Liberty XC Set for Wednesday Season Opener at Virginia Tech
The Liberty men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their fall 2021 season at Wednesday’s Virginia Tech Invitational. The meet will take place at Virginia Tech’s on-campus Buford Meredith Cross Country Course in Blacksburg, Va.
The women’s 4K will get things started at 6 p.m., while the men’s 6K is set for 6:30 p.m. Liberty will be part of a small field which also includes Ferrum, Marshall, Radford, Washington & Lee and host Virginia Tech.
How to Follow the Flames and Lady Flames
Live results are expected to be available on Wednesday, courtesy of Snap Timing.
Periodic updates will be posted to the Liberty Track & Field/Cross Country Twitter account (@Liberty_XCTF).
The remnants of Hurricane Ida are expected to pass through Virginia on Wednesday. As a result, the weather forecast calls for heavy rain and thunderstorms with a high temperature in the 70s.
Checking Out the Course
This will be the 14th time in the last 15 seasons that Liberty competes in at least one meet at the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course. The lone exception was the abbreviated spring 2021 campaign.
Liberty is slated to race in Blacksburg three times this fall, also including the Sept. 10 Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational and the Nov. 5 Hokie Open.
The last time the Flames opened a season in Blacksburg was on Aug. 31, 2018 at the Virginia Tech Invitational. Among the team’s current runners, Felix Kandie placed fourth in the men’s 6K and Kyley Sorg finished a team-best 10th in the women’s 4K.
Scouting the Competition
Three of the women’s teams who will be competing on Wednesday are ranked in the Southeast Region to begin the season, including No. 5 Liberty, No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 15 Radford.
On the men’s side, the only regionally ranked team entered in Wednesday’s race is the host school, No. 9 Virginia Tech.
Hopes are High
The Liberty women’s cross country team enjoyed an historic spring 2021 season. The Lady Flames captured their first ASUN Conference team title and qualified to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships as a team for the first time, placing 26th.
This fall, Liberty is picked to successfully defend its ASUN championship. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames are listed No. 5 in the USTFCCCA’s preseason Southeast Region rankings, matching the highest regional listing in program history.
Individually, two-time defending ASUN women’s cross country champion Adelyn Ackley is a unanimous pick to claim her third conference title in a row.
On the men’s side, the Flames are tabbed for a third-place ASUN finish, trailing defending champion North Florida and Lipscomb in the preseason poll. Liberty has placed second at each of its first three ASUN Cross Country Championships appearances.
The Lady Flames welcome back six runners who placed inside the top eight at last season’s ASUN Cross Country Championships, including Adelyn Ackley (champion), Calli Doan (runner-up), Grace Dwyer (third place), Priscillah Kiplagat (sixth place), Noel Palmer (seventh place) and Marie Hostetler (eighth place).
Meanwhile, the Liberty men’s squad returns five of the top finishers from last season’s ASUN meet. These include Ryan Drew (fifth place), Kipruto Kogei (ninth place), Felix Kandie (12th place), Caleb Olson (13th place) and Kyle Harkabus (15th place).
Kandie went on to record an impressive outdoor track & field season. The native of Eldoret, Kenya earned his second All-America recognition in the men’s steeplechase, placing ninth in the event final at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Six Lady Flames are scheduled to make their Liberty cross country debut on Wednesday, including five freshmen (Ellie Bevan, Hope Carr, Rebekah Simmons, Samantha Troup and Sofia Van Arsdale) and Madison Hemenway, a transfer from Hardin-Simmons.
On the men’s side, a pair of Indiana natives are expected to suit up for Liberty for the first time. Will Jefferson is a true freshman, while Landon Miller has transferred from Indiana Wesleyan.
Familiar Faces in New Places
Isaac Wendland, who first joined the Liberty track & field/cross country coaching staff in January 2019, has been promoted to head men’s and women’s cross country coach this season.
Meanwhile, Heather Zealand has returned to her alma mater as a track & field/cross country assistant coach. The 2002 NCAA Division I women’s mile national champion previously spent nine years (2002-11) as an assistant on the Liberty staff.
Liberty will compete at the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course for the second consecutive meet. The Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational is slated for Sept. 10 with the women’s 6K scheduled for 6 p.m. and the men’s 8K to follow at 6:40.