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Liberty Men's XC Picked to Extend Big South Streak
The Liberty men's cross country team is a unanimous pick to win its eighth consecutive Big South Conference title, while the Lady Flames finished second to High Point in the voting by the league's head coaches.
Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's squad captured all 12 available first-place votes and finished with 144 points. Likewise, High Point earned all 12 second-place votes, taking the poll's No. 2 spot with 132 points. Campbell edged VMI for the No. 3 position, earning 103 points to 102 for the Keydets.
Big South Cross Country Championships host Winthrop (fifth place, 89 points), Coastal Carolina (sixth place, 84 points) and Radford (seventh place, 83 points) were separated by only six points.
UNC Asheville (eighth place, 65 points), Charleston Southern (ninth place, 49 points), Gardner-Webb (10th place, 43 points), conference newcomer Longwood (11th place, 23 points) and Presbyterian College (12th place, 18 points) rounded out the men's poll.
After winning its unprecedented seventh straight Big South title in 2011, the Liberty men's team appears ready for another strong season in 2012. Five Flames who finished in the top 11 at the 2011 Big South Cross Country Championships are back on the roster this season, led by individual conference champion Zac Edwards.
Additionally, David Ricksecker was sixth at the Big South meet a year ago, Caleb Edmonds placed seventh, Josh MacDonald took the eighth spot and Isaac Wendland came in 11th. Ngetich Kipchirchir is also set to make his Liberty cross country debut after winning the men's 10K title at the 2012 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
On the women's side, High Point is a narrow favorite to repeat as Big South champions. The Panthers garnered seven first-place votes and 136 points. That put them four points ahead of Liberty, which pulled in three first-place votes. The Lady Flames finished second at the 2011 Big South Cross Country Championships, making it eight straight seasons that Liberty has recorded a top-two Big South finish.
Coastal Carolina (third place, 123 points) and VMI (fourth place, 101 points) each received a single first-place vote. Campbell (fifth place, 100 points), Winthrop (sixth place, 77 points) and UNC Asheville (seventh place, 74 points) were all voted fourth or higher on at least one ballot.
The final five teams on the women's side included Charleston Southern (eighth place, 58 points), Gardner-Webb (ninth place, 51 points), Radford (10th place, 40 points), Longwood (11th place, 28 points) and Presbyterian College (12th place, 16 points).
Redshirt senior Jennifer Klugh will lead the Lady Flames, who captured the most recent of their seven Big South team titles in 2010. Klugh is the two-time defending Big South women's cross country individual champion and owns the program records for the 5K and 6K distances.
Klugh will be complemented by the trio of Khristina Kanagy, Betel Yosef and Jacy Christiansen. Kanagy placed sixth at the 2011 Big South Cross Country Championships, while Yosef was 12th and Christiansen 16th.
Liberty will open the 2012 campaign on Aug. 31, at the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. The women's 4K race is set for 6 p.m., with the men's 6K to follow at 6:45.
Winthrop will play host to the 2012 Big South Cross Country Championships. The meet will be contested on Oct. 27 in Rock Hill, S.C.
2012 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (12 first-place votes) – 144 total points
2) High Point – 132
3) Campbell – 103
4) VMI – 102
5) Winthrop – 89
6) Coastal Carolina – 84
7) Radford – 83
8) UNC Asheville – 65
9) Charleston Southern – 49
10) Gardner-Webb – 43
11) Longwood – 23
12) Presbyterian College – 18
2012 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Cross Country Poll
1) High Point (7 first-place votes) – 136 total points
2) Liberty (3) – 132
3) Coastal Carolina (1) – 123
4) VMI (1) – 101
5) Campbell – 100
6) Winthrop – 77
7) UNC Asheville – 74
8) Charleston Southern – 58
9) Gardner-Webb – 51
10) Radford – 40
11) Longwood – 28
12) Presbyterian College – 16