The Liberty women's cross country team won its first Big South title since 2012 on Friday.
The Liberty women's cross country team raced to its first Big South title since 2012 and the men's squad was the runner-up at the 2016 Big South Cross Country Championships, on a sunny Friday morning at Asheville Christian Academy in Swannanoa, N.C.
Liberty Head Coach Brant Tolsma made a bit of history on the day, as the Lady Flames' victory marked the 100th conference championship of his 31-year coaching career with the Flames, 90 of which have come in the Big South.
Sophomore Anna Van Wyk was the runner-up in the women's 5K, leading a pack of eight Lady Flames who finished in front of High Point's fifth runner. As a result, Liberty edged the two-time defending champion Panthers, 38-45, for its ninth Big South women's cross country team championship. The Lady Flames' 38 points marked their lowest winning score at this meet since 2007, when a Liberty team, including current assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker, won with 36 points.
On the men's side, freshman Stanley Langat, sophomore Azaria Kirwa and redshirt senior Josh Showalter placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 8K. However, it was not enough to deny Campbell a second straight championship. The Camels defeated the Flames by six points, 31-37, in the tightest men's team finish at this meet since 1995. Liberty finished as the runner-up for the third straight year and has now posted 14 consecutive top-two Big South finishes.
Four Flames took home awards from the post-race awards ceremony, including Tolsma (Big South Women's Coach of the Year), Langat (Big South Men's Freshman of the Year), senior Kat Bouton (Big South Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Big South Women's All-Academic Team) and junior Graham Hansel (Big South Men's All-Academic Team).
Tolsma's honor was his 63rd Big South Coach of the Year award. Meanwhile, Langat became the Flames' fourth Big South Men's Freshman of the Year all-time and the first since Ngetich Kipchirchir in 2012. Bouton, who owns a 3.97 GPA in Teaching English as a Second Language, became the Lady Flames' first Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year since Jennifer Klugh in 2010.
Women's 5K Championship Recap Joan Maritim became Campbell's first-ever Big South women's cross country individual champion, clocking a 5K course-record time of 17:18.03. However, eight of the next 17 runners to cross the finish line were wearing Liberty singlets.
Van Wyk led the way for the Lady Flames with her runner-up finish, recording a personal-best time of 18:02.07. She earned All-Big South honors for the second straight year and gave the Lady Flames a top-three finisher at the Big South meet for the 12th consecutive season.
Senior Terrill Zentmeyer closed out her Big South cross country career with her first All-Big South honor. The team captain placed fifth in 18:51.78 after finishing 78th as a freshman in 2013 and then 20th each of the last two seasons.
Sophomore Kammi Kurtz was another Lady Flame to make a big jump forward from the 2015 Big South meet, going from 41st place a year ago to eighth on Friday. The Indiana native's time was 19:01.01.
One of three freshmen to finish in the top 10, Valerie Wierenga was the fourth and final Lady Flame to earn All-Big South accolades. Her time was 19:11.30.
Like Zentmeyer, Bray saved her best Big South cross country performance for last. She came in 13th in 19:23.16, improving upon her previous best conference showing of 29th place.
Freshman Kelly Shaffer and Bouton finished back-to-back in 15th and 16th place. Shaffer's time of 19:28.22 made her the fifth-fastest freshman on the day. Meanwhile, Bouton enjoyed her first-ever Big South top-20 finish.
Senior Jessie Proehl crossed the finish line in 19:33.37, putting her in 18th place, one spot and seven seconds in front of High Point's fifth scorer, Kylie Hennessey.
Men's 8K Championship Recap For the second straight year, Campbell's Amon Terer and Lawrence Kipkoech swept the top two spots in the men's 8K. However, Terer edged 2015 champion Kipkoech by one-tenth of a second, 24:48.16 to 24:48.26, as both Camels broke the course record.
Langat followed in 25:32.17 for third place, marking the best Big South finish by a Liberty freshman since Josh McDougal took the 2004 individual title as a freshman.
Kirwa posted a season-best 8K time of 25:33.89 for fourth place, improving by one spot from his fifth-place showing a year ago.
Showalter clocked 25:37.68 to claim his best-ever Big South finish, fifth. The redshirt senior became the 13th men's runner in program history to earn three or more All-Big South honors in cross country during his career.
Junior Cameron Francis picked up his second All-Big South award in as many years, coming in 12th in 26:19.79.
Redshirt junior Luke Jelen served as the Flames' No. 5 runner on the day, placing 13th with a time of 26:25.23. He moved up seven places from his 20th-place showing in 2015.
The Flames ended up with seven runners among the first 19 finishers, thanks also to redshirt senior Danny de Nijs (16th place, 26:34.71) and junior Graham Hansel (19th, 26:45.74). Friday's race marked Hansel's first top-20 showing in three Big South appearances.
Up Next On Friday, a group of Flames and Lady Flames will travel to Blacksburg, Va., to compete in the Hokie Open. Liberty's second meet at Virginia Tech this season will begin with a men's 6K at 4:30 p.m., followed by a women's 4K at 5:10.
Final Women's Team Scores 1) Liberty – 38 2) High Point – 45 3) Campbell – 73 4) Winthrop – 96 5) UNC Asheville – 110 6) Radford – 171 7) Presbyterian – 221 8) Gardner-Webb – 222 9) Charleston Southern – 260 10) Longwood – 273
Final Men's Team Scores 1) Campbell – 31 2) Liberty – 37 3) Radford – 87 4) High Point – 103 5) Winthrop – 131 6) UNC Asheville – 145 7) Gardner-Webb – 235 8) Longwood – 242 9) Presbyterian – 243 10) Charleston Southern - 246
Women's Runner of the Year Joan Maritim, Campbell
Men's Runner of the Year Amon Terer, Campbell
Women's Freshman of the Year Olivia Paxton, Winthrop
Men's Freshman of the Year Stanley Langat, Liberty
Women's Coach of the Year Brant Tolsma, Liberty
Men's Coach of the Year Michael Kelly, Campbell
Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Kat Bouton, Liberty
Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Keaton Poole, Gardner-Webb
Women's All-Academic Team Roshae Jackson, Campbell Madison Burkholder, Charleston Southern Gabrielle Cortese, Gardner-Webb Courtney Kerr, High Point Kat Bouton, Liberty Gracie Piekarski, Longwood Sarah Jennings, Presbyterian Courtney Rice, Radford Sarah Heisner, UNC Asheville Emily Sparrow, Winthrop
Men's All-Academic Team Chris Fludd-Clark, Charleston Southern Keaton Poole, Gardner-Webb Vinny Todaro, High Point Graham Hansel, Liberty Marc Mawyer, Longwood Chris Sacco, Presbyterian Ashenafi Kidanu, Radford Caleb Smith, UNC Asheville Blake White, Winthrop