009 Big South Cross Country Championships.

Other runners to watch include Zac Edwards, a transfer from South Alabama, and freshman Ngetich Kipchirchir from Eldoret, Kenya.

The Flames' 2011 season will get underway Sept. 2, when Liberty competes in the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. The women's 4K race will start at 6 p.m., with the men's 6K to follow at 6:45.

The 2011 Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships will be hosted by Coastal Carolina, Oct. 29 in Conway, S.C.

2011 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country Poll
1) High Point (8 first-place votes) – 118 total points
2) Liberty (2) – 108
3) VMI (1) – 103
4) Winthrop – 80
5) Campbell – 71
6) Radford – 58
7) Coastal Carolina – 57
8) UNC Asheville – 50
9) Charleston Southern – 36
10) Gardner-Webb – 32
11) Presbyterian College – 13

2011 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (5 first-place votes) – 115 total points

2) Coastal Carolina (6) – 111
3) VMI – 98
4) High Point – 90
5) UNC Asheville – 73
6) Winthrop – 60
7) Campbell – 59
8) Gardner-Webb – 46
9) Radford – 33
10) Charleston Southern – 30
11) Presbyterian College – 11