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Liberty to Open 2011 XC Season Friday
Follow the @LibertyFlames Twitter account for photo and text updates during Friday's races
For the fifth straight season, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will begin their year with a meet in Blacksburg, Va. The Flames and Lady Flames are set to compete in the season-opening Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational Friday evening.
Contested on Virginia Tech's campus, the meet will feature a pair of races shorter than traditional collegiate cross country distance. The women's 4K race will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the men's 6K at 6:45.
Women's Tentative Lineup
Men's Tentative Lineup
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Liberty cross country fans will be able to keep up with their favorite Flames and Lady Flames on Friday via live Twitter updates from Blacksburg. Fans are urged to follow the Liberty Flames Twitter account (twitter.com/libertyflames) for photo and text updates throughout both of Friday's races.
As is usually the case with early-season cross country meets, conditions will be warmer than desired for distance running on Friday. Blacksburg's high temperature is predicted for 88 degrees, with a chance of thunderstorms.
Scouting the Competition
The host teams from Virginia Tech will represent Liberty's stiffest competition on Friday. The Hokie men's squad is ranked No. 7 in the Southeast Region to start the season, while the Virginia Tech women's team is listed at No. 8 regionally.
Kicking off a cross country season at Virginia Tech is nothing new for Liberty. This is the fifth straight season and seventh time in the last eight years that the Flames have run their season opener at Virginia Tech.
First Impression, Part Two
A lot of new faces will be debuting in Liberty uniforms on Friday, especially on the women's side. Eight of the Lady Flames' 12 projected starters will be representing Liberty on the cross country course for the first time in their career.
The list includes Lady Flames who have run track but not cross country (Meghan Burggraf, Hillary Morris, Amanda Wimbush), a transfer (Alyssa Allen) and true freshmen (Stephanie Buda, Jacy Christiansen, Caroline Parris, Caitlin Spinks).
First Impression, Part Three
Josh McDougal will also be making a debut of sorts on Friday. The Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational will mark his first meet as a full-time assistant coach for the Flames and Lady Flames, after McDougal was hired in August.
McDougal ran the first race of his brilliant collegiate cross country career at Virginia Tech, cruising to victory at the Festival in the Fields meet on Sept. 4, 2004. Three years later, his career culminated with a first-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Filling the Void
For the last seven seasons, Liberty boasted a cross country national championship contender every year in the form of Josh McDougal and Sam Chelanga. The pair combined to win three of the last four NCAA Division I cross country titles, with McDougal winning in 2007 and Chelanga capturing back-to-back crowns in 2009 and 2010.
With both McDougal and Chelanga graduated, Liberty's two runners with the best possibility of qualifying for the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships would appear to be Lady Flames redshirt junior Jennifer Klugh and Flames transfer Zac Edwards.
Klugh won the Big South individual cross country title last season, becoming Liberty's first conference women's cross country champion since Heather Sagan in 2001. She also placed 15th at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.
Edwards, also a redshirt junior, finished fifth at the 2009 NCAA Division I South Regional Championships while running for South Alabama. He boasts an impressive 5K personal-best time of 13:56.76 on the track as well.
Despite the fact that the Liberty men's team graduated its top three runners from last year's squad and the Lady Flames lost two of their top three, expectations are still high for both teams entering the 2011 campaign.
The Liberty men's team was picked to finish second in the Big South and sits No. 15 in the preseason Southeast Region rankings. The Lady Flames were tabbed to win their third straight Big South title, and they appear No. 12 in the Southeast Region to start the year.