Competing on its home course for the first time in two years, Liberty opened the 2019 cross country season in impressive fashion at Friday's Liberty Challenge. Freshman Adelyn Ackley led a 1-2-3-4 finish by the host Lady Flames in the women's 4K, while track All-American Felix Kandie notched an individual victory in the men's 4K, pacing three Flames among the top five finishers.
Making her collegiate debut against a field which also included Virginia, VMI and Lynchburg, Ackley dominated the women's race. The two-time Foot Locker Cross Country Championships finalist from Michigan clocked a 4K time of 14:08, putting her 68 seconds in front of her nearest challenger.
The Lady Flames' next three finishers on Friday were also making their first cross country appearance in a Liberty uniform, including redshirt sophomore Brittany Carnathan (second place, 15:16), freshman Priscillah Kiplagat (third, 15:23) and redshirt freshman Katie MacDougall (fourth, 15:23).
After earning All-America honors in the steeplechase in June, Kandie recorded his first collegiate cross country victory on Friday. The redshirt sophomore's 12:10 effort for the 4K distance left him 19 seconds clear of runner-up Derek Johnson from No. 23 Virginia.
VMI transfer Ryan Drew came in fourth in 12:32 during his Flames debut, while redshirt freshman Joe Spitzer stepped up for fifth place with a 12:35 effort.
No team scores were kept during Friday's low-key season opener.
Women's 4K Individual Results (39 Total Finishers): 1) Adelyn Ackley, Liberty – 14:08 2) Brittany Carnathan, Liberty – 15:16 3) Priscillah Kiplagat, Liberty – 15:23 4) Katie MacDougall, Liberty – 15:23 5) Maddie Rennyson, Virginia – 15:23 7) Naomi Armstrong, Liberty – 15:34 8) Jamie Anderson, Liberty – 15:36 9) Jessie Rogers, Liberty – 15:36 11) Madeline Hebert, Liberty – 15:46 12) Madison MacPherson, Liberty – 15:55 15) Chelsea Stocki, Liberty – 16:10 16) Kyley Sorg, Liberty – 16:12 17) Courtney Alexander, Liberty – 16:14 19) Rebekah Leone, Liberty – 16:20 20) Sophia Jantomaso, Liberty – 16:22 21) Abby Orvis, Liberty – 16:25 24) Lauren Peurifoy, Liberty – 16:38 28) Emma Zealand, Liberty – 17:08 34) Tanner Ealum, Liberty – 19:49 35) Ava Perez Erickson, Liberty – 19:49
Men's 4K Individual Results (52 Total Finishers): 1) Felix Kandie, Liberty – 12:10 2) Derek Johnson, Virginia – 12:29 3) Peter Morris, Virginia – 12:29 4) Ryan Drew, Liberty – 12:32 5) Joe Spitzer, Liberty – 12:35 8) Caleb Olson, Liberty – 12:46 9) Benjamin Klemmeck, Liberty – 12:53 11) Jacob Underwood, Liberty – 13:01 22) Paul Squires, Liberty – 13:38
Race Reactions • Ackley became the first Lady Flame to win her collegiate cross country debut since Ednah Kurgat took first place at the 2015 UVA Duals.
• Despite racing without All-ASUN performers Noel Palmer, Calli Parlier and Lauren Hirneisen, the Lady Flames put seven runners in the top 10 and 15 in the top 21.
• The Lady Flames' top seven finishers consisted of three freshmen and four sophomores.
• For the second straight year, a Liberty men's runner was victorious in the season opener. Azaria Kirwa took top honors at the 2018 Virginia Tech Invitational.
• Kandie's previous best cross country finish was second place at the 2018 Queen City Invite.
• The Flames' lone senior (2018 All-ASUN performer Nick Doan) sat out Friday's race, but two freshmen stepped up with top-10 finishes, including redshirt freshman Spitzer in fifth and true freshman Caleb Olson in eighth.
• None of the 19 Lady Flames who raced on Friday had ever competed at the Liberty Cross Country Course. Kandie, Benjamin Klemmeck and Paul Squires were the only Flames with previous race experience on their home terrain.
• Friday marked the Liberty cross country coaching debut for men's distance coach Isaac Wendland and women's distance coach Rachel Johnson.
• The last meet held at the Liberty Cross Country Course was the 2017 Big South Championships on Oct. 28, 2017.
• The races were contested under sunny skies with the temperature hovering near 90 degrees at start time.
Up Next Liberty will preview the course for the 2019 ASUN Cross Country Championships by competing in the FGCU Invitational on Sept. 7. The day's first race will go off at 8 a.m. at FGCU's Buckingham property in Fort Myers, Fla.