Thanks to impressive performances at Friday's Paul Short Run, Liberty junior Azaria Kirwa has been named Co-Big South Men's Cross Country Runner of the Week and Lady Flames freshman Noel Palmer has been tabbed Big South Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week.
Kirwa, a native of Eldoret, Kenya, shared his award with Charleston Southern's Fearghal Curtin. Kirwa is Liberty's first Big South Runner of the Week since Sept. 9, 2015, when he captured the same honor after his Liberty cross country debut. Palmer becomes the Lady Flames' first Big South Runner of the Week since Jacy Christiansen on Sept. 30, 2014.
Kirwa placed second of 359 runners in the men's 8K gold race, trailing only Utah State All-American Dillon Maggard, who was named the USTFCCCA Division I National Athlete of the Week on Monday.
Kirwa's 8K time of 23:31 shattered his previous best of 24:15 and ranks No. 6 all-time in the meet's 44-year history. Liberty runners now own three of the top seven 8K times ever posted at the Paul Short Run, topped by Sam Chelanga's course-record 23:05 clocking in 2008.
Only two Liberty runners have ever clocked a faster 8K than Kirwa did on Friday in Bethlehem, Pa. Both of them (Sam Chelanga – 22:51.3 and Josh McDougal – 22:56.4) went on to win NCAA Division I cross country national titles.
Kirwa's effort helped the Liberty men's team place sixth of 40 squads, marking the Flames' best team showing in meet history. As a result, Liberty retained its No. 10 ranking in the Southeast Region this week.
Palmer, who hails from Forest, Va., fared well in her first career 6K race on Friday. She finished fourth among 198 Division I runners in the women's 6K brown race with a time of 21:25.
Palmer now ranks No. 7 on Liberty's all-time 6K list, trailing only Ednah Kurgat (20:06.7), Jennifer Klugh (20:35.78), Piper Newby (21:07.70), Dacia Bushman (21:17), Christiansen (21:19) and assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker (21:24.6). Kurgat is the only Lady Flame who has ever posted a faster 6K time as a freshman.
The Lady Flames came in fourth of 24 NCAA Division I squads in the women's 6K brown race.
Liberty will take this weekend off from competition before returning to action at Pre-Nationals on Oct. 14. The meet will be contested at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., site of the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The men's red seeded 8K, the first of the day's four races, will begin at 10 a.m.