Anna Van Wyk clocked the fastest 6K (21:43.0) by a Liberty sophomore in six years at Saturday's ISU Pre-National Invitational. (Photo by Jim Sullivan)
Liberty sophomore Anna Van Wyk placed 18th in the women's 6K white race at Saturday's ISU Pre-National Invitational, leading the Lady Flames to their best-ever team finish (19th place) in Pre-Nationals history. Meanwhile, the Liberty men's squad posted its second straight Pre-Nationals top-10 performance (ninth place in the men's 8K white race), at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
The Lady Flames finished with 410 points, placing 19th of 25 teams in the women's white (unseeded) race. The team's previous best Pre-Nationals placement was 20th in the 2015 black race. Oregon State won the women's white race by 17 points (114-131) over runner-up Wake Forest.
On the men's side, both freshman Stanley Langat and junior Cameron Francis placed inside the top 25 individually, helping the Flames claim ninth place out of 20 squads in the men's 8K white (unseeded) race. One year after winning the Pre-Nationals black race championship in Louisville, Ky., Liberty ended with 235 points, putting the Flames just 13 tallies behind fifth-place UMKC. Ohio-based squads finished 1-2-3 in the men's white race, including champion Ohio (132 points), runner-up Miami (Ohio) (159) and third-place Cincinnati (178).
Women's 6K White Race Recap Van Wyk, who had missed the Lady Flames' last meet (Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic) due to illness, made an impressive return to competition. The Minnesota native's 6K time of 21:43.0 slashed 19 seconds off of her previous best.
Van Wyk also clocked the fastest 6K by a Liberty sophomore since Nov. 13, 2010. That day, Jennifer Klugh ran a then school-record time of 20:55.5 at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships in Louisville, Ky.
Behind Van Wyk, Terrill Zentmeyer continued her strong senior season. The Floridian placed 70th of 167 runners with a personal-best 22:38.5 effort.
Running in her home state of Indiana for the first time in her collegiate career, sophomore Kammi Kurtz came in 90th in 22:58.3. The effort improved upon her previous 6K best by 19 seconds.
Seniors served as Liberty's No. 4 and 5 runners on Saturday, including Kat Bouton (96th, season-best 23:02.5) and Lindsey Bray (141st, 23:48.4).
Meanwhile, freshmen Valerie Wierenga (146th, 24:02.9) and Kelly Shaffer (152nd, 24:10.8) closed out the Lady Flames' top seven.
Men's 8K White Race Recap Langat was Liberty's No. 1 men's runner for the second straight race, crossing the line 24th out of 134 in 25:27.2. The native of Molo, Kenya was the second-fastest freshman in Saturday's race.
Just 1.1 seconds later, Francis was the next runner to finish, ending up 25th in 25:28.3.
The only one of Liberty's seven men's competitors with previous experience racing in Terre Haute, senior Josh Showalter posted a 37th-place finish with a time of 25:48.6.
The Flames' final four finishers were separated by only 15.6 seconds, paced by redshirt junior Luke Jelen in 72nd place (26:23.5).
Jelen was followed shortly thereafter by the trio of sophomore Azaria Kirwa (82nd, 26:31.8), sophomore Jack Tidball (88th, 26:38.6) and redshirt senior Danny de Nijs (89th, 26:39.1).
Up Next Liberty will be back in action on Oct. 28, when the Flames and Lady Flames travel to Swannanoa, N.C., for the 2016 Big South Cross Country Championships. The women's 5K will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the men's 8K will start at 11:30, with both races being contested at Asheville Christian Academy.
The Lady Flames will be in search of their first Big South title since 2012, while the Flames will shoot for their first conference crown since 2013.