Josh MacDonald (far left) placed ninth at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational, helping the Flames finish sixth as a team.
Liberty redshirt junior Josh MacDonald posted an impressive ninth-place finish at Saturday morning's Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational, leading the Flames to sixth place in the team competition. Meanwhile, junior Jacy Christiansen came in 30th in the women's race, helping the Lady Flames place 12th overall. The Liberty men's squad justified its No. 8 ranking in the Southeast Region with its performance in the 8K race. The Flames totaled 141 points, placing sixth among 13 teams, including 11 regionally ranked squads. For the second straight week, Liberty recorded a victory over Big South foe High Point, which placed 10th with 239 markers. North Carolina surprisingly claimed the men's team title with 58 points, finishing ahead of national No. 11 Eastern Kentucky (second place, 76 points) and No. 16 Virginia (third place, 101 points). The meet served as something of a preview of the Nov. 15 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, which will also be contested at Panorama Farms. Nine of the 15 men's teams ranked in the Southeast Region competed in Saturday's meet. The Lady Flames finished with a score of 346, coming in 12th of 14 teams, including 11 regionally ranked foes. For the second week in a row, Liberty edged Big South rival High Point, as the Panthers ended up 13th with 347 points, one more than the Lady Flames' total. As in the men's race, the women's 5K saw a bit of a surprise atop the standings. Host Virginia took home the women's team championship trophy with 42 points, scoring 25 points fewer than the runner-up, national No. 14 William & Mary.
Men's 8K Recap MacDonald moved up significantly throughout the race, finishing ninth after residing in 33rd place at the two-mile mark. The California native dipped under 24 minutes for the first time in his career, covering the undulating 8K course in 23:59.3. Senior Caleb Edmonds, the reigning Big South and ECAC Runner of the Week, came in 21st in the field of 102 participants. His official time was 24:12.6. Sophomore Jeremie Bourget (24:22.4, 28th place) and redshirt sophomore Ngetich Kipchirchir (24:27.1, 31st place) crossed the line less than five seconds apart. The Flames' fifth sub-25:00 performer on the day was sophomore Sam Hibbs. He clocked a personal-best time of 24:57.1 to earn a 53rd-place finish and close out Liberty's scorers. Zach Barker and Jarred Cornfield also recorded personal-best 8K times while finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, among the Flames' entrants on Saturday. Barker placed 56th in a time of 25:05.1, while Cornfield's first-ever sub-26:00 effort (25:30.4) was good for the 72nd position.
Women's 5K Recap Like MacDonald in the men's race, Christiansen closed the women's 5K in strong fashion, passing 13 runners between the two-mile mark and the finish line. She ended up in 30th place out of 117 competitors and broke the 18:00 barrier for the first time in a cross country 5K, at 17:58.2. Jessie Proehl continued her strong freshman season, serving as the Lady Flames' No. 2 runner on Saturday. The Buckeye State native came in 71st overall in a time of 18:46.6. Fellow freshman Chelsea Page was next for Liberty, clocking 19:12.5 for 82nd place. Veterans then closed out the Lady Flames' top five, including senior team captain Katie Russo's 93rd-place finish in 19:26.9. Junior Meredith Mistretta followed in 100th place, finishing in 19:37.1. Two more Liberty freshmen, Kat Bouton and Alexis Taylor, each broke 20 minutes and ran as part of the Lady Flames' top seven. Bouton's 19:38.8 effort netted 102nd place, while Taylor ended up 105th in 19:52.6.
Liberty will send a partial team to compete in the Royal Cross Country Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 11. Meanwhile, most of the top Flames and Lady Flames will not race again until Oct. 19, when they head to Terre Haute, Ind., for the ISU Pre-National Invitational.