Sam Chelanga will run his first race in three and a half months at Friday's Brooks Paul Short Run. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)
Flotrack's Brooks Paul Short Run coverage page For the first time this season, the full Liberty men's and women's cross country squads will be in action, at Friday's Brooks Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa. The Flames and Lady Flames will square off against some of the top teams on the East Coast, in their first of three big October meets. The Liberty men's team will compete in the men's college gold 8K race at 11 a.m., with defending NCAA national champion Sam Chelanga's 2010 season debut highlighting the Flames' lineup. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames will participate in the women's college gold 6K race at 11:45. Both races will be held on Lehigh's campus. Liberty has also entered several runners in the men's and women's open races. The women's open 6K will be the first race of the day, starting at 10 a.m., and will be followed immediately by the men's open 8K at 10:10.
Men's Tentative Lineup Sam Chelanga Jarred Cornfield Josh Edmonds Mark Hopely Evans Kigen Josh MacDonald Jake Reed Will Reeves David Ricksecker Isaac Wendland
Open Runners: Zach Barker, Caleb Edmonds & Dan Hibbs
Women's Tentative Lineup Dacia Bushman Rod'Esther Castor Alicia Guridy Khristina Kanagy Jennifer Klugh Hailey Neal Lindsay Papet Katie Russo Denise Troyer Betel Yosef
Open Runners: Taylor Bowles, Jessica Gass & Amy Passauer
How to Follow the Flames Flotrack.org will be on hand at the Brooks Paul Short Run, providing video coverage of the races, as well as interviews with selected runners and coaches. The videos are expected to be posted later Friday afternoon, after the meet wraps up.
Weather Forecast The weather promises to be very pleasant for Friday's races, with partly cloudy skies and a high of 70 degrees. However, heavy rain is expected on Thursday, which could lead to a soggy course and uncertain footing.
Scouting the Competition Friday's meet will represent the stiffest competition Liberty has faced thus far in the 2010 season. In the men's gold race, 27 of the 42 teams entered are Division I regionally-ranked squads. Five of the squads are listed inside this week's national Top 30 poll, led by No. 12 Iona and No. 22 Virginia. The Flames, ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region this week, will square off against four other ranked teams from their region, including No. 3 Virginia, No. 4 William & Mary, No. 12 High Point and No. 13 Appalachian State. Individually, Sam Chelanga's toughest competition could come from Iona's Ryan Sheridan, who placed 10th at the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Like Chelanga, Sheridan will be making his season debut on Friday. The women's gold race is no easier, with 23 regionally-ranked squads slated to toe the start line alongside the Lady Flames Friday morning. The list of entrants features the No. 1-ranked, defending national champion Villanova Wildcats and the No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas. Liberty will also face High Point, one of the contenders for the Big South team title, for the first time this season.
Back to Bethlehem Liberty's last appearance at the Brooks Paul Short Run came on Oct. 3, 2008. That day, the Flames finished 10th and the Lady Flames ended up in 20th place. However, Sam Chelanga stole the show in his second race in a Liberty uniform. Chelanga won the 8K brown race in a course-record time of 23:05. He claimed a 38-second margin of victory over Iona's Andrew Ledwith, one of the top runners in the country. Ledwith went on to place third at the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, one place behind Chelanga. Three other current Liberty men's runners also competed in the 2008 Brooks Paul Short Run, including Josh Edmonds, Jake Reed and Mark Hopely. Edmonds placed 30th overall, and all three still trace their 8K personal-best times back to that race. Edmonds clocked a 24:27, followed by Reed's 25:28 and Hopely's 25:59. Current Lady Flames Dacia Bushman, Denise Troyer and Rod'Esther Castor also raced at Lehigh that day. Bushman was the Lady Flames' No. 3 runner, placing 112th. Troyer's 23:05 effort still ranks as her 6K personal best.
Feels Like Home Friday's meet will mark a return to the home region of several Flames and Lady Flames. Five of Liberty's competitors will be racing within 125 miles of their hometown. Dan Hibbs (Hatboro, Pa.) hails from about 40 miles south of Bethlehem, while Zach Barker's (Wernersville, Pa.) hometown is approximately 50 miles from the course. Rod'Esther Castor (Hamilton, N.J.) grew up just over 60 miles away from Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Mark Hopely (Carney's Point, N.J.) will run 80 miles from his hometown and Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.) will be just 120 miles from home. Head coach Brant Tolsma will also enjoy a homecoming of sorts, with Bethlehem located less than 90 miles from his hometown of North Haledon, N.J.
It's Been a While Sam Chelanga has not competed in a race since June 12, when he ran the 5K at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Chelanga finished second, just a half-second behind national champion David McNeill of Northern Arizona. The finishing order was reversed in Chelanga's most recent cross country race, the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, contested Nov. 23, 2009 in Terre Haute, Ind. Chelanga raced to his first NCAA national championship that day, crossing the line 25 seconds ahead of runner-up McNeill.
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