(L-R): Ngetich Kipchirchir, Josh MacDonald and Caleb Edmonds were the top three men's finishers at Saturday's VMI Invitational.
Led by Caleb Edmonds' individual victory, the Liberty men's cross country squad swept the top four places on its way to a convincing team championship, Saturday morning at the VMI Invitational. Meanwhile, Jacy Christiansen came in second in the women's race, helping the Lady Flames finish as the team runner-up at the Vista Links Golf Course, the site of the 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships. Edmonds, Ngetich Kipchirchir, Josh MacDonald and Jeremie Bourget all successfully navigated the hilly men's 8K terrain before anyone from another school crossed the finish line, helping Liberty win with a score of 19. In total, the Flames placed six runners in the top 11 as they defeated High Point, which entered the meet ranked No. 8 in the Southeast Region. The Panthers finished second of nine teams with 51 points. In the women's 5K which followed, Christiansen was one of four Lady Flames to place in the top 12. Liberty came in second out of 10 teams with 53 points. That put the Lady Flames 10 points behind Coastal Carolina's winning score of 43 and 10 markers ahead of third-place High Point's total of 63 in a battle between the top three teams in the Big South preseason poll.
Men's 8K Recap Edmonds recorded the first individual victory of his collegiate cross country career with an 8K time of 26:12.77. That put him 18 seconds ahead of the race runner-up, Kipchirchir, who posted a time of 26:30.69. Edmonds' time also established a course record, as Saturday's meet was the first-ever competition at the Vista Links Golf Course. MacDonald crossed the line third in 26:43.73, while Bourget's time of 26:50.13 wrapped up Liberty's first 1-2-3-4 finish since the Royal Cross Country Challenge on Oct. 12, 2012. Edmonds, Kipchirchir and Bourget were also involved in that impressive performance last season. Sophomore Sam Hibbs closed out the Flames' scoring, coming in ninth with a 27:24.41 clocking. Former high school teammates Zach Barker (11th place, 27:32.21) and Nate Jones (28th place, 28:22.79) placed sixth and seventh, respectively, for victorious Liberty.
Women's 5K Recap Christiansen finished with a 5K time of 18:35.85, leaving the junior 17 seconds behind women's race champion Letitia Saayman of Coastal Carolina. Freshman Jessie Proehl was next for the Lady Flames, placing ninth out of 94 finishers in 19:35.67. Junior Meredith Mistretta and redshirt freshman Chelsea Page came in back-to-back, as Mistretta clocked 19:42.41 for 11th place and Page's 19:45.66 netted the 12th spot. Senior team captain Katie Russo ran fifth for head coach Brant Tolsma's squad on Saturday, racing to a time of 20:02.64 and coming in 19th overall. Despite the undulating terrain, junior Stephanie Buda recorded the fastest cross country 5K time of her career. Her 20:54.41 effort placed 39th. Freshman Lindsey Bray served as Liberty's No. 7 runner, finishing 42nd with her time of 20:55.85. Liberty will be back in action next Saturday, as the Flames and Lady Flames compete at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va., for the second time this season. The Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational will begin with the men's 8K race at 10 a.m., followed by the women's 5K at 10:30.