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Liberty Part of Strong Field at Notre Dame
List of Participating Teams
Notre Dame Weather
The Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will face their stiffest challenge so far this season at Friday's 57th annual Notre Dame Invitational. The prestigious meet at the Notre Dame Cross Country Course will feature 11 nationally-ranked men's teams and five nationally-ranked women's squads.
Making their first appearance at the Notre Dame Invitational since 2007, the Flames and Lady Flames will compete in the day's final two races. Liberty is slated for the women's 5K blue race at 4:15 p.m. and the men's five-mile blue race at 5 p.m.
The weather is expected to be quite pleasant at Notre Dame on Friday. The forecast calls for sunny skies, a high temperature in the upper 60s and a light breeze. This is in contrast with the windy, cool, muddy conditions runners battled at the 2011 Notre Dame Invitational.
Scouting the Competition
As mentioned above, the Flames and Lady Flames will square off against a bevy of nationally-ranked opponents on Friday. No. 2 Florida State headlines the women's field, while No. 10 Florida State, No. 11 N.C. State and No. 14 Texas A&M are all entered in the men's race.
The Notre Dame Invitational is traditionally an important meet for teams hoping to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Last season, 11 of the top 13 men's squads and eight of the top 12 women's teams at this invitational went on to reach the national meet at season's end.
Checking Out the Course
The primarily flat Notre Dame Cross Country Course makes numerous loops around the nine-hole golf course at the southwest corner of Notre Dame's campus. Friday's meet will be the second hosted on the course this fall, after Notre Dame was the site of the National Catholic Championship on Sept. 14.
Last Time at Notre Dame
Liberty last competed in the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 28, 2007. That day, the Flames tied Illinois for ninth place in the men's five-mile blue race while the Lady Flames took runner-up honors in the women's 5K gold race.
Current assistant coaches Josh McDougal and Rebekah Ricksecker were both in action at that meet. McDougal opened his memorable senior season with a seven-second victory over Notre Dame's Patrick Smyth, clocking a time of 23:37. Ricksecker, then a junior, served as the No. 4 runner for the Lady Flames. She finished 47th overall in 18:46.
Strength in Numbers
The Liberty women's cross country team executed its race plan to perfection at the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational on Sept. 15. The top eight Lady Flames ran together in a pack for the first 3K of the race, before moving up steadily during the final 2K.
In the end, seven Liberty women's runners ended up finishing inside the top 30, with all seven Lady Flames breaking the 19:00 barrier for the 5K distance. It is the first time in recent history that Liberty has seen seven women's runners dip under 19:00 in the same race. Liberty ended up in second place in the 31-team field, finishing 98 points ahead of its nearest Big South Conference rival, Coastal Carolina.
The Lady Flames will hope to put seven runners under 19:00 once again on Friday. At the 2007 Notre Dame Invitational, Liberty's top six finishers were able to cross the line before the clock ticked 19:00.
With veterans Caleb Edmonds, Zac Edwards and David Ricksecker sitting out at the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational, Liberty's talented men's freshman class had an opportunity to shine. The Flames finished third out of 27 teams, with freshmen serving as four of the squad's top five runners on the day.
The first three Big South men's runners to cross the finish line in the race were Liberty freshmen, as Ngetich Kipchirchir took fifth place, Jeremie Bourget was ninth and Will Templeton came in 13th overall.
Returning to the Hoosier State
Friday's race will mark Liberty's first cross country meet in Indiana since Nov. 22, 2010. On that day, Sam Chelanga closed out his collegiate cross country career in grand fashion, winning his second straight national title at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
Liberty had at least one cross country race in Indiana every year from 2004 to 2010 before staying away from the Hoosier State in 2011. All three of the Flames' NCAA men's individual cross country titles (Josh McDougal in 2007 and Sam Chelanga in 2009 and 2010) came in Terre Haute, Ind.
Upsetting the National Rankings
With so many nationally-ranked teams competing at Notre Dame on Friday, the Flames and Lady Flames will each have an opportunity to try to defeat some of them. The last Liberty cross country team to defeat a nationally-ranked opponent was the 2010 men's squad.
That year, the Flames finished ahead of No. 21 Tulsa and No. 25 Minnesota at Pre-Nationals. Liberty also took down No. 18 North Carolina at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.
Scouting the Southeast
Liberty will have an opportunity to see how it stacks up against some of the best teams in the Southeast Region on Friday. In the women's race, the Lady Flames will face regional No. 1 N.C. State and No. 2 North Carolina. Liberty enters the meet at No. 15 regionally.
On the men's side, No. 1 N.C. State, No. 2 Eastern Kentucky and No. 8 North Carolina will all challenge the Flames, who are currently listed at No. 13 in the Southeast Region.