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Chelanga Clicking Off Fast Times

January 21, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sam Chelanga is pictured here during his victory at the Manchester Road Race in November.

Last Thursday in Boston, 2011 Liberty graduate Sam Chelanga became the 10th-fastest indoor men's 5K performer of all-time, speeding to a personal-best clocking of 13:04.35. It was the latest in a series of impressive races for Nike-sponsored Chelanga in recent months.

Chelanga's resurgence began in August 2013, on the heels of an injury-plagued outdoor track season. He, his wife, Marybeth, and their infant son, Micah, moved from Eugene, Ore., to West Lebanon, N.H., so Chelanga could train alongside Ben True under the direction of then Dartmouth College coach Mark Coogan.

Dividends of the 28-year-old's relocation first became evident at the B.A.A. Half-Marathon on Oct. 13. Chelanga ran a personal-best time of 1:01:04, earning a fourth-place finish in a talented field.

Chelanga celebrated Thanksgiving in Manchester, Conn., by winning a major road race title for the first time in his professional career. He covered the hilly 4.748-mile Manchester Road Race course in 21:31, outdistancing reigning USA 12K champion Aaron Braun by nine seconds.

Two weeks later, Chelanga took to the track in Melbourne, Australia for the famous Zatopek:10, a 10K race named for the four-time Olympic gold medalist from Czechoslovakia. Chelanga was victorious for the second race in a row, crossing the finish line in 27:46.06.

That set the stage for the Boston University Multi-Team Meet at the Boston University Track Center on Jan. 16. It was billed as a 5K American record attempt for Galen Rupp, but Chelanga challenged his former collegiate rival the entire way. In the end, Rupp set a new American indoor record of 13:01.26 with Chelanga placing second in 13:04.35. It marked Chelanga's fastest-ever 5K performance, improving upon his previous best of 13:09.67 from June 2012.

Looking ahead, Chelanga is still hopeful that he will be a United States citizen in time for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. In the immediate future, he will be searching for a new coach after Coogan recently accepted a job with New Balance Running.

Chelanga won four NCAA Division I national titles during his time at Liberty and set the collegiate 10K record of 27:08.39 on May 1, 2010. He also owns the program indoor 3K (7:48.24) and 5K (13:19.79) records.