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Chelanga Named Co-BSC Track Athlete of Year

June 19, 2009
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sam Chelanga and VMI's Donnie Cowart (left) were voted the Big South Conference Men's Track & Field Co-Athletes of the Year.

Sam Chelanga and VMI's Donnie Cowart (left) were voted the Big South Conference Men's Track & Field Co-Athletes of the Year.

Liberty redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga, who earned three All-America honors during his first season with the Flames, has been voted the 2008-09 Big South Conference Men's Track & Field Co-Athlete of the Year. He shares the honor, voted on by the conference's head track & field coaches, with VMI redshirt senior Donnie Cowart.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) is the fifth straight Liberty athlete to capture this award, after former Flames standout Josh McDougal won the Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year honor four straight times, between 2004-05 and 2007-08. On the women's side, Charleston Southern's record-setting 4 x 100 relay quartet of Dionne Gibson, Jessica Thomas, Misha Morris and Gabrielle Houston was named the Big South Women's Track & Field Athletes of the Year.

Chelanga joined McDougal as the only Liberty athletes ever to enjoy a "Triple Crown" All-America year, including cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field. Chelanga placed second at the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, and also earned a runner-up finish in the 5K at the 2009 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Most recently, he wrapped up his year by taking third place in the 10K final at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. In Chelanga's 18 individual cross country and track races this year, he only lost to two collegiate runners—Oregon senior Galen Rupp and Arkansas senior Shawn Forrest.

Chelanga broke four Liberty and Big South records this year and one NCAA national record. On April 24, the Kenya native won the 10K at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif., blazing a time of 27:28.48 to set an all-time NCAA standard for the event. He also clocked the second-fastest indoor 5K time (13:19.79) in NCAA history, Feb. 13 in Fayetteville, Ark. On the cross country course, Chelanga lowered the Liberty and conference standards to 22:51.3 for the 8K distance and 29:08.0 for the 10K.

At the conference level, Chelanga helped the Flames sweep the Big South cross country, indoor track and outdoor track team championships and claim second place at the IC4A outdoor meet. He won individual Big South titles in cross country, the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 and 5K. His 5K clocking at the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, 14:01.89, broke McDougal's meet record. At the IC4A outdoor championship, Chelanga won the 5K race by more than seven seconds.

Chelanga has received numerous awards this year, including the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year distinction for both cross country and outdoor track. The Big South Men's Cross Country Runner of the Year, Chelanga was a seven-time Big South Athlete of the Week and a four-time ECAC Division I Athlete of the Week.