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Chelanga Wins NCAA Title, Sets New Record

November 23, 2009
|  Terre Haute, Ind.
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Sam Chelanga is the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country Champion.... Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.

Sam Chelanga is the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country Champion.... Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.

Watch Race Highlights (Courtesy of NCAA.com)

Watch Postrace Interview with Sam Chelanga (Courtesy of Flotrack.org)

Watch Postrace Interview with Evans Kigen (Courtesy of Flotrack.org)

Watch Postrace Interview with Liberty Graduate Assistant Josh McDougal (Courtesy of Flotrack.org)

Smashing the LaVern Gibson 10K course record by 22 seconds, Liberty's Sam Chelanga was crowned the NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country Champion, Monday afternoon, in Terre Haute, Ind. He crossed the finish line in 28:41.3, 25 seconds ahead of second-place finisher David McNeill of Northern Arizona. Stanford's Chris Derrick, who defeated Chelanga at the Pre-Nationals and was favored to take the national title, finished third.

Chelanga, now a six-time All-American, becomes the third NCAA Division I national champion from Liberty. Flames graduate assistant coach Josh McDougal was the 2007 NCAA National Cross Country Champion, and current assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand took the title in the mile at the 2002 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Also running for Liberty was redshirt junior Evans Kigen, who finished 20th with a time of 30:01.0, marking the first time in school history that Liberty has had two All-Americans in the same year.

After running an 8:24 3K split, Chelanga rushed to an early lead, breaking away from the pack to create a 28-second gap at the 5K mark with a time of 14:09. He was not contested for the remainder of the race.

He set new Liberty and Big South records at the 8K split with a time of 22:46.6. The previous 8K record was 22:51, a time he set at the 2008 Pre-Nationals.

No one has run the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship faster than Chelanga since 1979, when Washington State's Henry Rono finished the race in 28:19.6.

Chelanga, who was recently named this year's USTFCCCA Southeast Regional Cross Country Athlete of the Year, finished second behind Oregon's Galen Rupp in the 2008 national meet. The redshirt junior from Nairobi, Kenya, won every race he entered this season with the exception of the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 17. In that 8K event, he led most of the way before being outrun by Derrick on the final straightaway. Chelanga finished second with a time of 23:34.6 that day, seven seconds behind Derrick.

This marks the second consecutive year that the Flames sent two runners to the national meet.
Oklahoma State claimed the men's team title with 127 points, followed by Oregon with 143 points.

2009 NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championship

Men's individual results
1. Sam Chelanga, 28:41.2

2. David McNeil, Northern Arizona, 29:06.5
3. Chris Derrick, Stanford, 29:14.8
4. Barnabas Kirui, Mississippi, 29:24.1
5. Jordan Chipangama, Northern Arizona, 29:33.1
20. Evans Kigen, 30:01.0

Men's team results
1. Oklahoma State, 127
2. Oregon, 143
3. Alabama, 173
4. Northern Arizona, 190
5. William & Mary, 226