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Chelanga Shatters Records at Pre-Nationals

October 18, 2008
|  Terre Haute, Ind.
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Sam Chelanga broke four records with his performance, Saturday at the Pre-Nationals. (Photo by David Bracetty)

Sam Chelanga broke four records with his performance, Saturday at the Pre-Nationals. (Photo by David Bracetty)

View Highlights of the Men's 8K White Race (Courtesy of Flotrack.org)

View Post-Race Interview with Sam Chelanga (Courtesy of Flotrack.org)

Liberty redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga stole the show with a record-breaking performance, early Saturday afternoon at the Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. Chelanga's winning time of 22:51.3 in the men's 8K white race broke the course, meet, school and Big South 8K records. Meanwhile, senior Rebekah Ricksecker's personal-best 6K time of 21:34 highlighted the Lady Flames' performance in the 6K white race.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) led from start to finish at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, shaving five seconds off former Liberty standout Josh McDougal's 22:56.4 clocking at the 2007 Pre-Nationals. McDougal's time had previously existed as the course, meet, Liberty and Big South 8K standard.

Chelanga's effort helped the Liberty men's team finish 18th in a 40-team field with 545 points. Among the teams the Flames defeated was Southeast Region rival Louisville, which came in 21st. No. 10 Stanford claimed victory in the white race with 77 points, putting the Cardinal well ahead of No. 7 Iona's 123 points.

Chelanga sprinted away from his competitors as soon as the gun went off, blazing a 4:16 opening mile. By the 2K mark, the two-time All-American had already built an eight-second advantage. From that point on, Chelanga's only race was against the clock.

Chelanga sped through the 5K pole in 14:12, putting him 35 seconds ahead of his nearest competitors. After such a torrid early pace, he still had enough energy in reserve to post an unofficial 2:44 split for the final kilometer. Chelanga pumped his right fist as he crossed the finish line in 22:51.3, after a performance which stamps him as one of the individual favorites in the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, to be held at the same course on Nov. 24. Felix Kibioywo of Auburn came in second behind Chelanga, more than 44 seconds after the Liberty sophomore had broken the tape.

Teammate Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.) was one of many runners pulled along to a fast 5K split by Chelanga's front-running. McDougal went through 5K in 14:54, on his way to a 24:16.8 final clocking, which was good for 34th place. Fellow Empire State native Josh Edmonds (Jr., Cooperstown, N.Y.) notched a 24:55.7, putting him in 102nd place.

Freshman Kyle Powers (Waterford, Vt.) crossed the line next for Liberty, as his personal-best 25:46.4 netted 198th place. Jake Reed (R-So., Marysville, Ohio) served as the Flames' No. 5 runner, placing 210th in 25:54.4, while Mark Hopely (R-Fr., Carney's Point, N.J.) rounded out the Liberty competitors in 232nd place. Hopely's time was 26:17.2.

Ricksecker (Laurel, Del.) finished in the top 25 percent of Saturday's women's 6K white race competitors, helping Liberty finish 36th in a field containing 10 nationally ranked teams. The Lady Flames totaled 928 points. In a cross country rarity, No. 5 Princeton and No. 3 Florida State both finished with 89 points, but the Tigers were awarded first place because of having a faster sixth finisher than the Seminoles.

Ricksecker, who has won the Big South Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week award twice this season, came in 69th while cutting nine seconds off her previous personal-best clocking.

Liberty's next two finishers, Ashley Osborne (Sr., Bristol, Va.) and Dacia Bushman (So., Castalia, Iowa) came in together, in 198th and 200th, respectively. Osborne's time was 22:50.0, with Bushman following in 22:52.9.

A pair of freshmen rounded out the Lady Flames' top five finishers on a sunny Saturday in Terre Haute. Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.) clocked a 23:36.6 for 245th place, while classmate Hannah Hunt (Sewickley, Pa.) finished two spots behind Troyer in a personal-best 23:38.5. It was Hunt's first time placing in the Lady Flames' top five this season.

Melissa Martens (R-So., Baraboo, Wis.) ended up in 263rd place, after stopping the clock in 24:16.3. Finally, Rod'Esther Castor (Hamilton, N.J.) posted a 24:45.1, which was good for 272nd place.

Next up for the Flames and Lady Flames will be the 2008 New Balance Big South Cross Country Championships presented by UCS. For the first time, the meet will be hosted by Liberty, Nov. 1 at the Campus East intramural fields. The men's 8K championship will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by the women's 5K race at 11:30.

Men's 8K White Race
Individual Results (267 total finishers in race):
1) Sam Chelanga, 22:51.3 (Course Record, Meet Record, Liberty Record, Big South Record)

2) Felix Kibioywo, Auburn, 23:35.5
3) Garrett Heath, Stanford, 23:36.4
4) Chris Derrick, Stanford, 23:37.0
5) Girma Mesecho, Auburn, 23:37.5
34) Jordan McDougal, 24:16.8
102) Josh Edmonds, 24:55.7
198) Kyle Powers, 25:46.4
210) Jake Reed, 25:54.4
232) Mark Hopely, 26:17.2

Team Standings (40 total teams):
1) Stanford, 77
2) Iona, 123
3) BYU, 154
4) Auburn, 194
5) UCLA, 196
18) Liberty, 545

Women's 6K White Race
Individual Results (281 total finishers in race):
1) Susan Kuijken, Florida State, 19:48.2
2) Nicole Edwards, Michigan, 20:20.8
3) Janet Jesang, Western Kentucky, 20:22.2
4) Katie Engel, Illinois, 20:22.6
5) Liz Costello, Princeton, 20:24.1
69) Rebekah Ricksecker, 21:34.0
198) Ashley Osborne, 22:50.0
200) Dacia Bushman, 22:52.9
245) Denise Troyer, 23:36.6
247) Hannah Hunt, 23:38.5
263) Melissa Martens, 24:16.3
272) Rod'Esther Castor, 24:45.1

Team Standings (39 total teams):
1) Princeton, 89
1) Florida State, 89
3) Michigan, 168
5) Georgetown, 186
5) Illinois, 186
36) Liberty, 928