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Liberty Men's XC Tabbed as Big South Favorite

August 20, 2014  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty men's cross country team captured its ninth straight Big South title in 2013 and is favored to make it 10 in 2014.

The Liberty men's cross country team captured its ninth straight Big South title in 2013 and is favored to make it 10 in 2014.

The nine-time defending Big South champion Liberty men's cross country team is favored to extend its conference championship streak in 2014, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's Flames received seven of the 11 first-place votes and 116 total points, making them a slim favorite over perennial rival High Point. The Panthers, who have recorded seven straight Big South runner-up finishes, notched three first-place nods and 113 points.

The narrow spread between Liberty and High Point mimics the tight battle between the two teams at the 2013 Big South Men's Cross Country Championship. That day, the Flames retained the conference title with a hard-fought eight-point (40-48) victory over the Panthers. Liberty's run of nine consecutive Big South men's cross country championships is the longest in conference history and the third longest active streak in NCAA Division I men's cross country.

This year's preseason poll also saw a tight battle for third place, with Coastal Carolina edging Campbell, 93 points to 92. This was despite the Camels earning the remaining first-place vote.

UNC Asheville (fifth place, 70 points), Winthrop (sixth place, 64 points), Radford (seventh place, 53 points), Longwood (eighth place, 51 points), 2014 Big South Championship host Gardner-Webb (ninth place, 31 points), Charleston Southern (10th place, 22 points) and Presbyterian (11th place, 17 points) close out the poll.

Liberty returns four runners who placed in the top 13 at the 2013 Big South Men's Cross Country Championship, including junior Jeremie Bourget (third place), redshirt senior Josh MacDonald (fourth), junior Sam Hibbs (ninth) and redshirt senior Jarred Cornfield (13th). Additionally, redshirt sophomore Will Templeton finished seventh at the 2012 Big South meet before sitting out the 2013 campaign.

The Flames will begin the 2014 season on Aug. 29 at the UVa Duals. The meet is slated for a 4:30 p.m. start at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va. The 2014 Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships will be contested on Gardner-Webb's campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 1.

2014 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (7 first-place votes) – 116 points

2) High Point (3) – 113
3) Coastal Carolina – 93
4) Campbell (1) – 92
5) UNC Asheville – 70
6) Winthrop – 64
7) Radford – 53
8) Longwood – 51
9) Gardner-Webb – 31
10) Charleston Southern – 22
11) Presbyterian – 17