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Liberty Picked to Sweep Big South XC Titles

August 27, 2013  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty returns a large portion of its 2012 Big South championship-winning team, pictured above.

Liberty returns a large portion of its 2012 Big South championship-winning team, pictured above.

The Liberty men's and women's cross country teams have both been tabbed to successfully defend their conference titles in the Big South Conference's annual preseason polls, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's men's squad was a unanimous choice to capture its ninth straight Big South crown, earning all 12 first-place votes and 144 total points. Reigning conference runner-up High Point came in second with 131 points, followed by Campbell (third place, 111) and Big South Championship host VMI (fourth place, 99).

Coastal Carolina (fifth place, 94), UNC Asheville (sixth place, 85), Winthrop (seventh place, 83) and Radford (eighth place, 64) finished in men's places 5-8. Meanwhile, Longwood (ninth place, 40), Gardner-Webb (10th place, 39), Charleston Southern (11th place, 33) and Presbyterian College (12th place, 13) rounded out the poll.

Liberty brings back six men's runners who placed in the top 14 at the 2012 Big South Cross Country Championship, including Caleb Edmonds (third place), Ngetich Kipchirchir (fourth), Will Templeton (seventh), Jeremie Bourget (12th), Sam Hibbs (13th) and Zach Barker (14th). Josh MacDonald, who came in eighth at the 2011 Big South cross country meet, also returns from a redshirt season.

On the women's side, the top three teams were separated by only six points. Liberty, seeking its sixth Big South title in eight seasons, led the way with four first-place nods and 134 points. High Point (four first-place votes, 130 points) and Coastal Carolina (four first-place votes, 128 points) followed closely in second and third place, respectively.

Winthrop garnered 102 points for fourth place, while Campbell and UNC Asheville shared the fifth position with 85 tallies apiece. VMI (seventh place, 78), Radford (eighth place, 65), Charleston Southern (ninth place, 52) and Gardner-Webb (10th place, 37) closed out the top 10.

Longwood (11th place, 26) and Presbyterian College (12th place, 14) came in 11th and 12th in the voting.

The Lady Flames lost three of their top four runners from the 2012 squad to graduation, highlighted by Big South individual champion and NCAA national qualifier Jennifer Klugh. Junior Jacy Christiansen is the top returnee on this year's squad, after placing eighth at the 2012 Big South Cross Country Championships. Junior Meredith Mistretta (15th in 2012) and sophomore Courtney Russo (18th in 2012) are other top returnees among a roster which features a dozen newcomers.

Liberty will begin the 2013 cross country season on Friday, competing in the UVa Duals at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va. The men's 4K race begins at 5 p.m., followed by the women's 4K at 5:30.

The 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships will be hosted by VMI at The Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va., on Nov. 2.

2013 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (12 first-place votes) – 144 points

2) High Point – 131
3) Campbell – 111
4) VMI – 99
5) Coastal Carolina – 94
6) UNC Asheville – 85
7) Winthrop – 83
8) Radford – 64
9) Longwood – 40
10) Gardner-Webb – 39
11) Charleston Southern – 33
12) Presbyterian College – 13

2013 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Cross Country Poll
1) Liberty (4 first-place votes) – 134 points

2) High Point (4) – 130
3) Coastal Carolina (4) – 128
4) Winthrop – 102
5T) Campbell – 85
5T) UNC Asheville – 85
7) VMI – 78
8) Radford – 65
9) Charleston Southern – 52
10) Gardner-Webb – 37
11) Longwood – 26
12) Presbyterian College – 14