Cameron Francis was Liberty's top individual finisher on Friday, placing fifth in the men's 8K.
Top-10 performances by Cameron Francis, Stanley Langat and Anna Van Wyk propelled Liberty's men's and women's cross country teams to lofty finishes at Friday's VT Alumni Invite. The Flames were the men's team runner-up, while the Lady Flames came in third at the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course.
Francis crossed the line fifth and Langat followed in seventh in the men's 8K, contributing to Liberty's team score of 49 points. The Flames trailed only host Virginia Tech among the nine participating teams, as the Hokies won with a score of 21.
Ranked 15th in the Southeast Region this week, Liberty finished ahead of three regionally-ranked foes on Friday, including third-place Ohio (No. 14 Great Lakes), fourth-place ETSU (No. 14 South) and fifth-place Akron (No. 11 Great Lakes).
Van Wyk's 10th-place showing helped the Lady Flames total just 74 points for third place out of nine women's squads. Virginia Tech made it a sweep of the team titles with 20 tallies, while Ohio (69 points) edged the Lady Flames by five points for the runner-up spot.
Men's 8K Race Recap Francis served as the Flames' No. 1 runner for the second straight meet to begin his junior season, placing fifth out of 112 men's entrants overall. His time of 24:54.3 made Francis one of just six runners to break 25 minutes on the warm evening and put him just 2.5 seconds behind race champion Peter Seufer, who competed unattached.
Just as he did at the season-opening UVA Duals, Langat followed closely on Francis' heels. He clocked a time of 25:00.5 for seventh place in the race and first among freshmen.
Redshirt senior Josh Showalter was the next Flame to finish, placing 14th in 25:11.0. Juniors Luke Jelen (23rd place, 25:43.1) and Graham Hansel (26th, 25:48.3) closed out Liberty's five scorers. For Jelen, it was his first time ever dipping under 26 minutes in an 8K.
Competing in a Liberty uniform for the first time, redshirt senior Danny de Nijs came in 39th in 26:10.5. Less than four seconds later, sophomore Azaria Kirwa completed his race in 26:14.2 for the 42nd position.
Women's 6K Race Recap Van Wyk sliced 30 seconds off of her previous 6K best on Friday, posting a time of 22:02.5 for 10th place out of 93 women's competitors.
Senior Terrill Zentmeyer came in 21st in 22:43.3, representing a 25-second improvement on her top 6K time entering the season.
Redshirt sophomore Lacie Robinson (24th place, 22:48.7) and senior Lindsey Bray (27th, personal-best 22:57.0) made it four Lady Flames with sub-23:00 clockings.
Kelly Shaffer ran inside Liberty's top five for the second consecutive race to begin her collegiate career, posting a time of 23:03.9 for the 29th position.
Fellow freshman Valerie Wierenga took 35th place in 23:17.3, while sophomore Kammi Kurtz was another Lady Flame to significantly improve upon her 6K best on Friday. The Indiana native finished 36th in 23:17.6, lopping 24 seconds off of her previous best.
Up Next Liberty's next meet will be the Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic, scheduled for Oct. 1 in Louisville, Ky. The races will take place at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, which has served as the venue for the 2012 and 2015 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and will host the NCAA national meet again in 2017.