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2011-12 Track & Field Outlook: Distance

November 28, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Jennifer Klugh scored 46 points at the Big South Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships last year, winning conference titles in the indoor mile and 3K and outdoor 1,500 while finishing second in the indoor and outdoor 5K finals.

With the Liberty Kickoff set to begin the Flames' 2011-12 indoor track & field season this Friday and Saturday at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center, the season preview series concludes today with a look at Liberty's mid-distance and distance runners.

Men's Mid-Distance
Senior Isaac Wendland highlights the Liberty men's mid-distance runners, after getting within one race of advancing to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 1,500-meter run last season. A versatile performer, Wendland boasts personal-best clockings of 1:50.22 in the 800, a school-record 2:24.74 in the 1,000 and 3:47.12 in the 1,500.

Coming off of his strongest cross country season, which saw him place 11th at the Big South meet, Wendland hopes to build upon a strong 2010-11 campaign. In addition to his previously-mentioned performance in the 1,500 at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, the Iowa native was the IC4A indoor 1,000-meter runner-up and a three-time All-Big South performer last season.

Fellow senior Will Reeves also hopes to build upon the best cross country season of his career. A season ago, Reeves made the Big South final in both the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500 events.

Sophomore Jarred Cornfield battled injuries during the 2011 cross country season, but enjoyed a promising freshman year on the track a year ago. He became the second-fastest 1,000-meter runner (2:25.94) in program history and ran the event at the IC4A meet. Cornfield then placed fourth in the Big South outdoor 1,500-meter final.

Cornfield also clocked a 1:54.47 for 800 meters in 2011, making him one of numerous Flames who have run in the 1:54-1:56 range. Seniors Jordan Bright and Joel Terry have run the 800 in 1:55.10 and 1:56.97, respectively. Freshmen Jacob Onifer (1:53.9 split in the 4 x 800) and John Sherret (1:55.63 personal best) also show promise as they begin their collegiate careers.

Men's Distance
After the Liberty men's cross country team claimed its unprecedented seventh consecutive Big South title this fall, the Flames hope to parlay that success into a strong year on the track. The magnitude of losing distance standouts Sam Chelanga, Evans Kigen and Josh Edmonds to graduation cannot be overstated, but Liberty still appears poised for a solid 2011-12 in the distance events.

Leading the charge will be senior Zac Edwards, who won the Big South men's individual cross country title in October. The transfer from South Alabama boasts impressive track personal-best efforts of 13:56.76 in the 5K and 30:08 in the 10K.

Senior David Ricksecker, redshirt freshman Caleb Edmonds and sophomore Josh MacDonald are also coming off of impressive cross country seasons. The trio each earned All-Big South honors this fall by finishing sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, at the conference meet.

Ricksecker finished seventh in the Big South outdoor 5K last season and dropped his time to 14:39.37 at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier. Edmonds did not race much during his first collegiate track season, but clocked a stellar 9:06.67 for 3,200 meters as a high school senior.

MacDonald enjoyed the best 2010-11 season of the three, including three top-five finishes at the Big South level. Indoors, the California native came in fourth in the 5K. At the outdoor championship, he was fourth in the steeplechase and fifth in the 5K. MacDonald's best times were 9:15.37 in the steeplechase and 14:48.44 in the 5K.

Promising redshirt freshman Ngetich Kipchirchir looks forward to making his Liberty debut after missing the cross country season due to injury. Sophomore Zach Barker and redshirt freshman Nate Jones both made significant improvements in cross country and hope to build upon that on the track.

Women's Mid-Distance
Liberty looks for a good season in the women's mid-distance events, returning the defending Big South champion in all four mid-distance races. Junior Meghan Burggraf was the 2011 Big South indoor and outdoor 800-meter champion, while senior Jennifer Klugh won the Big South indoor mile and outdoor 1,500-meter crowns.

Burggraf, who owns an 800-meter personal-best time of 2:11.44, has now won three Big South 800-meter championships during her career (also claiming the 2010 outdoor title). The Lynchburg native also placed sixth in the 2011 ECAC indoor 800-meter final.

Burggraf is complemented at 800 meters by redshirt sophomore Amanda Wimbush. Last year, Wimbush placed fifth in the event at the Big South indoor meet and recorded a time of 2:16.50 during the year.

Klugh enters her final track & field season as one of the top women's distance runners in program history. She was named the Big South's Most Outstanding Track Performer after scoring 28 points at last year's indoor conference meet and made her second straight trip to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet in the 1,500.

Klugh, who finished third in the ECAC indoor mile final last year, ranks second in program history in the mile (4:51.04) and fifth in the 1,500 (4:27.33). She also appears to be in good form heading into track & field season, after capturing her second straight Big South women's individual cross country title in October.

Liberty should have some nice depth behind Klugh in the 1,500 and mile, in the form of juniors Khristina Kanagy and Betel Yosef, sophomore Katie Russo and freshman Jacy Christiansen. Kanagy has clocked 4:48.01 in the 1,500, while Yosef has run 4:49.84 and made the Big South 1,500-meter final during back-to-back years.

Russo clocked a 5:02 for 1,600 meters as a high school senior, with Christiansen notching 4:57 for the same distance in high school.

Women's Distance
Senior Jennifer Klugh is also expected to be the Lady Flames' top performer in the distance events this season. The indoor 5K school and conference record holder at 16:56.14, Klugh is the defending Big South champion in the indoor 3K. She also placed second in the 5K at the Big South indoor and outdoor meets, trailing only teammate Dacia Bushman in both races.

Sophomore Khristina Kanagy and freshman Jacy Christiansen should both be factors as well, sporting 5K personal-best times of 17:40.35 and 17:44, respectively. Kanagy is coming off of her best cross country season to date, highlighted by a sixth-place finish at the Big South meet.

Junior Alyssa Allen will compete for the Lady Flames for the first time, after transferring from Charlotte. With the 49ers, she clocked times of 18:08.34 for the 5K and 37:53.10 for the 10K. Freshman Meredith Mistretta ran an 11:15.14 for the indoor two mile in high school and looks for a strong freshman track & field season for the Lady Flames.

Liberty's biggest question mark in the women's distance events will come in the steeplechase, after the graduation of 2010 Big South champion Hailey Neal. Alicia Guridy is expected to return for her redshirt senior season of eligibility, while sophomore Jessica Gass will also run the event. Guridy ranks No. 8 on Liberty's all-time top 10 list in the event at 11:53.94, while Gass sits No. 10 at 12:05.14.