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Chelanga Leads LU to 4th Straight BSC Title

November 1, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Liberty men's cross country team celebrates its fourth consecutive Big South title.

The Liberty men's cross country team celebrates its fourth consecutive Big South title.

Liberty hosted the 2008 New Balance Big South Cross Country Championships presented by UCS for the first time in program history, on a sunny Saturday morning at the Campus East intramural fields, and the Flames' men's and women's squads fared quite well. Sophomore Sam Chelanga won the men's 8K championship, leading the Flames to their fourth consecutive Big South team title. Meanwhile, senior Rebekah Ricksecker's runner-up finish in the women's 5K championship played a key role in the Lady Flames' second-place team showing.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) was one of four Liberty men's runners to finish in the top 10 and earn All-Big South honors. The Flames' frontrunning added up to a final score of 28, putting them 36 points ahead of runner-up High Point atop the team standings. Head coach Brant Tolsma, who won his 39th Big South Coach of the Year award, saw his team capture its 10th Big South men's cross country championship in 18 years as a conference member.

On the women's side, the top three teams were separated by just four points, and the champion and runner-up finished a single point apart. The Lady Flames had won the previous two Big South team titles over Coastal Carolina by a combined eight points. On Saturday however, the Chanticleers gained a measure of revenge, edging Liberty by a 54-55 count. High Point narrowly missed claiming its first-ever Big South title, tallying 58 points for third place. The Lady Flames have now finished among the top two teams in each of the last five Big South Cross Country Championships.

Chelanga led the men's field through an undulating opening mile, clocking a 4:53. He then pulled away from the pack during the first of two woods loops and never looked back. Chelanga's winning time of 24:32.97 put him 23 seconds in front of the race runner-up and sliced 1:44 off the course record. The sophomore remains unbeaten during his first season with the Flames and gives Liberty its fifth consecutive individual conference champion. Josh McDougal, the 2007 NCAA National Cross Country Champion swept the Big South individual crowns for four years, between 2004 and 2007.

Sam Chelanga crosses the finish line in first place.

Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.) finished as the meet runner-up for the second year in a row, after posting a 24:55.89. The course record holder prior to Saturday's race, McDougal is now a three-time All-Big South cross country performer.

Fellow Empire State native Josh Edmonds (Jr., Cooperstown, N.Y.) made it three Flames runners in the top four, as he crossed the checkered finish line fourth in 25:20.62. Edmonds also picked up a bit of hardware at the post-race awards ceremony. A criminal justice major carrying a 3.66 cumulative GPA, Edmonds won the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year trophy.

For the fourth year in a row, the Liberty men's squad had at least four members of the All-Big South squad. Jake Reed (R-So., Marysville, Ohio) nabbed the final all-conference distinction, finishing 10th in 26:11.11.

Reed narrowly held off the finishing charge of freshman teammate Mike Koech (Eldoret, Kenya), who came in 11th in the 72-member field with a 26:12.71 clocking. Koech was the No. 2 freshman in the men's race, trailing only High Point's Big South Freshman of the Year, Anthony Berkis.

Rounding out the Flames' top seven on the men's side were Mark Hopely (R-Fr., Carney's Point, N.J.), who was 14th in 26:38.19 and Kyle Powers (Fr., Waterford, Vt.), whose time of 27:15.89 was good for 20th place.

In the second race of the day, the women's 5K championship, High Point senior Zsanett Kis raced to the front of the pack early on. She went on to win the race in 18:23.24, cutting 48 seconds off her own course record.








The runner-up Lady Flames pose with their trophy.

Ricksecker (Laurel, Del.) was the next runner to cross the line, claiming runner-up honors in a time of 18:39.69. Her effort, which was 49 seconds faster than her time on the same course at the Sept. 20 Liberty Big South Preview meet, netted her third career All-Big South certificate.

Ricksecker also made it a Liberty sweep of the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. An elementary education major with a 3.96 GPA, Ricksecker became Liberty's first Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's cross country since Tracy Hoare in 2000.

Joining Ricksecker on the all-conference team was fellow senior Ashley Osborne (Bristol, Va.). Osborne clocked a 19:10.66, which was good for 10th place in the 74-runner field and her second career All-Big South honor.

Dacia Bushman (So., Castalia, Iowa) came in right behind Osborne in 11th place, stopping the clock in 19:13.24. One of the Lady Flames' most impressive performances of the day came from freshman Hannah Hunt (Sewickley, Pa.). She shaved 1:14 off her 5K time from the Liberty Big South Preview, finishing in 15th place with a 19:25.72. Hunt was the third-fastest freshman finisher in the women's race.

Another rookie, Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.), served as the Lady Flames' No. 5 runner. A 19:37.25 effort put Troyer in the 17th position, ahead of Coastal Carolina's fourth finisher.

The Lady Flames' sixth and seventh runners were a pair of mid-distance specialists on the track, sophomore Rod'Esther Castor (Hamilton, N.J.) and redshirt junior Jaime Watson (Ravenna, Mich.). Castor notched a 20:18.55 for 26th place, while Watson recorded a 20:33.26 for 31st.

The Liberty men's and women's teams will return to action in two weeks, at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The meet, which will determine the qualifiers for the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships, will be hosted by Wake Forest at Tanglewood State Park in Clemmons, N.C. The women's 6K championship is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., followed by the men's 10K championship at noon.

Men's 8K Championship
Individual Results (72 total finishers in race):
1) Sam Chelanga, 24:32.97 (Course Record)
2) Jordan McDougal, 24:55.89
3) Jesse Cherry, High Point, 25:05.84
4) Josh Edmonds, 25:20.62
5) Jamie McCarthy, Coastal Carolina, 25:37.37
6) Dawit Legesse, Radford, 25:54.14
7) Donnie Cowart, VMI, 25:57.66
8) Ermin Mujezinovic, VMI, 26:02.05
9) Anthony Berkis, High Point, 26:07.49
10) Jake Reed, 26:11.11
11) Mike Koech, 26:12.71
14) Mark Hopely, 26:38.19
20) Kyle Powers, 27:15.89

22) Ryan Cox, 27:21.20
36) Dan Hibbs, 28:17.72

Team Standings (9 total teams):
1) Liberty, 28
2) High Point, 64
3) VMI, 79
4) Coastal Carolina, 134
5) UNC Asheville, 147
6T) Winthrop, 151
6T) Radford, 151
8) Gardner-Webb, 224
9) Charleston Southern, 240

Women's 5K Championship
Individual Results (74 total finishers in race):

1) Zsanett Kis, High Point, 18:23.24 (Course Record)
2) Rebekah Ricksecker, 18:39.69
3) Mia Wyszynski, Coastal Carolina, 18:45.02
4) Maranie Staab, Coastal Carolina, 18:46.10
5) Kali Burt, High Point, 18:52.57
6) Hannah Granger, VMI, 18:56.09
7) Christian Johnson, Coastal Carolina, 19:02.25
8) Lori Crotts, Radford, 19:03.94
9) Carey Phillips, Winthrop, 19:08.95
10) Ashley Osborne, 19:10.66
11) Dacia Bushman, 19:13.24
15) Hannah Hunt, 19:25.72
17) Denise Troyer, 19:37.25
26) Rod'Esther Castor, 20:18.55
31) Jaime Watson, 20:33.26
42) Charis Haldeman, 21:12.54
43) Alicia Guridy, 21:19.90

Team Standings (9 total teams):
1) Coastal Carolina, 54
2) Liberty, 55
3) High Point, 58
4) VMI, 126
5) Radford, 130
6) Winthrop, 143
7) Gardner-Webb, 187
8) UNC Asheville, 193
9) Charleston Southern, 237

Men's Runner of the Year
Sam Chelanga, Liberty

Women's Runner of the Year
Zsanett Kis, High Point

Men's Freshman of the Year
Anthony Berkis, High Point

Women's Freshman of the Year
Christian Johnson, Coastal Carolina

Men's All-Academic Team
Nick Abercrombie, Charleston Southern
Jamie McCarthy, Coastal Carolina
Cole Atkins, High Point
Josh Edmonds, Liberty
Nicholas Baer, Presbyterian
Joel Hanlon, Radford
Andrew Burnette, UNC Asheville
Matt Satterwhite, VMI
Gaines Bailey, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Brittany Owens, Charleston Southern
Theresa Schamberger, Coastal Carolina
Beth Long, Gardner-Webb
Zsanett Kis, High Point
Rebekah Ricksecker, Liberty
Lauren Bowers, Presbyterian
Brittany Christian, Radford
Katherine Clark, UNC Asheville
Carly Moss, Winthrop

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Josh Edmonds, Liberty

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Rebekah Ricksecker, Liberty

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Women's Coach of the Year
Alan Connie, Coastal Carolina