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Chelanga Shines at Brooks Paul Short Run

October 3, 2008
|  Bethlehem, Pa.
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Sam Chelanga nears the finish line of the Brooks Paul Short Run, far ahead of his nearest contender. (Photo by David Bracetty.)

Sam Chelanga nears the finish line of the Brooks Paul Short Run, far ahead of his nearest contender. (Photo by David Bracetty.)

Competing in his first major race in a Liberty uniform, redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga did not disappoint, Friday morning at the Brooks Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa. The two-time All-American won the men's 8K race by 38 seconds, smashing the course record and helping the Flames claim a top 10 finish in the team standings. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames, led by senior Rebekah Ricksecker, came in 20th overall in the women's 6K.

Chelanga's (Nairobi, Kenya) teammates Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.) and Josh Edmonds (Jr., Cooperstown, N.Y.) also placed in the top 30, making the Liberty men's squad one of only three teams in the field of 45 to make that claim. The Flames totaled 351 points, finishing 10th overall. Liberty was the top Big South team at the meet and also edged 11th-place Richmond as the top Southeast Region entrant. No. 6 Wisconsin took the men's team title with 52 points, and No. 30 Syracuse was second with 96 points.

For the second straight meet, the Lady Flames finished just behind Big South rival Coastal Carolina in the final team standings. Liberty put three runners—Ricksecker (Sr., Laurel, Del.), Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) and Dacia Bushman (So., Castalia, Iowa)—ahead of the top Chanticleer finisher, Mia Wyszynski. Yet, Coastal Carolina finished 19th of 43 teams with 633 points, while the Lady Flames came in 20th with 650 tallies. No. 9 West Virginia, which had three of the top nine finishers, won the meet, 47-78 over Villanova.

Chelanga blazed his way to a 23:05 clocking in Friday's race, averaging 4:39 per mile. By way of comparison, former Liberty standout Josh McDougal ran 23:43 on the same course as a freshman, in 2004. McDougal's effort stood up as the course record until last year's Brooks Paul Short Run, when Villanova's Bobby Curtis posted a 23:39. Curtis went on to win the national title at 5,000 meters at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Chelanga covered the first mile stride-for-stride with Iona senior Andrew Ledwith, the 31st-place finisher at the 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships. After the duo passed the mile mark in 4:33, Chelanga took off and ran the rest of the race alone in front of the 298-member field. His time was the second-fastest 8K performance in Liberty and Big South Conference history, trailing only Josh McDougal's 22:56 at the 2007 Pre-Nationals. Ledwith hung on for a second-place finish, crossing the line 38 seconds in Chelanga's wake.

Jordan McDougal, who had claimed victory at Liberty's most recent race, the Sept. 20 Liberty Big South Preview, recorded another fine performance at the Brooks Paul Short Run. He steadily moved up through the field after a 4:55 opening mile, ending up in 10th place with a time of 24:05. McDougal's teammate Edmonds followed in 30th place, shaving more than 30 seconds off his 8K personal-best with an official time of 24:27.

Jake Reed (R-So., Marysville, Ohio) ran a 25:28 to finish 134th, while freshman Mike Koech (Eldoret, Kenya) posted a 25:53 for 176th. Rounding out coach Brant Tolsma's top seven men's runners were Mark Hopely (R-Fr., Carney's Point, N.J.) and Kyle Powers (Fr., Waterford, Vt.). Hopely covered the approximately five-mile course in 25:59, placing 185th, while Powers recorded a 256th place finish in 27:09.

Like McDougal in the men's race, the senior duo of Rickescker and Osborne started out somewhat conservatively in the women's 6K. Ricksecker split 5:53 for the first mile, with Osborne on her heels in 5:54. By the end of the race, Ricksecker had gotten herself into 69th place with a final time of 21:50. Meanwhile, Osborne's 22:03 netted 92nd place out of 301 finishers.

Bushman, who trailed Coastal Carolina's Wyszynski by four seconds at the mile mark, came back to nip her by one second. Liberty's sophomore, the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year, averaged just a hair under six minutes per mile, finishing 112th in 22:19.

Freshman Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.) served as Liberty's No. 4 runner, clocking a 23:05 for 181st place. Just 11 seconds later, Melissa Martens (R-So., Baraboo, Wis.) reached the finish line in 199th place.

Also competing for the Lady Flames were freshman Hannah Hunt (Sewickley, Pa.), who was 246th with a time of 23:50, and sophomore Rod'Esther Castor (Hamilton, N.J.), the 265th finisher in 24:16.

In two weeks, Liberty will return to action at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind. The men's 8K and women's 6K races will be held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the site of the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Men's 8K Race
Individual Results (298 total finishers in race):
1) Sam Chelanga, 23:05 (Course Record, Meet Record)

2) Andrew Ledwith, Iona, 23:43
3) Landon Peacock, Wisconsin, 23:46
4) Christian Wagner, Wisconsin, 23:48
5) Brad Miller, Syracuse, 23:58
10) Jordan McDougal, 24:05
30) Josh Edmonds, 24:27
134) Jake Reed, 25:28
176) Mike Koech, 25:53
185) Mark Hopely, 25:59
256) Kyle Powers, 27:09


Team Standings (45 total teams):
1) Wisconsin, 52
2) Syracuse, 96
3) Villanova, 173
4) Iona, 190
5) Cornell, 201
10) Liberty, 351

Women's 6K Race
Individual Results (301 total finishers in race):
1) Marie-Louise Asselin, West Virginia, 19:38 (Course Record, Meet Record)
2) Neely Spence, Shippensburg, 19:57
3) Lindsay Carson, Guelph, 19:59
4) Erin Bedell, Baylor, 20:07
5) Clara Grandt, West Virginia, 20:09
69) Rebekah Ricksecker, 21:50
92) Ashley Osborne, 22:03
112) Dacia Bushman, 22:19
181) Denise Troyer, 23:05
199) Melissa Martens, 23:16
246) Hannah Hunt, 23:50
265) Rod'Esther Castor, 24:16


Team Standings (43 total teams):
1) West Virginia, 47
2) Villanova, 78
3) Baylor, 94
4) Wisconsin, 105
5) Syracuse, 150
20) Liberty, 650