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Liberty to Open XC Season at Virginia Tech
As has become something of a tradition, 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, marking the sixth consecutive year Liberty has opened its cross country season at the Virginia Tech Cross Country Course.
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.
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.
Any potential remnants of once Hurricane Isaac are not expected to reach Virginia before Friday. As a result, conditions in Blacksburg are forecasted to be sunny, dry and warm, with a high temperature in the upper 80s.
Scouting the Competition
Liberty will face some of the top squads in the ACC and Southeast Region Friday evening. On the women's side, the field includes regional No. 1 Virginia, No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Virginia Tech. Top men's teams entered in the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational are regional No. 4 Virginia Tech, No. 7 Duke and No. 8 Virginia. However, the meet will not be scored.
Checking Out the Course
Liberty's runners are certainly familiar with the mostly flat course located on the southwest end of Virginia Tech's campus, as the Flames and Lady Flames have raced there every year since 2007. Liberty's assistant coaches both have positive memories of running at Virginia Tech, as Josh McDougal won two races there and Rebekah Ricksecker teamed up with Ashley Osborne to win the 2008 Virginia Tech Cross Country Relay.
The Virginia Tech Cross Country Course will get a lot of use this fall, with four meets scheduled in Blacksburg in a nine-week span. Highlighting the Hokies' home schedule are the 2012 ACC Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships, slated for Oct. 27.
Looking Back at Last Year
The Flames' Josh MacDonald and Zac Edwards finished first and second, respectively, in the men's 6K race at the 2011 Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational. Their performances highlighted a strong showing by Liberty's men's squad, which also saw Jarred Cornfield (eighth place) and Caleb Edmonds (ninth place) place in the top 10.
On the women's side, Jacy Christiansen made a successful collegiate debut, taking fourth place overall in the women's 4K and second among college runners. Also notching top 10 finishes for the Lady Flames were Katie Russo (sixth place), Betel Yosef (seventh place) and Stephanie Buda (10th place).
Kicking off a cross country season at Virginia Tech is nothing new for Liberty. This is the sixth straight season and eighth time in the last nine years that the Flames have run their season opener in Blacksburg.
First Impression, Part Two
Former Liberty standout Rebekah Ricksecker will coach her first race as a full-time assistant on the Flames' staff this Friday, after being hired in July. A couple milestones from her collegiate cross country career also took place at Virginia Tech.
Ricksecker made her Liberty cross country debut in Blacksburg on Sept. 3, 2005, notching a 23rd-place finish at the Virginia Tech Invitational. As previously mentioned, Ricksecker opened her senior cross country season in fine fashion in 2008, pairing with Ashley Osborne for first place at the Virginia Tech Cross Country Relay.
Three of the eight runners on the 2012 Liberty men's cross country roster were preceded as Flames harriers by older siblings. The list includes junior Caleb Edmonds (older brothers Josh and Peter), freshman Sam Hibbs (older brother Dan) and redshirt senior David Ricksecker (older sister Rebekah). The Rickseckers are the only brother/sister duo in program history to both earn All-Big South honors in cross country, combining to do so five times.
Additionally, the 2012 Liberty women's cross country squad features a pair of sisters, junior Katie Russo and freshman Courtney Russo. The Russo sisters will be teammates for the first time since recording a runner-up finish for Fort Myers High School in the girls' 4 x 800 relay final at the 2010 Florida Class A Track & Field Championships.
With most of Liberty's top men's and women's runners returning from the 2011 season, preseason expectations are high for the Flames and Lady Flames entering the 2012 campaign.
The Liberty men's team was a unanimous pick to win its unprecedented eighth consecutive Big South Conference title. The Lady Flames were picked a close second in the Big South preseason poll, and they appear No. 15 in the Southeast Region to start the year.