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Liberty Cross Country Shines at Winthrop
Facing most of their Big South Conference rivals on a sunny Saturday morning, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams fared quite well at the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational. Both Liberty squads finished first among Big South teams, and Ngetich Kipchirchir was the first Big South men's individual finisher.
The opening race of the morning was the men's 8K, and a young Liberty team totaled 85 points for third place overall in the field of 27 men's teams. Kipchirchir's fifth-place overall finish paced four freshmen among the Flames' top five placers.
Louisville took the men's team title with 44 points, followed by runner-up Appalachian State's score of 72. High Point was the second-best Big South men's squad on Saturday, scoring 160 points for fifth place.
In the women's 5K, the Lady Flames came in second out of 31 teams with 70 points, thanks to an impressive team effort that saw seven Liberty runners cross the line in the top 30. That performance put them 98 tallies ahead of their nearest Big South rival, Coastal Carolina. Appalachian State won the women's team championship with 58 points.
The meet was contested at the Winthrop Coliseum and Farm, which will host to the 2012 Big South Cross Country Championships on Oct. 27.
Men's Race Recap
The first three Big South men's runners to finish on Saturday were Liberty freshmen. Kipchirchir, a redshirt freshman, led the way in fifth place in 24:46.84. Jeremie Bourget also broke the 25-minute mark, finishing ninth in a time of 24:55.99. Will Templeton followed in 13th place, stopping the clock in 25:16.18.
Junior Zach Barker cut 10 seconds off of his previous 8K personal best, clocking a 25:43.89 for 23rd place. Fittingly, it was another freshman, Sam Hibbs, who closed out the Flames' five scorers. He ran 26:04.56 for 36th place.
Nate Jones (26:12.24, 42nd place) and Jacob Onifer (26:52.29, 69th place) were Liberty's No. 6 and 7 men's runners, respectively.
Women's Race Recap
After running together in a pack through the first mile in 6:05, the Lady Flames steadily moved up through the field during the race's final two miles. Two-time defending Big South champion Jennifer Klugh led the charge. She made an impressive season debut, clocking 18:23.65 for sixth place. Fellow senior Khristina Kanagy finished right on her heels, taking seventh place in 18:24.62.
Betel Yosef and freshman Courtney Russo also finished side by side, in 18th and 19th place, respectively. Yosef's time was 18:46.86, while Russo posted an 18:47.08.
Continuing the same pattern, Meredith Mistretta and Katie Russo then placed consecutively for the Lady Flames, in 25th and 26th place. Both of them ran cross country 5K personal-best times, with Mistretta finishing in 18:52.67 and the elder Russo sister in 18:52.99.
Sophomore Jacy Christiansen was Liberty's seventh runner on the day, taking 30th place with an 18:57.04 posting. According to head coach Brant Tolsma, it was the first time in recent history that seven Lady Flames have broken the 19-minute barrier in the same cross country 5K race.
Liberty will return to action in two weeks, at the Sept. 28 Notre Dame Invitational. The first race of the day will begin at 2 p.m. at the Notre Dame Golf Course in Notre Dame, Ind.
This will mark the Flames' first appearance at the Notre Dame Invitational since Sept. 28, 2007. That day, current Liberty assistant coaches Josh McDougal and Rebekah Ricksecker both competed, with McDougal winning the men's blue race title.