CHARLOTTE - The Liberty men's and High Point women's cross country squads have been chosen first in the Big South Conference's annual preseason polls by the League's head cross country coaches. The UNC Asheville men's squad was picked eighth, while the women's team was selected seventh in the preseason poll.
The Flames, who are looking to win their eighth straight Big South Cross Country title, were a unanimous selection as they finished with 144 points from the panel. High Point claimed the No. 2 spot in the poll with 132 points. In third was Campbell with 103 points and in fourth was VMI with 102 points. At the No. 5 position was Winthrop which collected 89 points, followed by Coastal Carolina with 84 points. Radford's 83 points were good for seventh and UNC Asheville's 65 points landed it at No. 8. Charleston Southern finished No. 9 with 49 points, ahead of Gardner-Webb with 43 points. Big South newcomer Longwood garnered 23 points to come in at No. 11, and Presbyterian College rounded out the men's poll with 18 points.
Coming off their first Big South Women's Cross Country Championship in 2011, the Panthers collected seven first-place votes and 136 points. Liberty found itself at No. 2 with three top bids and 132 points. Coastal Carolina was selected third with one first-place vote and 123 points, followed by VMI with one top vote and 101 points. In fifth was Campbell with 100 points and Winthrop came in at the No. 6 slot with 77 points. UNC Asheville landed at No. 7 with 74 points, while Charleston Southern came in at the No. 8 position with 58 points. Gardner-Webb's 51 points were good for No. 9, and at No. 10 was Radford with 40 points. Longwood collected 28 points to finish No. 11, and Presbyterian College closed out the voting with 16 points.
"We hope to finish higher than where we're picked, and I believe we have an excellent opportunity to accomplish just that," commented Asheville coach Jesse Norman. "On the women's side, we have a veteran team back with a lot of experience plus some young talent that gives us depth that we've never had before. With our men, we're a very young team but very talented."
Asheville opens the 2012 season at the Western Carolina Invitational on Aug. 31. The Bulldogs will host their first regular-season meet in six years when they host the UNC Asheville Invitational on Sept. 29 at Asheville Christian Academy. The Big South Conference Championships are on Oct. 27 in Rock Hill, S.C.