Naomi Bowser (far left) and Emma Bower (center) are two of the Lady Flames' top freshmen this season.
Meet Information Charlotte Weather After seeing the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational postponed due to Hurricane Florence two weeks ago, the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams will now make their first visit to the Charlotte, N.C., area of the 2018 season on Friday. The Flames and Lady Flames are set to compete in the Queen City Invite at McAlpine Creek Park.
The women's 5K is slated to begin at 5 p.m., followed by the men's 8K at 5:30 p.m. Liberty will face its largest field of opponents thus far in 2018, with 38 schools appearing on the entry list.
Weather Report Friday's weather forecast calls for a high temperature in the low 80s and a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Checking Out the Course Friday's meet will mark Liberty's first visit to McAlpine Creek Park since Oct. 11, 2013. That day, a partial Flames squad competed in the Royal Cross Country Challenge. Jacob Onifer was Liberty's highest finisher, crossing the line 49th in the men's 8K. Competing unattached, current Liberty interim head coach Rebekah Ricksecker was the women's 5K's third-place finisher.
The course at McAlpine Creek Park is known for being flat and fast. Jennifer Klugh set what were at the time Liberty's women's 5K (17:28.29 in 2011) and 6K (20:35.78 in 2012) program records at the venue.
The Flames and Lady Flames not making the trip to Wisconsin Pre-Nationals will be running back-to-back races at McAlpine Creek Park. The course will play host to the Royals Challenge on Oct. 12.
Liberty will have three meets in the Charlotte metro area this season, also including the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Nov. 9 in Rock Hill, S.C.
Freshman Calli Parlier competed at McAlpine Creek Park during her time at Apex High School, placing sixth at the 2017 Wendy's Cross Country Invitational.
Scoping Out the Competition Liberty will get its first head-to-head meeting with an ASUN Conference opponent this season, as Kennesaw State is entered in the Queen City Invite.
The Lady Flames will also square off against a number of regional foes, including Charlotte (ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region) and Elon.
Meanwhile, Liberty's top competitor on the men's side could be host Queens, currently ranked No. 7 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll.
Climbing the Polls After beginning the season at No. 7 in the Southeast Region, the Liberty men's cross country team climbed to No. 4 on Monday. That equals the Flames' highest regional ranking in program history.
Only the 2008 Liberty squad, anchored by Sam Chelanga, Jordan McDougal and Josh Edmonds, was previously listed No. 4 in the Southeast Region.
The Flames will not be facing any NCAA Division I regionally ranked opponents on Friday.
Awesome Azaria Senior All-American Azaria Kirwa has opened his senior season with back-to-back victories, winning the Virginia Tech Invitational 6K on Aug. 31 and the Iona College Meet of Champions 8K on Sept. 14.
The native of Eldoret, Kenya was named Liberty's first-ever USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week on Sept. 17. He has also earned a pair of ASUN Men's Runner of the Week honors (Sept. 5, Sept. 19).
Kirwa is the first Flames men's cross country runner since Zac Edwards in 2011 (Coastal Carolina Invitational/Big South Preview and Charlotte Invitational) to win consecutive races.
No Flame has finished first in three straight races since Sam Chelanga ended his collegiate career with eight consecutive victories, spanning the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Kirwa has now placed inside the top five at eight of his last nine cross country races, including three victories. The lone exception was his 25th-place showing at the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Stellar Sophomore Sophomore Noel Palmer became the Lady Flames' first-ever ASUN Women's Runner of the Week, following her impressive showing at the Sept. 14 Iona College Meet of Champions.
Palmer placed sixth in the women's 5K with a personal-best time of 17:49.0 at Van Cortlandt Park. It was the fastest time by a Lady Flame since Ednah Kurgat's 17:12.97 effort at the 2015 Big South Championship.
Up Next In two weeks, Liberty will divide its team for the first time this season. Some Flames and Lady Flames will return to McAlpine Creek Park on Oct. 12 for the Royals Challenge. The women's 5K is slated for 4:30 p.m., with the men's 8K at 5 p.m.
Liberty will also be represented at Wisconsin Pre-Nationals on Oct. 13 at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wis., site of the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The day's first of six races will go off at 11 a.m. Eastern.
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