(L-R): Alyssa Karle, Terrill Zentmeyer and Kat Bouton are three of the top returnees for the Big South preseason favorite women's cross country team.
The Liberty women's cross country team has been named the 2016 Big South Conference preseason favorite, while the men's squad was picked second in the conference by the league's head coaches.
Head Coach Brant Tolsma's Lady Flames were named a slight favorite over two-time defending Big South champion High Point, finishing No. 1 in the preseason poll for the first time since 2013. The two teams evenly split the 10 first-place votes, with Liberty's 95 total points edging the Panthers by a single tally.
Big South Cross Country Championships host UNC Asheville garnered 74 points for third place in the women's poll, followed by Campbell (fourth place, 69 points), Radford (fifth, 62) and Winthrop (sixth, 51).
Gardner-Webb (seventh, 39), Presbyterian (eighth, 27), Longwood (ninth, 25) and Charleston Southern (10th, 12) round out the women's listing.
On the men's side, reigning conference champion Campbell claimed nine of the 10 first-place votes and topped the poll with 99 points. The Flames received the remaining first-place vote, totaling 90 points for second place.
High Point (third place, 79 points), UNC Asheville (fourth, 67), Radford (fifth, 60) and Winthrop (sixth, 54) filled out the next four places in the men's poll. They were followed by Presbyterian (seventh, 34), Gardner-Webb (eighth, 31), Longwood (ninth, 24) and Charleston Southern (10th, 12).
The Lady Flames, who placed third at the 2015 Big South Cross Country Championships, will seek their first Big South title since 2012 and their ninth overall. They return five runners who placed inside the top 25 of last year's Big South meet, including sophomore Torree Scull (10th place), sophomore Anna Van Wyk (11th), redshirt junior Alyssa Karle (19th), senior Terrill Zentmeyer (20th) and senior Kat Bouton (25th). Additionally, senior Jessie Proehl was the ninth-place finisher at the 2013 Big South Championship.
The Liberty men's squad earned the runner-up trophy at last year's Big South meet, marking the Flames' 13th straight top-two finish at the event. Seven of Liberty's returnees finished among the top 22 runners at the 2015 Big South Cross Country Championships. They include sophomore Azaria Kirwa (fifth place), redshirt senior Josh Showalter (ninth), junior Cameron Francis (11th), sophomore James Zentmeyer (14th), redshirt sophomore Louis Paone (19th), redshirt junior Luke Jelen (20th) and junior Graham Hansel (22nd).
Liberty will open the 2016 season at the UVa Duals, Sept. 1 at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va. The meet, which is set for a 6 p.m. start, will pit the Flames against James Madison, Norfolk State and host Virginia.
The 2016 Big South Cross Country Championships will be hosted by UNC Asheville at Asheville Christian Academy in Swannanoa, N.C. The meet will take place on Oct. 28, with the first race slated to begin at 10:30 a.m.
2016 Big South Conference Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll 1) Liberty (5 first-place votes) – 95 points 2) High Point (5) – 94 3) UNC Asheville – 74 4) Campbell – 69 5) Radford – 62 6) Winthrop – 51 7) Gardner-Webb – 39 8) Presbyterian – 27 9) Longwood – 25 10) Charleston Southern – 12
2016 Big South Conference Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll 1) Campbell (9 first-place votes) – 99 points 2) Liberty (1) – 90 3) High Point – 79 4) UNC Asheville – 67 5) Radford – 60 6) Winthrop – 54 7) Presbyterian – 34 8) Gardner-Webb – 31 9) Longwood – 24 10) Charleston Southern – 12
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