(L-R): David Ricksecker, Natalie Barr and Jennifer Klugh each played prominent roles in helping their respective teams capture conference championships over the weekend.
One of the most popular (or unpopular, depending on one's perspective) phrases on the Liberty University campus is "ring by spring." These three words stand for the stereotypical belief that many Liberty students' top priority is to get engaged by the end of the school year.
Over the weekend, three Liberty teams upped the ante by one season, earning championship rings before winter. The men's and women's cross country squads both claimed Big South team titles Saturday at Winthrop, one day before the field hockey team wrapped up its first NorPac East Division crown at Davidson.
To celebrate and summarize the three teams' impressive feats, this week's Flames Report will present an adaptation of the longtime bridal tradition, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."
Something Old -- Winning Big South titles is becoming old hat for the men's cross country team, which extended its conference record to eight consecutive team championships. The Lady Flames are no stranger to Big South cross country titles either. This marked their fifth crown in the last seven years. -- The men's and women's cross country squads were both paced by veterans at the Big South meet. Redshirt senior Jennifer Klugh (more on her later) won the women's individual title, with fellow seniors Khristina Kanagy and Betel Yosef also placing inside the top 10. Meanwhile, the No. 1 Liberty men's finisher was redshirt senior David Ricksecker, who placed second overall. -- Head men's and women's cross country coach Brant Tolsma shows no signs of slowing down in his 27th year at the helm. He was named Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year, boosting his career total of Big South Coach of the Year trophies to 52.
Something New -- The field hockey's NorPac East Division championship is remarkable, considering head coach Jodi Murphy's team is in just its second year of existence and first season as a NorPac member. -- Eight of the field hockey team's 11 starters in Sunday's win over Davidson were freshmen. -- Four of the men's cross country team's top six finishers on Saturday were freshmen, including Big South Freshman of the Year Ngetich Kipchirchir.
Something "Barr"-owed -- Field hockey freshman midfielder Natalie Barr, a native of Northern Ireland, has played a key role in the Lady Flames' success this season. -- She scored two of Liberty's three goals on Sunday at Davidson, including the game-winning and East Division-clinching tally with just 68 seconds left on the clock. -- Barr currently leads the team in goals (14), assists (7), points (35) and defensive saves (4).
Something "Klugh" -- Jennifer Klugh (pronounced "clue") produced a fitting end to her brilliant Big South Championship career Saturday, coming from way behind to win her third consecutive Big South women's cross country individual championship. -- Klugh trailed Winthrop's Jeanne Stroud by almost 20 seconds during the first half of the race, before coming back to win against a strong field by five seconds. -- Klugh defeated three runners who either broke or tied their respective school records on Saturday. In the process, she also cut 10 seconds off of her own Liberty women's cross country 5K mark with her winning time of 17:18.72. Paul Carmany is an assistant athletics communications director for Liberty Athletics.
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