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Lady Flames Picked to Defend Big South XC Title, Men 2nd

August 17, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty women's cross country team, pictured here celebrating the 2016 Big South Conference title, was picked to repeat as champions in 2017.

The Liberty women's cross country team, pictured here celebrating the 2016 Big South Conference title, was picked to repeat as champions in 2017.

The Liberty women's cross country team has been tabbed to repeat as Big South Conference champions in 2017, while the men's squad was picked second in the preseason poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.

Head Coach Brant Tolsma's Lady Flames received eight of 10 first-place votes and 97 total points in the voting. High Point finished second in the women's poll, garnering the two remaining first-place nods and 89 points overall.

Campbell (third place, 83 points), Winthrop (fourth, 65) and UNC Asheville (fifth, 61) round out the top half of the 10 women's squads. Radford (sixth, 52), Charleston Southern (tie for seventh, 30), Gardner-Webb (tie for seventh, 30), Presbyterian (ninth, 26) and Longwood (10th, 17) complete the women's listing.

Two-time defending Big South men's cross country champion Campbell is favored to continue its reign, earning nine first-place votes and 99 points. The Flames check in at second, thanks to one first-place vote and 91 points.

High Point (third place, 73 points) and Radford (fourth, 71) are expected to battle it out for third place. Winthrop (fifth, 58), UNC Asheville (sixth, 49), Charleston Southern (seventh, 40), Gardner-Webb (eighth, 29), Longwood (tie for ninth, 20) and Presbyterian (tie for ninth, 20) close out the projected men's standings.

Last season, the Lady Flames claimed their first Big South cross country team title since 2012 and their ninth overall. Liberty will now try to win back-to-back Big South crowns for the first time since 2009 and 2010.

The Lady Flames return four of the top 25 finishers from the 2016 Big South Cross Country Championships, including junior Anna Van Wyk (second place), junior Kammi Kurtz (eighth), sophomore Kelly Shaffer (15th) and sophomore Gabriella Delbo (25th). Liberty's roster also features redshirt sophomore Torree Scull, who placed 10th at the 2015 Big South meet, and redshirt senior Alyssa Karle, a two-time Big South steeplechase runner-up on the track.

The 2016 Flames posted their third straight Big South runner-up finish and the team's 14th consecutive appearance in the top two at the Big South Cross Country Championships. Liberty has won 15 Big South men's cross country team titles, but is seeking its first crown since 2013.

Junior Azaria Kirwa finished fourth at the 2016 Big South Cross Country Championships, while senior Cameron Francis was 12th and classmate Graham Hansel crossed the line 19th. Redshirt sophomore James Zentmeyer will look to build upon a strong 2017 outdoor track & field season, where he placed third in both the men's 5K and 10K finals.

Liberty will officially begin the 2017 season at the UVA Duals, Sept. 2 at 8:30 a.m. in Earlysville, Va. The Flames and Lady Flames will square off with opponents from James Madison, Norfolk State and host Virginia.

For the first time since 2008, Liberty will play host to the Big South Cross Country Championships. The 2017 edition of the meet is slated for Oct. 28 at a brand-new course located adjacent to the Liberty Indoor Track Complex.

2017 Big South Conference Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll
1) Liberty (8 first-place votes) – 97 points

2) High Point (2) – 89
3) Campbell – 83
4) Winthrop – 65
5) UNC Asheville – 61
6) Radford – 52
7T) Charleston Southern – 30
7T) Gardner-Webb – 30
9) Presbyterian – 26
10) Longwood – 17

2017 Big South Conference Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll
1) Campbell (9 first-place votes) – 99 points
2) Liberty (1) – 91
3) High Point – 73
4) Radford – 71
5) Winthrop – 58
6) UNC Asheville – 49
7) Charleston Southern – 40
8) Gardner-Webb – 29
9T) Longwood – 20
9T) Presbyterian – 20