Liberty senior All-American Azaria Kirwa has been named 2018 ASUN Men's Cross Country Preseason Runner of the Year. Meanwhile, the Liberty men's squad was selected third in the ASUN preseason poll, while the Lady Flames were tabbed for second place in the women's poll, as voted upon by the conference's head coaches.
Liberty is expected to be part of a three-way battle for the ASUN men's team title, as the Flames picked up a pair of first-place votes and 69 total points. Defending champion Lipscomb (four first-place votes) and 2016 champion North Florida (three first-place votes) were voted preseason co-favorites with 73 points apiece.
Kirwa is one of the Flames' three returning all-conference performers, along with redshirt junior James Zentmeyer and sophomore Augostine Lisoreng.
The ASUN women's race could also shape up as a three-way competition between preseason favorite Lipscomb (six first-place votes, 78 points), the Lady Flames (three first-place votes, 71 points) and North Florida (63 points). Lipscomb had won six straight ASUN titles before North Florida captured the 2017 conference crown.
Lady Flames senior Kammi Kurtz and redshirt junior Anna Van Wyk have both earned cross country all-conference honors during their respective careers.
Meanwhile, sophomore Noel Palmer is coming off an impressive freshman track season which included times of 16:28.13 for the 5K and 34:41.02 for the 10K. Palmer finished 18th in the women's 10K at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, two spots in front of the 2018 ASUN Women's Cross Country Preseason Runner of the Year, Lipscomb's Courtney Brenner.
The Flames and Lady Flames will open the 2018 season at Friday's Virginia Tech Invitational. The meet will take place at the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course in Blacksburg, Va., with the women's 4K scheduled for 6 p.m. and the men's 6K to follow at 6:30.
Liberty's inaugural appearance at the ASUN Cross Country Championships will be contested Oct. 26 at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y. The women's 5K is slated for 11 a.m., while the men's 8K will begin at noon.
2018 ASUN Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll 1T) Lipscomb (4 first-place votes) – 73 points T) North Florida (3) – 73 3) Liberty (2) – 69 4) FGCU – 54 5) Kennesaw State – 43 6) Stetson – 35 7) NJIT – 27 8) North Alabama – 22 9) Jacksonville – 9
2018 ASUN Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll 1) Lipscomb (6 first-place votes) – 78 points 2) Liberty (3) – 71 3) North Florida – 63 4) Jacksonville – 54 5) Kennesaw State – 45 6) FGCU – 37 7T) North Alabama – 24 7T) Stetson – 24 9) NJIT – 9
2018 ASUN Men's Preseason Runner of the Year Azaria Kirwa, Liberty
2018 ASUN Women's Preseason Runner of the Year Courtney Brenner, Lipscomb