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Liberty XC to Race in Wisconsin, North Carolina

October 11, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty XC to Race in Wisconsin, North Carolina

Wisconsin Pre-Nationals Information Central

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For the first time this season, Liberty will divide its cross country runners between two different meets this weekend. The Flames will take nine men's runners and nine women's runners to Madison, Wis., for Saturday's Wisconsin Pre-Nationals. Meanwhile, seven Lady Flames are entered in the Royals Challenge, Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

The Lady Flames' top seven women will race in the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals women's 6K cardinal race, Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern, while the team's top seven men will follow in the men's 8K white race at 1:15 p.m. Eastern. Liberty's other runners in Madison will toe the starting line for the women's 6K gray race (2 p.m. Eastern) and the men's 6K gray race (2:45 p.m. Eastern). All of the races will take place at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course, site of the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

The Royals Challenge women's 5K is slated for Friday at 4:30 p.m. at McAlpine Creek Park.

How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Video streaming for the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals races will be available with a paid subscription to FloTrack.

Live results will also be available during all of Saturday's Wisconsin Pre-Nationals races.

Weather Report
Friday's weather forecast in Charlotte calls for sunny skies and a high in the mid 70s. The course could be wet, following anticipated heavy rain from Hurricane Michael earlier in the week.

Saturday in Madison is expected to feature fall weather, as the temperature climbs through the 40s during the day under partly cloudy skies. It is also expected to be a breezy day in Wisconsin, with winds of 10-20 mph out of the south southwest.

Checking Out the Courses
Liberty will be visiting the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course for the first time. Opened in 2009, the Zimmer Course has served as the venue for a number of championship meets, including the 2010 Big Ten Championship and five NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional Championships.

The Zimmer Course will play host to its biggest meet to date on Nov. 17, when the nation's best runners head to Madison for the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Conversely, McAlpine Creek Park is a familiar venue for the Flames, as Liberty just raced there on Sept. 28 for the Queen City Invite.

The flat, fast course yielded a new Liberty women's 5K program-record time of 17:09 by Noel Palmer at the Queen City Invite.

Five of Liberty's seven entrants in Friday's meet are coming off the fastest 5K times of their collegiate career at the Queen City Invite, including Naomi Bowser (18:46), Sophia Jantomaso (18:32), Rebekah Leone (19:27), Delaney McDowell (18:53) and Jessica Rogers (18:57).

Scoping Out the Competition
Liberty will face its stiffest competition of the season to date at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals.

During the women's 6K cardinal race, the Lady Flames will square off against 10 nationally ranked opponents, headlined by No. 1 Colorado, No. 4 Oregon, No. 7 Arkansas and No. 9 BYU. Liberty will also meet a number of regional foes, including NC State (No. 1 Southeast), Duke (No. 3 Southeast), Richmond (No. 9 Southeast) and Charlotte (No. 14 Southeast).

The Flames will race against nine nationally ranked foes in the men's 8K white race, topped by No. 2 BYU, No. 4 Portland, No. 8 Syracuse and No. 10 Air Force. Currently ranked No. 6 in the Southeast Region, the Flames will face regional opponents Charlotte (No. 8 Southeast), Wake Forest (No. 11 Southeast) and Louisville (No. 14 Southeast) on Saturday.

Past History at Pre-Nationals
Liberty has enjoyed past success at Pre-Nationals, including five men's individual titles in a span of six years. Josh McDougal won the men's 8K white race for three consecutive years (2005-07), before Sam Chelanga took top honors in the men's 8K white race in both 2008 and 2010.

Azaria Kirwa fared well at Pre-Nationals last season in Louisville, Ky., coming in fourth in the men's 8K red race with a personal-best 23:11.4 clocking. His effort helped the Liberty men's squad place an impressive 10th of 41 teams in the final standings, matching the Flames' best-ever showing in a Pre-Nationals seeded race.

Awesome Azaria
Senior All-American Azaria Kirwa has opened his senior season with three consecutive victories, winning the Virginia Tech Invitational 6K on Aug. 31, the Iona College Meet of Champions 8K on Sept. 14 and the Queen City Invite 8K on Sept. 28.

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 trio of ASUN Men's Runner of the Week honors (Sept. 5, Sept. 19 and Oct. 3).

Kirwa is the first Flames men's cross country runner to win 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 nine of his last 10 cross country races, including four victories. The lone exception was his 25th-place showing at the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Kirwa will face plenty of competition on Saturday, including the BYU duo of Rory Linkletter and Connor McMillan, Portland's Nick Hauger, Syracuse's Aidan Tooker and UCLA's Robert Brandt. Linkletter claimed the Pre-Nationals men's 8K red race title a year ago, with Kirwa finishing three seconds behind in fourth place.

Talented Team
Liberty's men's cross country team, ranked No. 6 in the Southeast Region, is off to a strong start to the 2018 season. The Flames have claimed the team title at two of their first three meets this season, including the Virginia Tech Invitational and Queen City Invite.

This is the first time since 2013 that the Liberty men's squad has posted a pair of first-place finishes in the same season.

The Flames' winning score of 18 points at the Queen City Invite was their lowest point total since claiming the Hagan Stone Park Classic championship with a perfect score of 15 on Oct. 3, 2009.

Liberty's top five runners all finished inside the top eight at the Queen City Invite, including champion Azaria Kirwa, runner-up Felix Kandie, third-place Augostine Lisoreng, fourth-place Benjamin Klemmeck and eighth-place James Zentmeyer.

Record Breaker
Sophomore Noel Palmer is coming off the most impressive race of her collegiate cross country career. She won the Queen City Invite women's 5K on Sept. 28, claiming her first college cross country title.

Palmer's winning time of 17:09 set a new school record, eclipsing the previous mark of 17:11.1, set by Ednah Kurgat on Sept. 26, 2015 at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, Va.

On Saturday, Palmer will contest her first 6K of the season. The Forest, Va., native will look to improve upon her 6K personal best of 21:25 from the 2017 Paul Short Run.

Fresh Faces
Freshmen comprise an important part of the 2018 Liberty women's cross country team. Eleven of the 19 Lady Flames to compete in a race so far this season are freshmen, and freshman Katie MacDougall is set to make her collegiate debut at the Royals Challenge on Friday.

Four of the nine Lady Flames heading to Wisconsin Pre-Nationals this weekend are freshmen, including Jamie Anderson, Emma Bower, Calli Parlier and Kyley Sorg. Parlier has been Liberty's No. 2 runner behind Noel Palmer at each of the last two meets.

Up Next
Liberty will now finish preparations for its inaugural appearance at the ASUN Cross Country Championships. The meet is scheduled for Oct. 26 at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y., with the women's 5K starting at 11 a.m. and the men's 8K set for noon.