The Liberty men's cross country team will aim for its seventh top-10 regional finish in the last eight years.
NCAA Southeast Regional Informational Page Charlotte Weather The Big South champion Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will look to continue their successful 2012 seasons on Friday, when they travel to Charlotte, N.C., for the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships. The meet, along with Friday's other eight regional competitions, will determine the team and individual qualifiers for the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Friday's action at McAlpine Creek Park will begin with the women's 6K race at noon. The men's 10K will follow at 1:15 p.m. at the flat, fast course which Liberty visited for the Royal Cross Country Challenge on Oct. 12.
Weather Forecast The weather for Friday afternoon's races is projected to be ideal in Charlotte, with sunny skies, a high of 65 degrees and little to no wind. Additionally, the Charlotte weather has been dry this week, which should lead to a firm race course and fast times.
Course Preview As mentioned previously, Liberty previewed the course at McAlpine Creek Park on Oct. 12, when the Flames and Lady Flames competed in the Royal Cross Country Challenge. The races were slightly shorter that day, with the women running a 5K and the men an 8K, but Liberty came away with a favorable impression of the venue.
The men's squad won the meet with an impressive score of 19, while the short-handed Lady Flames placed fourth. Most of the Flames and Lady Flames who competed that day established new personal-best times.
Redshirt senior Jennifer Klugh did not compete in the Oct. 12 race at McAlpine Creek Park, but she got a taste of the course at the 2011 Charlotte Invitational. In that race, Klugh broke a 24-year-old program record with a 17:28.3 5K clocking. That stood as the Liberty standard until the Buckeye State native lowered her own mark to 17:18.72 while winning this year's Big South women's individual championship.
In what could be her final collegiate race, Klugh could break one more record on Friday at McAlpine Creek Park. The Liberty women's cross country 6K standard already belongs to her, thanks to a 20:55.5 performance at the 2010 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky.
How to Punch Your Ticket to Louisville The common goal for all men's and women's teams competing in Charlotte on Friday is to qualify for the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, to be contested Nov. 17 at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. Here's what it takes:
Team Qualification: The top two teams at each of Friday's nine regional meets will automatically advance to the national meet. The national field will then be filled with 13 at-large selections, comprising a total of 31 men's and 31 women's teams which will compete in Louisville. The at-large squads will be determined using a formula based upon head-to-head success against other national qualifiers during the regular season.
Individual Qualification: All runners who place in the top 25 at the regional meet earn all-region recognition and become eligible for advancement to Louisville. The national meet features 38 individual competitors not on advancing teams. The top four finishers from each regional meet who are not part of a national-qualifying squad will punch their ticket to Louisville. Then, two at-large individuals will be added to round out the national field.
In summary, the only people who will know for sure that they are bound for Louisville on Friday are the top two teams in each race and the first four individuals who cross the finish line. The complete field of team and individual qualifiers to Louisville will be revealed Saturday on NCAA.com.
Women's Meet Preview Team Outlook: The Liberty women's cross country team improved upon a Big South runner-up finish in 2011 to capture the team title this season. The Lady Flames will now aim for a similar rise in fortune at the regional level, after placing 22nd a year ago.
Liberty, which enters Friday's meet ranked No. 15 in the Southeast Region, has finished inside the top 15 at this event five times in the last seven years. The Lady Flames' best-ever finish in the Southeast Region was seventh in 2007. Assistant coach Rebekah Ricksecker was a junior on that team.
The Lady Flames should benefit from experience up front on Friday. Seniors Jennifer Klugh, Khristina Kanagy and Betel Yosef will all be competing in the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships for the fourth time, and each of the three earned All-Big South honors in their most recent race.
Virginia has won back-to-back Southeast Region women's team championships, but ACC foe Duke is favored entering Friday's meet. The Blue Devils finished second at the ACC Championship two weeks ago.
Individual Outlook: After becoming the first Lady Flame ever to win three Big South women's cross country individual championships, Jennifer Klugh will look to accomplish one of the few things which has eluded her thus far in her collegiate career. The redshirt senior will attempt to qualify for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the first time. No Lady Flame has done so since Heather Sagan in 2001.
Klugh has garnered all-region honors at this meet each of the past two seasons, coming within 30 seconds of national qualification each time. She placed 15th overall at the 2010 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, in a school-record 6K time of 20:55.5. A year ago, Klugh came in 20th at the regional meet, in 20:57.5.
This will be Klugh's first 6K race of the season, and the longer distance would seem to favor her chances at national qualification. Even though she is a miler on the track, Klugh customarily uses her strength and tactical acumen to pass many runners during the latter stages of cross country races. Most recently, she battled back from a nearly 20-second deficit to overtake Winthrop's Jeanne Stroud and win the Big South title.
Kentucky junior Cally Macumber, the SEC women's cross country individual champion, will enter Friday's race as the favorite. Her top competitors include Virginia senior Catherine White and Duke junior Juliet Bottorff.
Men's Meet Preview Team Outlook: Like the Lady Flames, the Liberty men's cross country team hopes to parlay its Big South performance into a climb up the regional standings on Friday. The eight-time defending Big South champion Flames had recorded six consecutive top-10 regional finishes prior to last year's 11th-place showing.
The Flames also hope to outperform their pre-meet regional ranking of No. 13. That puts Liberty one spot in front of Big South runner-up High Point.
This year's Liberty team lacks the front running it has enjoyed at this meet in recent years, in the form of Josh McDougal, Sam Chelanga and Evans Kigen. However, the Flames boast impressive depth, placing seven runners inside the top 14 finishers at the Big South meet.
Four of the Flames' top seven runners are freshmen. So, one question mark for Friday's meet will be how the Liberty newcomers fare in their first collegiate 10K cross country race. Big South Freshman of the Year Ngetich Kipchirchir could be best equipped for the boost in distance, after racing to the Big South men's 10K title on the track last season.
After finishing second to N.C. State at the 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Eastern Kentucky is the pre-meet favorite to win this year's regional crown. Surprise ACC champion Virginia Tech is currently ranked second in the region.
Individual Outlook: Liberty does not appear to have a men's runner who is likely to qualify for Louisville as an individual. However, the trio of redshirt senior David Ricksecker, junior Caleb Edmonds and redshirt freshman Ngetich Kipchirchir will look to make a run at all-region honors, after placing second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Big South. Ricksecker owns the best previous regional finish among the trio, placing 47th at last year's meet.
Up front, UNCG's Paul Chelimo appears to be the pre-race men's individual favorite after placing second in 2011. He figures to be pushed by three-time Ohio Valley Conference champion Soufiane Bouchikhi of Eastern Kentucky and ACC titlist Will Mulherin of Virginia Tech.
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