The Liberty men's cross country squad claimed its fifth straight Big South Championship on Saturday.
The Liberty men's and women's cross country teams swept the team titles at the 2009 Big South Cross Country Championships, Saturday morning, at Shady Oaks in Winston-Salem, N.C. With the win, the men claim their fifth consecutive Big South crown, while the women take the top spot for the third time in four years. Their last championship came in 2007. The men's team had 33 total points for the first-place finish, followed by High Point in second with 46 points and Coastal Carolina in third with 59 points. The women's team ended up with 47 points, followed by VMI with 66 points and Coastal Carolina in third with 76 points. Redshirt junior Sam Chelanga finished first in the men's 8K with a time of 23:50 to win his second straight Big South Championship. He becomes only the fifth runner in Liberty program history to repeat as the Big South individual champion, and his win marks the sixth straight year the men's overall winner has worn a Liberty uniform. Liberty's Evans Kigen finished second with a time of 25:13, followed by David Ricksecker in eighth place (26:17), and Jake Reed in 10th (26:30). Chelanga, Kigen, Ricksecker and Reed were all named to the 2009 Big South all-conference team. With his all-conference performance, Ricksecker becomes the first member of a brother-sister duo in program history to take Big South honors. His older sister, Rebekah Ricksecker, was an all-conference performer for Liberty in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Mark Hopely ran a strong race on his birthday, clocking a time of 26:32, good for 12th place overall. Hopely was also named to the 2009 Cross Country All-Academic Team, and head coach Brant Tolsma won the men's Big South Coach of the Year, marking the 13th time he has received the honor.
The Lady Flames celebrate their third Big South title in four years. The women had the second-place finisher for the second straight year, as Dacia Bushman finished the 5K with a time of 18:32, seven seconds behind overall winner Hannah Granger of VMI. Jennifer Klugh took third place with a time of 18:37, giving Liberty two Big South all-conference team performers. Also finishing in the top 20 for Liberty were Hailey Neal (12th place, 19:23), Rod'Esther Castor (13th place, 19:24), and Denise Troyer (17th, 19:37). Besides Bushman and Klugh winning all-conference honors, Bushman was also named to the 2009 Big South All-Academic team. Liberty will return to action Friday at 4 p.m., when the Flames and Lady Flames travel up Route 29 for the Cavalier Invitational in Charlottesville, Va. Men's 8K Race Individual Results (75 total finishers) 1. Sam Chelanga, 23:50 2. Evans Kigen, 25:13 3. Josh Morgan, High Point, 25:48 4. Jamie McCarthy, Coastal Carolina, 25:49 5. Kyle Kling, Coastal Carolina, 25:56 6. Max Hacker, Coastal Carolina, 26:10 7. Neal Darmody, High Point, 16:13 8. David Ricksecker, 26:17 9. Jacob Smith, High Point, 26:24 10. Jake Reed, 26:30 12. Mark Hopely, 26:32 36. Kyle Powers, 27:59 40. Will Reeves, 28:08 42. Spencer Jackson, 28:19 43. Andrew Rigler, 28:23 56. Jordan Whitlock, 29:42 Team Standings 1. Liberty, 33 2. High Point, 46 3. Coastal Carolina, 59 4. VMI, 107 5. UNC Asheville, 133 6. Winthrop, 150 7. Charleston Southern, 199 8. Gardner-Webb, 225 9. Radford, 247 Women's 5K Race (76 total finishers) Individual Results 1. Hannah Granger, VMI, 18:25 2. Dacia Bushman, 18:32 3. Jennifer Klugh, 18:37 4. Jenna Moye, VMI, 18:39 5. Lori Crotts, Radford, 18:45 6. Shelby Donahue, Coastal Carolina, 19:06 7. Janel Reeves, Coastal Carolina, 19:09 8. Emily Webb, High Point, 19:12 9. Brooke Spencer, Winthrop, 19:16 10. Melanie Kulesz, UNC Asheville, 19:18 12. Hailey Neal, 19:23 13. Rod'Esther Castor, 19:24 17. Denise Troyer, 19:37 23. Betel Yosef, 19:51 25. Khristina Kanagy, 19:57 26. Hannah Hunt, 20:02 35. Alicia Guridy, 20:29 38. Katie Albright, 20:42 Team Standings 1. Liberty, 47 2. VMI, 66 3. Coastal Carolina, 76 4. High Point, 86 5. Winthrop, 117 6. UNC Asheville, 148 7. Radford, 172 8. Gardner-Webb, 225 9. Charleston Southern, 262