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Liberty Cross Country Ready for NCAA Regional

November 10, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Big South champion Jennifer Klugh will attempt to become the first Lady Flame to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships since Heather Sagan in 2001.

NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships Information Central Page

After strong performances at the Big South Cross Country Championships two weeks ago, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will now see how they stack up against the best squads in the region. The Flames and Lady Flames will travel to Louisville, Ky. on Saturday for the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships. The meet will determine the team and individual qualifiers for the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Action at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park will get underway with the men's 10K at 10 a.m. The women's 6K race will follow at 11:15 a.m. at the course which will play host to the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Men's Tentative Lineup
Zach Barker
Caleb Edmonds
Zac Edwards
Nate Jones
Josh MacDonald
David Ricksecker
Isaac Wendland

Women's Tentative Lineup
Alyssa Allen
Jacy Christiansen
Khristina Kanagy
Jennifer Klugh
Meredith Mistretta
Katie Russo
Betel Yosef

Weather Forecast
Saturday's weather in Louisville should be quite ideal for a cross country race. The forecast high is 62 degrees with partly cloudy skies.

Course Preview
The course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park is mostly flat and traditionally yields fast times. At last season's NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Jennifer Klugh lowered the Liberty women's cross country 6K record to 20:55.5 on this course.

Liberty should be familiar with the race course, as the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships are taking place at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park for the third straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons.

E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park plays host to numerous championship meets. In addition to the previously mentioned 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, the course has been the site of five NAIA National Championships and, most recently, the 2010 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.

How to Punch Your Ticket to Terre Haute
The common goal for all men's and women's teams competing in Louisville on Saturday is to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, to be contested Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind. Here's what it takes:

Team Qualification: The top two teams at each of the nine regional meets will automatically advance to the national meet. The national field will then be filled with 13 at-large selections, comprising a total of 31 men's and 31 women's teams which will compete in Terre Haute. The at-large squads will be determined using a formula based upon head-to-head success against other national qualifiers during the regular season.

Individual Qualification: All runners who place in the top 25 at the regional meet earn all-region recognition and become eligible for advancement to Terre Haute. The national meet features 38 individual competitors not on advancing teams. The top four finishers from each regional meet who are not part of a national-qualifying squad will punch their ticket to Terre Haute. Then, two at-large individuals will be added to round out the national field.

In summary, the only people who will know for sure that they are bound for Terre Haute on Saturday are the top two teams in each race and the first four individuals who cross the finish line. The complete field of team and individual qualifiers to Terre Haute will be revealed Sunday evening on NCAA.com.

Men's Meet Preview
Team Outlook:
The Liberty men's cross country team will look to build upon its seventh consecutive Big South title with a strong race on Saturday. The Flames have performed well at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships in recent years, as their eighth-place finish a year ago marked their sixth straight year inside the top 10.

Liberty enters Saturday's meet ranked No. 13 in the Southeast Region. The Flames will aim to finish higher than that in Louisville and also defeat Big South rival High Point, which is ranked No. 14 regionally.

Zac Edwards hopes to run near the front of the pack on Saturday, but Liberty's team finish will largely be determined by the quartet of David Ricksecker, Caleb Edmonds, Josh MacDonald and Isaac Wendland. The four runners performed well at the Big South Championships, all placing inside the top 11 and crossing the finish line within a span of 33 seconds.

ACC champion N.C. State and third-place finisher North Carolina are expected to contend for the team title on Saturday, along with Ohio Valley Conference winner Eastern Kentucky.

Individual Outlook: Liberty has enjoyed an incredible run of success in the men's individual race at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships during the last seven years. Current assistant coach Josh McDougal and Sam Chelanga have combined to win six of the last seven regional championships, and the Flames have qualified two men's individuals to Terre Haute for three consecutive seasons.

Redshirt junior Zac Edwards, in his first season at Liberty, is the Flames' top candidate to qualify for the national meet as an individual. He has won three races in a row, including the Big South title in his most recent race on Oct. 29.

Edwards has raced at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships twice during his career. In 2008, he was part of Alabama's men's team which finished 10th at the national meet. The following year, Edwards qualified for the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division I South Regional Cross Country Championships.

Two of the top contenders for the men's individual championship could be UNC Greensboro newcomer Paul Chelimo and N.C. State's Ryan Hill, who won the ACC men's individual championship two weeks ago.

Women's Meet Preview
Team Outlook:
The Liberty women's cross country squad is coming off of its best overall team effort this season, which resulted in a second-place finish at the Big South Championship. The only team to defeat the Lady Flames at the conference meet was High Point, which captured its first-ever Big South women's cross country title. Liberty will get to face the Panthers one more time on Saturday.

Liberty, which has been ranked as highly as No. 12 in the Southeast Region this year, is not listed in the current regional rankings. Like the men's team, the Lady Flames have placed well at this meet in recent years. Liberty came in 10th a year ago, marking the team's fifth top 15 placement in the last six seasons.

The Lady Flames could surprise some observers if their trio of juniors (Jennifer Klugh, Khristina Kanagy and Betel Yosef) continues its improvement at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park. Klugh ran a time of 22:07 at this meet as a freshman, before dropping it to 20:55 last season. Similarly, Kanagy dropped her time from 23:35 to 22:23 and Yosef shaved her 23:31 clocking down to 22:49.

Defending regional champion Virginia should be in the hunt once again, but the Cavaliers expect a fierce battle from conference rivals North Carolina and N.C. State. The three programs were separated by just five total points at the ACC meet.

Individual Outlook: Redshirt junior Jennifer Klugh has enjoyed a stellar season so far in 2011, running the two fastest 5K times in program history and winning her second straight Big South women's individual championship. Now Klugh hopes to become the first Lady Flame to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships since Heather Sagan in 2001.

Klugh was not far away from qualifying for the national meet last season. She clocked a 6K school-record time of 20:55.5 for 15th place and all-region honors at the 2010 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. That left her 25 seconds and four places behind Western Kentucky's Marion Kandie, the final women's national individual qualifier from the Southeast Region.

N.C. State sophomore Laura Hoer returns as the defending regional champion, but she has not yet regained her 2010 form. As a result, North Carolina's Kendra Schaaf, the national runner-up at the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, appears to be the prohibitive favorite on Saturday.