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Liberty Men's XC Goes 1-2-3-4 at Royal Challenge
The Liberty quartet of David Ricksecker, Caleb Edmonds, Ngetich Kipchirchir and Jeremie Bourget swept the first four places in the men's 8K race at Friday's Royal Cross Country Challenge. As a result, the Flames rolled to an impressive victory in the men's team standings with just 19 points.
Meanwhile, sophomore Meredith Mistretta's 11th-place effort led a short-handed Lady Flames squad to fourth place in the women's 5K on a sunny afternoon at McAlpine Park. The same venue will play host to the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships on Nov. 9.
Liberty's top seven men's runners all notched 8K personal-best times in their final tuneup for the Oct. 27 Big South Cross Country Championships. The Flames' team score of 19 points was their lowest score since posting a perfect 15 points to win the Hagan Stone Park Classic title on Oct. 3, 2009. Liberty finished 61 points ahead of second-place Western Carolina in a field of 21 men's teams.
Running without senior standouts Jennifer Klugh and Khristina Kanagy, the Lady Flames saw their top nine runners all equal or improve upon their fastest collegiate 5K clockings. Six of them ran faster than 18:25, helping Liberty finish fourth of 25 teams with 89 points.
The top eight women's squads were all Southeast Region members, paced by Duke's winning score of 56. Davidson followed in the runner-up position with 69 tallies.
Men's 8K Race Recap
Ricksecker, a redshirt senior, covered the flat 8K course in a personal-best time of 24:07.6 to record the first individual victory of his collegiate cross country career. It was the first individual title by a Liberty men's runner since Zac Edwards won the men's 8K crown at the 2011 Big South Cross Country Championships.
Junior Edmonds and redshirt freshman Kipchirchir finished side-by-side in personal-best times of 24:08.4 and 24:08.5, respectively. Bourget then edged Elon's Luis Vargas for fourth place, cutting his 8K best time by 40 seconds to 24:15.7.
Will Templeton was the third freshman to finish the men's race, trailing only teammates Kipchirchir and Bourget. His personal-best 24:39.9 effort netted 10th place among the 189 men's finishers.
Redshirt sophomore Nate Jones and freshman Sam Hibbs closed out Liberty's top seven, coming in 16th and 17th, respectively. Jones shaved nearly a full minute off of his previous 8K best, stopping the clock in 25:10.9. Meanwhile, Hibbs' 25:18.4 effort was 46 seconds faster than his best 8K time entering Friday's race.
Women's 5K Race Recap
Mistretta continued her breakthrough sophomore campaign, trimming 13 more seconds off of her cross country 5K personal-best time. Her time of 18:04.03 placed her 11th out of 217 total women's finishers.
Five of Mistretta's teammates crossed the finish line within the next 21 seconds, paced by fellow sophomore and New Hampshire native Jacy Christiansen. She came in 17th, with a personal-best time of 18:12.94. Senior Betel Yosef tied her fastest-ever 5K effort, posting an 18:15.48 for the 20th position.
Liberty's next three runners came in consecutively in 27th, 28th and 29th place, with sisters Katie and Courtney Russo sandwiching junior Jessica Gass. Katie Russo's time was 18:23.37, followed by Gass in 18:24.54 and Courtney Russo in 18:24.98.
Gass made the team's most notable improvement upon her collegiate-best 5K clocking on Friday, lopping 59 seconds off of her previous best, 19:23. Meanwhile, Courtney Russo was the sixth-fastest freshman in the women's 5K race.
Sophomore Caroline Parris nearly made it seven Liberty runners under the 19:00 barrier on the day. She trimmed 36 seconds off of her fastest collegiate 5K time, clocking 19:04.24 for the 60th position.
Senior Lyndi Fielitz (82nd place, 19:32.14) and sophomore Mary Cate Cooper (87th place, 19:38.73) continued the parade of personal-best efforts for the Lady Flames.
Liberty will return to the Charlotte area for its next race, the Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships on Oct. 27. Winthrop will host the event at the Winthrop Coliseum and Farm in Rock Hill, S.C.
The women's 5K championship will get the day started at 10:30 a.m., as the Lady Flames attempt to win their fifth Big South title in the last seven years. The Liberty men's team will then shoot for an unprecedented eighth consecutive Big South championship, in the men's 8K race at 11:30.