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Flames, Lady Flames Picked First in Big South

August 26, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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2007 Big South Freshman of the Year Dacia Bushman and two-time All-American Sam Chelanga hope to lead their respective cross country teams to Big South titles this season.

2007 Big South Freshman of the Year Dacia Bushman and two-time All-American Sam Chelanga hope to lead their respective cross country teams to Big South titles this season.

Liberty is set to host the 2008 New Balance Big South Cross Country Championships for the first time in program history, on Nov. 1. Both the Flames and Lady Flames have been picked to capture team titles at the event, as voted by the Big South's head cross country coaches.

Head coach Brant Tolsma's Lady Flames, aiming to capture their third consecutive Big South cross country crown, received seven first-place votes and 97 out of a possible 100 points. Coastal Carolina, which has finished a close second to Liberty the past two seasons, was voted the conference runner-up once again. The Chanticleers nabbed the other three first-place votes and totaled 91 points.

High Point was predicted third with 80 points, while Radford was tabbed No. 4 with 66 points. Winthrop edged out VMI for the No. 5 position, 54 points to 53. Big South newcomer Gardner-Webb (39 points), UNC Asheville (34), Presbyterian (20) and Charleston Southern (17) completed the voting on the women's side.

The Lady Flames return a trio of All-Big South finishers from the 2007 conference meet, led by Dacia Bushman (So., Castalia, Iowa), the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year. Senior Rebekah Ricksecker (Sr., Laurel, Del.) placed seventh at the 2007 Big South Cross Country Championships, while teammate Katie Albright (So., Wake Forest, N.C.) followed closely behind in eighth. Senior Ashley Osborne (Bristol, Va.), a 2006 All-Big South cross country honoree, is also back this season.

On the men's side, the Flames were picked to claim their fourth straight Big South championship. If Liberty accomplishes the feat, the Flames would become the first Big South men's cross country squad to capture four conference titles in succession since Radford won six straight championships between 1985 and 1990.

Liberty tallied nine first-place votes and 99 of a possible 100 points in the balloting. High Point, last season's team runner-up, garnered the remaining first-place vote and tallied 90 total points. VMI came in third with 73 points, while Coastal Carolina finished fourth with 64 markers. Winthrop rounded out the top five with 61 points.

Radford was tabbed No. 6 with 58 points, while Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville shared seventh place with 34 points apiece. Presbyterian (19 points) and Charleston Southern (18) closed out the voting.

Liberty graduated 2007 NCAA Division I National Cross Country Champion Josh McDougal and three-time All-Big South finisher Jarvis Jelen. However, the Flames return both the 2007 conference runner-up, Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.), and two-time All-Big South honoree Josh Edmonds (Jr., Cooperstown, N.Y.). Also joining the squad for the 2008 season is two-time All-American Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya). Chelanga finished 16th at the 2006 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, competing for Fairleigh Dickinson.

The Flames and Lady Flames will open the 2008 season on Sept. 5, when they travel to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Cross Country Relay.

Liberty, which has not hosted a cross country meet for 10 years, will have a pair of home meets this season at the Campus East intramural fields. The Flames will host the Liberty Big South Preview on Sept. 20, beginning with the men's 8K race at 9:15 a.m. The women's 5K race will follow at 10 a.m.

On Nov. 1, the New Balance Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships will visit Lynchburg for the first time. The men's 8K championship is slated for 10:30 a.m., and the women's 5K contest will go off at 11:30 a.m.

2008 Big South Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll (First-place votes) – Points
1) Liberty (7) – 97 points
2) Coastal Carolina (3) – 91
3) High Point – 80
4) Radford – 66
5) Winthrop – 54
6) VMI – 53
7) Gardner-Webb – 39
8) UNC Asheville – 34
9) Presbyterian – 20
10) Charleston Southern – 17

2008 Big South Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll (First-place votes) – Points
1) Liberty (9) – 99 points
2) High Point (1) – 90
3) VMI – 73
4) Coastal Carolina – 64
5) Winthrop – 61
6) Radford – 58
7T) Gardner-Webb – 34
7T) UNC Asheville – 34
9) Presbyterian – 19
10) Charleston Southern – 18