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Kurgat Set for Saturday's NCAA XC Championship

November 19, 2015  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Ednah Kurgat will become the first Lady Flames freshman ever to represent Liberty at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, Saturday afternoon in Louisville, Ky.

For the second time in NCAA history, the meet will be contested at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, with the women's 6K championship race beginning at noon.

How to Keep Up with Kurgat
Saturday's action will be video streamed on NCAA.com, free of charge.

Live results will also be available, courtesy of PrimeTime Timing.

Weather Report
Weather conditions in Louisville are expected to be less than ideal on Saturday, with a temperature around 50 degrees, a 20-30 MPH wind out of the southwest and an 80 percent chance of rain.

Checking Out the Course
The course at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park will play host to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the second time on Saturday, after previously hosting the 2012 NCAA meet. The NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships are also slated to return to Louisville in 2017.

Jennifer Klugh represented the Lady Flames at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Louisville, placing 93rd overall in a 6K time of 20:44.7.

Kurgat performed well during her only previous visit to E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, placing second in the Pre-Nationals women's black race on Oct. 17. Her 6K time of 20:22.0 broke Klugh's Liberty record.

How She Got Here
Kurgat punched her ticket to Louisville by placing second overall at the 2015 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Nov. 13 in Earlysville, Va. Her 6K time of 20:28.3 helped her record the best finish ever by a Lady Flame at the regional meet.

Kurgat is one of five women's individual runners who advanced from Earlysville to Louisville, along with Coastal Carolina's Letitia Saayman, Furman's Allie Buchalski, Wake Forest's Samantha Jones and William & Mary's Regan Rome.

National Debut
Saturday's race will mark Kurgat's first-ever appearance in an NCAA national championship event.

Kurgat ran the 10K at the 2015 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet on the track, but placed 32nd and failed to qualify for Eugene.

In Good Company
Kurgat is the third Lady Flame ever to advance to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, joining Heather Sagan (2000 and 2001) and Jennifer Klugh (2012), but the first to do so as a freshman.

Sagan (14 titles) and Klugh (10 titles) combined to win 24 Big South cross country and track & field individual championships during their collegiate careers, while Sagan was the 2002 NCAA Division I national champion in the indoor women's mile.

What to Watch For
The top 40 finishers in Saturday's women's race will become All-Americans. Kurgat is aiming to become the Lady Flames' first NCAA Division I All-American in women's cross country.

Heather Sagan posted the highest finish by a Lady Flame in NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships history, crossing the line in 59th place in 2000.

Kurgat will also take aim at her own Liberty women's cross country 6K record of 20:22.0, set during her last visit to Louisville, Oct. 17 in the Pre-Nationals black race.

Fabulous Freshman
Kurgat's participation in Saturday's race will wrap up an extremely successful first year at Liberty for the native of Eldoret, Kenya.

Kurgat, who enrolled at Liberty in January, was named Big South Freshman of the Year for women's indoor track & field, outdoor track & field and cross country.

She captured the 2015 Big South indoor women's 3K title and has earned five total All-Big South honors already in her career.

Kurgat has also set three Liberty records, including the indoor 5K (16:28.29), cross country 5K (17:11.1) and cross country 6K (20:22.0).

Fabulous Freshman, Part 2
Kurgat is one of only four freshman women who placed in the top two at one of the nine NCAA Division I regional meets on Nov. 13, joining West Region champion Allie Ostrander of Boise State, Great Lakes Region runner-up Anna Roher of Notre Dame and South Region runner-up Caroline Pietrzyk of Vanderbilt.

Kurgat is also one of just six freshman women who advanced to Louisville as individuals this season, along with Wisconsin's Shaelyn Sorensen, Montana's Makena Morley, Auburn's Brenda Kigen, Eastern Washington's Sarah Reiter and UCLA's Carolina Johnson.

Familiar Foe
Kurgat will be joined by a familiar face on the starting line in Louisville, Coastal Carolina senior Letitia Saayman. Saturday will mark the ninth head-to-head matchup between Kurgat and Saayman, who is making her second straight appearance at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Saayman is 6-2 all-time against Kurgat and has been the only runner to defeat Kurgat at each of her last two meets (Big South Cross Country Championships and NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships).

Kurgat defeated the South African standout once during the indoor track & field season and once in outdoor track but is seeking her first victory over Saayman in cross country.

Rewriting the Record Books
Kurgat has wasted little time rewriting the Liberty women's cross country record books, breaking both the 5K and 6K records this fall. Below is a chart of the top five Liberty women's 5K and 6K performances, entering Saturday's race.

5K
1) 17:11.1 – Ednah Kurgat, 2015 Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational
2) 17:12.97 – Ednah Kurgat, 2015 Big South Championship

3) 17:18.72 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 Big South Championship
4) 17:28.29 – Jennifer Klugh, 2011 Charlotte Invitational
5) 17:29 – Jennifer Klugh, 2011 Big South Championship

6K
1) 20:22.0 – Ednah Kurgat, 2015 Pre-Nationals
2) 20:28.3 – Ednah Kurgat, 2015 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship

3) 20:35.78 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship
4) 20:44.7 – Jennifer Klugh, 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship
5) 20:55.5 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship