(L-R): Nick Doan, Noel Palmer, Kammi Kurtz, James Zentmeyer, Anna Van Wyk, Azaria Kirwa
Meet Information Course Information Liberty Track & Field/Cross Country Twitter (@Liberty_XCTF) Blacksburg Weather Liberty will begin its 2018 men's and women's cross country season on Friday, traveling to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Invitational.
The seven-team competition will get started with the women's 4K at 6 p.m. and conclude with the men's 6K at 6:30. Both races will be contested at Virginia Tech's on-campus Buford Meredith Cross Country Course.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames Periodic race updates will be posted to the Liberty Track & Field/Cross Country Twitter account, @Liberty_XCTF, Friday evening.
Weather Report Friday's high temperature in Blacksburg is expected to reach the low 80s, with a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast throughout the day.
Checking Out the Course This is the 12th consecutive year that Liberty has competed in at least one event at the mostly flat Buford Meredith Cross Country Course.
Liberty is opening its season in Blacksburg for the first time since 2012. That year, the Flames and Lady Flames competed in the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational on Aug. 31, 2012.
Liberty is scheduled to return to the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course on Nov. 2 for the Hokie Open.
Only three Liberty runners slated to compete on Friday have ever raced at Virginia Tech's course previously, including Lady Flames Gabriella Delbo (three times) and Kammi Kurtz (twice) and Flame Azaria Kirwa (once).
Scoping Out the Competition Friday's meet will feature a strong Commonwealth flavor, including a trio of Liberty's past Big South rivals in Longwood, Radford and VMI.
Host Virginia Tech's women's squad is ranked No. 3 in the preseason Southeast Region rankings, while the Hokies' men's team checks in at No. 6 in the Southeast Region, one spot ahead of Liberty.
Great Expectations Entering its first season of ASUN Conference competition, the Liberty women's squad was picked as the conference runner-up, while the Flames were tabbed third in the men's preseason poll.
Liberty senior All-American Azaria Kirwa, coming off a 25th-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, was named ASUN Men's Cross Country Preseason Runner of the Year.
The Liberty men's squad is also ranked No. 7 in the preseason USTFCCCA Southeast Region rankings. Last season, the Flames placed seventh at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, marking the team's best regional placement since 2012.
Familiar Face in a New Place Rebekah Ricksecker will serve as interim head coach for the Liberty men's and women's cross country squads in 2018.
After initially joining the Liberty coaching staff as a volunteer assistant for cross country in 2011, Ricksecker is now beginning her seventh year as a full-time track & field and cross country coach for the Flames.
Ricksecker also competed in track & field and cross country at Liberty from 2005-10. She finished her career as a five-time Big South individual event champion and a 13-time all-conference performer.
Welcome Back Liberty returns five all-conference cross country runners, including men's competitors Azaria Kirwa, James Zentmeyer and Augostine Lisoreng and the Lady Flames' duo of Kammi Kurtz and Anna Van Wyk. All but Van Wyk are scheduled to run on Friday.
Hopes are also high for Lady Flames sophomore Noel Palmer, who enjoyed an impressive freshman track season with times of 16:28.13 for the 5K and 34:41.02 for the 10K.
Fresh Faces Eleven of the 15 Lady Flames entered in Friday's race will be making their Liberty cross country debut. Their first-time performers include redshirt junior Greer Wilson, redshirt freshman Heidi Smith and true freshmen Jamie Anderson, Emma Bower, Naomi Bowser, Sophia Jantomaso, Rebekah Leone, Madison MacPherson, Calli Parlier, Jessica Rogers and Kyley Sorg.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Paul Squires and true freshman Joe Spitzer will each make their first appearance in a Liberty cross country race during the men's 6K.
Up Next Liberty's next meet will be the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational, Sept. 15 in Rock Hill, S.C. In the process, the Flames and Lady Flames will get a chance to preview the course for the 2018 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships.