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Kirwa to Race in NCAA XC Championship, Saturday

November 15, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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For the second year in a row, Liberty senior Azaria Kirwa will race in the men's 10K at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The race is set for Saturday at 12:45 p.m. Eastern at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wis.

How to Keep Up with Kirwa
FloTrack will provide live video streaming coverage of Saturday's race, but a paid subscription is required.

Live results, featuring in-race splits and team scores, will be provided courtesy of Record Timing.

Weather Report
Saturday's weather in Madison calls for mostly cloudy skies and a temperature around 30 degrees, following a forecasted 1-3 inches of snowfall Friday night.

Checking Out the Course
Wisconsin is hosting the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course for the first time on Saturday. The course has previously served as the venue for the 2010 Big Ten Championship and five NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional Championships.

Kirwa and the rest of the Flames got their first look at the course at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals on Oct. 13. After an early-morning frost delay, Kirwa placed 19th in the men's 8K white race with a time of 24:10.0.  

How He Got Here
Kirwa earned at-large individual qualification to Madison thanks to his seventh-place finish in the 10K at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Nov. 9 in Rock Hill, S.C.

Kirwa will be joined in Madison by the Southeast's runner-up (Virginia Tech's Peter Seufer), third-place finisher (Furman's Aaron Templeton), fourth-place finisher (Campbell's Amon Kemboi), fifth-place finisher (Campbell's Lawrence Kipkoech) and sixth-place finisher (Virginia's Brent Demarest), as well as the first and second-place teams from Eastern Kentucky and NC State.

Sensational Season
Kirwa has won four of his six races this season, including the Virginia Tech Invitational (Aug. 31), Iona College Meet of Champions (Sept. 14), Queen City Invite (Sept. 28) and ASUN Championship (Oct. 26).

The native of Eldoret, Kenya claimed the ASUN Men's Runner of the Year and Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year trophies, while earning his second straight all-region medal. He won four ASUN Men's Runner of the Week honors (Sept. 5, Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Oct. 17) and was named USTFCCCA Division I National Athlete of the Week on Sept. 17.

In total, Kirwa's six races this season have included 1,011 runners. He has finished in front of 981 (97 percent) of them.

Looking Back at Last Year
Kirwa made his debut at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships on Nov. 18, 2017 at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky.

He started conservatively and sat in 87th place at the 2K split. However, he quickly moved up through the pack to finish 25th in a 10K time of 29:46.46 and earn his first career All-America recognition.

What to Watch For
Kirwa will look to finish among the top 40 men's runners on Saturday and thus earn a second All-America certificate.

If successful, he would join the likes of Sam Chelanga (2008, 2009, 2010), Evans Kigen (2009, 2010) and Josh McDougal (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) as Liberty men's cross country runners who have won multiple NCAA Division I All-America honors.

McDougal (2007) and Chelanga (2010) both punctuated their collegiate careers with NCAA Division I men's cross country national titles as seniors.

ASUN Angle
Kirwa is the first ASUN Conference men's runner to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships since 2012 (USC Upstate's Gilbert Kemboi and Kennesaw State's Nabil Hamid).

Kemboi placed 42nd in that race, marking the highest national finish ever by an ASUN men's cross country runner.

Steady Progression
Regardless of how Kirwa finishes on Saturday, his collegiate cross country career has been one of consistent improvement.

Kirwa went from 68th place at the 2015 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championship to 31st in 2016 to back-to-back national-qualifying performances in 2017 and 2018.

At the conference meet, Kirwa placed fifth (2015), fourth (2016) and second (2017) at the Big South Cross Country Championships before winning the ASUN title this season. He joined Josh Edmonds and Josh McDougal as the only Liberty men's runners ever to garner four all-conference cross country awards at the Division I level.

Consistent Presence
Saturday will mark the 14th time in the last 21 years that Liberty has been represented at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The Flames have sent at least one men's or women's runner to the meet in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2018.