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Kirwa Leads Flames to 6th Place at Paul Short

September 29, 2017  Bethlehem, Pa.  RSS
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Azaria Kirwa was the individual runner-up in Friday's Paul Short Run men's 8K gold race.

Azaria Kirwa was the individual runner-up in Friday's Paul Short Run men's 8K gold race.

Liberty junior Azaria Kirwa posted an impressive runner-up finish in the men's 8K gold race, Friday at the 44th Paul Short Run. His effort helped the Liberty men's squad place sixth overall at the Goodman Campus Cross Country Course, marking the Flames' best team finish in meet history. Meanwhile, freshman Noel Palmer's fourth-place finish led the Lady Flames to fourth in the Division I section of the women's 6K brown race.

One of 20 regionally ranked squads competing in the men's 8K gold race, Liberty placed sixth of 40 teams with 279 points. The Flames' previous best team showing at this meet was eighth place in 2010, the last year Liberty raced in Bethlehem. Up front, Utah State upset No. 17 Georgetown for the men's team title, 119-167.

Kirwa's personal-best 8K time of 23:31 is the sixth-fastest clocking in meet history. Incidentally, Liberty's Sam Chelanga owns the meet record with his winning time of 23:05 from the 2008 Paul Short Run.

The Lady Flames totaled 149 points for fourth out of 24 squads in the women's 6K brown (unseeded) race. Columbia won the race with 79 points, followed by Saint Francis (Pa.) with 105.

Men's 8K Gold Race Recap
Liberty men's runners had claimed the individual title each of the last three times the Flames raced in the Paul Short Run, including Josh McDougal's victory in 2004 and Chelanga's crowns in 2008 and 2010.

Kirwa went out aggressively in his bid for first place, clocking 4:37 for the first mile. He stayed near the front throughout the race and trailed only Utah State senior Dillon Maggard (23:27) across the finish line. Maggard placed 12th at the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Kirwa, who entered the meet with an 8K personal best of 24:15, gives the Flames three of the top seven times in meet history. As previously mentioned, Chelanga tops the list at 23:05. The new Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer also ranks No. 7 with his 2010 winning time of 23:34.

Behind Kirwa, Liberty showcased its team strength and depth, as five Flames clocked times of 25:00 or faster and seven runners broke 25:30.

Redshirt sophomore Nick Doan finished 39th of 359 competitors with his personal-best 24:16 clocking. Fellow transfer Samuel Proctor also achieved an 8K personal best (24:25), while placing 47th.

Redshirt sophomore James Zentmeyer broke through the 25:00 barrier in a big way, posting a time of 24:31 for 65th place. He was one of the biggest movers on the day, working his way up from 188th place at the mile split.

Liberty's next two finishers were freshmen, including Augostine Lisoreng (127th place, 25:00) and Benjamin Klemmeck (146th, 25:07).

Redshirt junior Louis Paone served as the Flames' No. 7 runner, lopping his 8K personal best from 26:00 to 25:16 for the 174th position.

Freshman Felix Kandie (181st, 25:20) and redshirt senior Colin Schultz (294th, 26:06) also raced for the Flames on a picture-perfect Friday morning.

Women's 6K Brown Race Recap
Palmer continued a strong start to her collegiate career, finishing fourth among 198 Division I runners in the women's 6K brown race and clocking 21:25 in her 6K debut. By way of comparison, current Liberty assistant Rebekah Ricksecker was the lone Lady Flame to dip under 22 minutes at the 2008 Paul Short Run, running a 21:50 as a senior.

Junior Kammi Kurtz came in 19th at 22:08, slicing 50 seconds from her previous 6K best.

After residing in 138th place at the mile mark, sophomore Brooke Turner made it all the way up to the 28th spot by the finish. Last season, Turner's top 6K time was 23:46. Her first try at the distance in 2017 clocked 22:20.

Redshirt senior Alyssa Karle trimmed nearly a minute off of her 6K personal best herself, going from 23:32 to 22:33 on her way to 41st place.

Freshman Mary Kate McElroy closed out the Lady Flames' five scorers, finishing in 22:52 for 57th place.

Liberty's next two finishers were both competing in their home state on Friday, including freshman Lauren Hirneisen (76th, 23:09) and sophomore Gabriella Delbo (87th, personal-best 23:23).  

Redshirt sophomore Torree Scull (102nd, 23:42), sophomore Kelly Shaffer (106th, 23:46) and redshirt sophomore Victoria Clinton (123rd, personal-best 24:06) wrapped up the Lady Flames' competitors.

Next Up
After a weekend off from competition, Liberty will be challenged once again on Oct. 14, as the Flames and Lady Flames race against some of the nation's top teams at Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Ky.

The meet will be held at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, site of the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The day's first of four races begins at 10 a.m.