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Chelanga Captures Southeast Regional Title

November 15, 2008
|  Clemmons, N.C.
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Sam Chelanga (front) and Josh Edmonds (left) were two of Liberty's three men's All-Region performers on Saturday.

Sam Chelanga (front) and Josh Edmonds (left) were two of Liberty's three men's All-Region performers on Saturday.

Liberty sophomore Sam Chelanga continued his undefeated cross country season, finishing first in Saturday's NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships men's race and qualifying for the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships. He helped the Flames equal their highest-ever finish at the regional meet, as Liberty ended up fifth. Meanwhile, senior Rebekah Ricksecker came in 11th during the women's race at Tanglewood State Park in Clemmons, N.C., helping the Lady Flames defeat all other Big South competitors and place 15th.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) could have some company at the national meet, scheduled for Nov. 24 in Terre Haute, Ind. Jordan McDougal (R-Sr., Peru, N.Y.) placed 12th in the men's 10K championship, while Ricksecker (Sr., Laurel, Del.) was the 11th runner to cross the line in the women's 6K race. They will both have a chance to qualify for the national meet as at-large participants and will find out their fate on Sunday.

For the second straight year, the Liberty men's team placed three runners in the top 20 at the regional meet and ended up fifth in the final standings with 156 points. Commonwealth squads William & Mary and Virginia captured the two automatic berths in the national meet by finishing first and second, respectively. Just one point separated the two teams, as William & Mary edged Virginia, 66-67.

Meanwhile, the Lady Flames came in 15th out of 33 teams during the day's first race on a soggy course. Liberty's point total of 460 edged Big South rivals High Point (16th place, 464 points) and Coastal Carolina (19th place, 494 points) in the final standings. It was the Lady Flames' first victory over the Chanticleers in four tries during the 2008 campaign. Virginia captured the regional title, defeating Kentucky by a 105-126 count.

Chelanga removed all doubt early on in the men's race. He opened up a 10-second cushion during the first kilometer and cruised to a 24-second victory over N.C. State's Bobby Mack. Chelanga's winning time of 29:53.4 established a new cross country 10K personal best and enables him to run at the national meet for the second time. He placed 16th at the 2006 NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships, as a freshman. Chelanga's victory is the fourth in the last five years by a Liberty men's runner at the regional meet. Josh McDougal captured Southeast Regional titles in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

Jordan McDougal came in 12th out of 212 participants, improving upon his 16th-place finish a season ago. McDougal netted his second career All-Region certificate after clocking a 30:55.8. Meanwhile, Josh Edmonds (Jr., Cooperstown, N.Y.) made Liberty one of only three teams (also William & Mary and Virginia) with a trio of top 20 finishers. Edmonds crossed the line in 18th place, after running a personal-best 31:10.2. His effort also netted All-Region distinction.

Jake Reed (R-So., Marysville, Ohio) was the Flames' No. 4 finisher and No. 58 overall, posting a 32:18.9. Mark Hopely (R-Fr., Carney's Point, N.J.) closed out Liberty's top five with his 69th-place showing. His official time was 32:39.9.

Also competing for the Flames were a pair of freshmen, Mike Koech (Eldoret, Kenya) and Kyle Powers (Waterford, Vt.). Koech finished close behind Hopely in 32:44.9 and 71st place, while Powers' 35:53.9 earned him 184th place.

In the women's race, Ricksecker was able to craft an impressive performance despite the soggy conditions. She recorded a personal-best time of 21:24.6, placing 11th and garnering All-Region distinction. Ricksecker is only the fourth Lady Flame ever to be tabbed All-Region at the NCAA Division I level, joining assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand, Samantha Pelletier and Piper Newby. Zealand is the only Lady Flame ever to finish higher than Ricksecker at the regional championship.

Backing Ricksecker's effort was fellow senior Ashley Osborne (Bristol, Va.). She placed 74th, just in front of Coastal Carolina's top two runners, with a time of 22:40.7. Sophomore Dacia Bushman (Castalia, Iowa) came in at 22:51.9, placing 87th.

Freshmen served as Liberty's No. 4 and 5 runners for the second race in a row. Denise Troyer (Kennedyville, Md.) took 138th place in a time of 23:29.3, with classmate Hannah Hunt (Sewickley, Pa.) notching a 153rd-place finish in 23:52.3.

Rod'Esther Castor (So., Hamilton, N.J.) placed 184th with a 24:25.1 clocking, while Melissa Martens (R-So., Baraboo, Wis.) finished just three seconds behind her teammate, in the 188th position.

The 2008 NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships are slated for Nov. 24, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The women's 6K national championship race will go off at 12:08 p.m., followed by the men's 10K championship at 12:48.

Men's 10K Race
Individual Results (212 total finishers in race):
1) Sam Chelanga, 29:53.4
2) Bobby Mack, N.C. State, 30:17.8
3) Emil Heineking, Virginia, 30:21.8
4) Ryan Foster, Virginia, 30:24.8
5) Adam Henken, Kentucky, 30:26.7
12) Jordan McDougal, 30:55.8
18) Josh Edmonds, 31:10.2
58) Jake Reed, 32:18.9
69) Mark Hopely, 32:39.9
71) Mike Koech, 32:44.9
184) Kyle Powers, 35:53.9

Team Standings (29 total teams):
1) William & Mary, 66
2) Virginia, 67
3) N.C. State, 111
4) Duke, 146
5) Liberty, 156

Women's 6K Race
Individual Results (231 total finishers in race):
1) Tasmin Fanning, Virginia Tech, 20:07.8
2) Brie Felnagle, North Carolina, 20:15.4
3) Janet Jesang, Western Kentucky, 20:34.0
4) Lauren Holesh, North Carolina, 20:39.4
5) Tarah McKay, Louisville, 20:42.0
11) Rebekah Ricksecker, 21:24.6
74) Ashley Osborne, 22:40.7
87) Dacia Bushman, 22:51.9
138) Denise Troyer, 23:29.3
153) Hannah Hunt, 23:52.3
184) Rod'Esther Castor, 24:25.1
188) Melissa Martens, 24:28.3

Team Standings (33 total teams):
1) Virginia, 105
2) Kentucky, 126
3) North Carolina, 154
4) Duke, 171
5) William & Mary, 204
15) Liberty, 460