Big South champions Zac Edwards (left) and Jennifer Klugh picked up more hardware Saturday morning, as both runners earned all-region honors at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships.
Liberty redshirt juniors Zac Edwards and Jennifer Klugh both garnered all-region recognition, highlighting the Flames' showing at the 2011 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships, Saturday morning at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park. The Liberty men's squad finished 11th overall, while the Lady Flames came in 22nd. Edwards made it eight straight years that Liberty has boasted at least one men's all-region performer with his 23rd-place individual finish in the men's 10K championship race. His performance helped the Flames place 11th out of 32 teams with a score of 294 points. Liberty was the top Big South men's team on the day, coming in four places and 125 points ahead of High Point. No. 14 N.C. State took the men's team title with 68 points, easily outdistancing No. 20 Eastern Kentucky, which placed second with a score of 139. In the women's 6K, Klugh earned her second straight all-region medal, thanks to a 20th-place showing and a clocking of 20:57.5 that narrowly missed her own school record. The Lady Flames came in 22nd in the 35-team field, totaling 562 points. Liberty was second among Big South women's competitors, trailing conference champion High Point's 18th-place finish and score of 508 points. No. 21 Virginia won a tight battle with No. 20 N.C. State atop the women's team standings, winning the regional title by a score of 107-113. Despite the strong performances by Edwards and Klugh, neither of them was able to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships as individuals. As a result, Liberty will not have a representative at the NCAA national meet for the first time since 2003.
Men's Meet Recap Running his first 10K in a Liberty uniform, Edwards crossed the finish line in a time of 30:50.4, placing 23rd out of 218 competitors. His top 25 finish made him the ninth different Liberty men's cross country runner ever to earn Division I cross country all-region accolades. The Big South men's individual champion two weeks ago, Edwards was again the conference's top finisher on Saturday. He finished 21 seconds in front of High Point's Patrick Crawford. Just 12 seconds after Crawford finished his race, Liberty's No. 2, 3 and 4 runners came across within a 26-second span. David Ricksecker placed 47th overall and third among Big South runners, posting a time of 31:23.7. Sophomores Josh MacDonald and Caleb Edmonds followed in 61st and 65th place, respectively, with both runners making major improvements from the previous year's NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. MacDonald's time of 31:44.1 was 1:08 faster than his effort as a freshman, while Edmonds sliced his freshman year clocking of 34:31.2 all the way down to 31:49.5 on Saturday. Making a similarly impressive jump from 2010 to 2011 was Isaac Wendland, who closed out the Flames' top five. Last year, the Iowa native came in 153rd at this meet in 34:07.0. This time around, Wendland cracked the top 100 with a 98th-place finish, stopping the clock in 32:30.3. Liberty's No. 6 and 7 finishers, Nate Jones and Zach Barker, both made their regional debuts on Saturday. Jones finished 144th in 33:32.1, while Barker was 183rd in a time of 34:47.4.
Women's Meet Recap Utilizing her usual strategy of moving up through the field during the latter stages of the race, Klugh passed 25 runners during the final half of Saturday's 6K. As a result, the Buckeye State native was able to join Heather Sagan as the only Lady Flames ever to earn a pair of NCAA Division I women's cross country all-region honors with her 20th-place finish. Klugh's official time of 20:57.5 was just two seconds off the 6K school record of 20:55.5 she set on the same course at the 2010 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. Klugh now owns the four fastest women's cross country 6K performances in program history, all of which fall between 20:55.5 and 21:01.6. The Big South individual champion, Klugh finished well ahead of all conference competitors on Saturday. She came across the finish line 57 seconds before the next Big South finisher, High Point's Kayleigh Perry. Fellow junior Khristina Kanagy was Liberty's next women's finisher, as her 22:26.7 clocking was good for 105th place out of 240 runners. Jacy Christiansen continued her solid rookie campaign, posting a time of 22:45.7 for 129th place overall and first among Big South freshmen runners. Betel Yosef posted nearly the exact same time and finishing place as she had a year ago at the regional meet, coming in 135th in a time of 22:52.2. Alyssa Allen served as the Lady Flames' No. 5 runner, thanks to a 23:43.6 clocking and a 187th-place finish. Meanwhile, Liberty's No. 6 and 7 women's finishers both competed at the regional meet for the first time on Saturday. Sophomore Katie Russo posted a 23:57.1 for 197th place. Freshman Meredith Mistretta wrapped up the Lady Flames' pack, completing her race in 24:19.7 for 214th place.
Liberty will wrap up its 2011 cross country season by competing in the IC4A and ECAC Division I Cross Country Championships for the first time in recent history. The meet will be held Nov. 19 at VanCortlandt Park in New York City. The IC4A men's 5-mile championship will get the day started at 10:30 a.m., followed by the ECAC women's 5K at 11:15.