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Edwards Leads Flames to Big South Preview Win
The first individual victory of Zac Edwards' young career at Liberty helped the Flames notch an impressive team title at Saturday morning's Coastal Carolina Invitational/Big South Preview. Meanwhile, Jennifer Klugh placed fourth in the women's race, highlighting the Lady Flames' fifth-place team finish at the Quail Creek Golf Club.
Competing for just the second time in a Liberty Flames uniform, transfer Edwards won the men's 8K race by 15 seconds. Behind him, the next seven Liberty finishers posted 8K personal-best times, helping the Flames post an upset of sorts over Big South preseason favorite High Point.
Liberty placed four men's runners in the top six, and seven Flames crossed the finish line before High Point's No. 5 runner. As a result, Liberty captured its second straight Coastal Carolina Invitational championship with 25 points. High Point was second with 40 tallies.
On the women's side, Klugh was the top Big South finisher in her 2011 season debut, trailing only three runners from No. 8 Duke. The Blue Devils justified their national ranking on Saturday, posting a winning score of 19 points. Behind them, four of the top contenders for the Big South Conference title waged a strong battle.
High Point grabbed the women's runner-up spot with 70 points. Host Coastal Carolina and conference newcomer Campbell tied for third place with 94 points apiece. The Lady Flames' team score of 109 left them in the fifth position out of nine teams.
Men's Race Recap
Liberty and High Point men's runners battled up front throughout the morning, and the first seven runners to complete the race were either Flames or Panthers. Edwards, a transfer from South Alabama, pulled away from High Point's Patrick Crawford during the latter stages of the race, notching a winning time of 24:42.
David Ricksecker finished third, just one second behind runner-up Crawford. The Flames' redshirt junior broke the 25-minute barrier for the first time in his career, stopping the clock in 24:58. Just behind him, sophomore Josh MacDonald sliced 20 seconds off of his previous best. His final time of 25:08 netted fourth place.
It was another Liberty sophomore, Caleb Edmonds, who made the biggest improvement of the day. He placed sixth in a time of 25:27 that was 38 seconds faster than his top 8K effort from the 2010 season.
Talented High Point veteran Neal Darmody finished 10th, but a pair of Flames followed closely behind him to seal the Liberty team victory. Will Reeves came in 11th in 25:56 and Isaac Wendland was 12th in 25:57.
Sophomore Jarred Cornfield nearly dipped below 26 minutes for the first time in his career, but had to settle for an official time of 26:00 and a 14th-place finish.
Women's Race Recap
Klugh, the defending Big South women's cross country champion, made a positive first impression at the course which will host this year's Big South Cross Country Championships in six weeks. Her 5K time of 18:09 placed the redshirt junior fourth overall and first among Big South entrants. Klugh outdistanced Coastal Carolina's Emily Marchini by five seconds for the honor.
The Lady Flames' next two finishers were also juniors. Khristina Kanagy ran an 18:48 for 17th place and Betel Yosef clocked 19:11 for the 28th spot.
Sophomore Katie Russo served as Liberty's No. 4 runner on Saturday, coming in 32nd with a 19:25 clocking. Meanwhile, freshman Jacy Christiansen rounded out the Lady Flames' five scorers with a 19:32 effort and a 35th-place showing.
Fellow rookie Meredith Mistretta came in 41st in her collegiate debut, stopping the clock in 19:56. Lyndi Fielitz was Liberty's seventh runner on the day, crossing the line in a personal-best time of 20:16 for 46th place.
Liberty's next meet will be the Charlotte Invitational on Sept. 30. The meet, held at McAlpine Park, will begin at 4 p.m. with the women's 5K race. The men's 8K will follow at 4:30 p.m.