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Klugh Places 6th in NCAA Southeast Region
Liberty redshirt senior Jennifer Klugh placed an impressive sixth in the women's 6K race, highlighting the Lady Flames' performance at Friday afternoon's NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships at McAlpine Creek Park. In the process, she shattered her own school record with a 20:35.78 clocking and likely qualified for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Klugh's performance helped the Liberty women's squad finish 15th out of 37 teams and first among Big South Conference entrants with a score of 414 points. The Lady Flames, who improved from a 22nd-place regional finish in 2011, have now placed inside the top 15 at this meet six times in the last eight years. Up front, Duke (81 points) and William & Mary (123 points) captured the two automatic qualifying spots for the national meet.
Meanwhile, Big South Freshman of the Year Ngetich Kipchirchir placed 26th in the men's 10K race, leading the Flames to a seventh place finish out of 34 men's squads. Liberty totaled 257 points for its highest regional finish since coming in fifth at the 2008 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships and the Flames' seventh top-10 regional effort in eight years. Virginia (64 points) and Eastern Kentucky (75 points) took the Southeast Region's two automatic qualifying berths for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Women's 6K Race Recap
Klugh's sixth-place finish in the field of 255 women's runners equals the highest placement ever by a Lady Flame at the NCAA Division I regional meet. Heather Sagan came in sixth as a senior at the 2001 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships, qualifying for the national meet. Now a three-time all-region performer, Klugh will find out if she has advanced to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships sometime on Saturday.
Additionally, Klugh's 20:35.78 effort was 20 seconds faster than her own previous women's cross country 6K record of 20:55.5, which was set at the 2010 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky. Behind Klugh, the next five Lady Flames also set cross country 6K personal-best times, while freshman Courtney Russo was making her 6K debut.
Senior Khristina Kanagy closed out her collegiate cross country career with a strong race, placing 61st overall and fourth among Big South runners. Her 6K time of 21:56.23 was a 27-second improvement upon her previous personal best.
Sophomore Meredith Mistretta fared significantly better on Friday than she had at the 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. She came in 115th with a time of 22:34.78 in Charlotte. That is 99 places better and 1:45 faster than the New Hampshire native's regional performance from last season.
Sophomore Jacy Christiansen and senior Betel Yosef both crossed the finish line within seven seconds of Mistretta. Christiansen was the 118th finisher, in a personal-best 22:37.85 clocking, while Yosef was 125th in a personal-best 22:41.66.
Junior Jessica Gass made a solid regional meet debut, placing 143rd with a personal-best time of 22:56.72. Russo served as Liberty's No. 7 runner on the day, stopping the clock in 23:52.14 for 198th place.
Men's 10K Race Recap
Kipchirchir missed out on all-region honors by 1.22 seconds with his 26th-place effort. However, his 30:48.17 time on the flat 10K course made him the third-fastest freshman at the meet and the top finisher among Big South Conference runners.
Junior Caleb Edmonds improved by 43 seconds and 27 places from the 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The Empire State native's official time on Friday was a personal-best 31:06.62, netting 38th place out of 227 men's runners.
Redshirt senior David Ricksecker placed inside the top 60 at the regional meet for the third time in his career, with a 48th-place showing. His time of 31:17.71 established a new personal best.
Jeremie Bourget bounced back from an off day at the Big South Championship to place a strong 52nd on Friday. He was the race's seventh-fastest freshman with his 31:20.99 clocking.
Will Templeton made it three freshmen among Liberty's top five men's finishers, coming in 94th overall in a time of 32:18.69.
Redshirt sophomore Nate Jones ran more than a minute faster than he did at the 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, covering the 10K distance in 32:25.36. As a result, he served as Liberty's No. 6 runner and the No. 100 men's finisher overall.
Junior Zach Barker also sliced more than a minute off of his 2011 regional performance on Friday. He ended up in 158th place, posting a time of 33:38.13.
The 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will be contested on Nov. 17, at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. The women's 6K championship will begin at noon, followed by the men's 10K at 1:15 p.m. The official list of team and individual qualifiers will be announced on Saturday.