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Chelanga Voted Big South Athlete of Year

July 14, 2010
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sam Chelanga celebrates his 2009 NCAA national cross country title. (Photo courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune Star)

Liberty redshirt junior distance runner Sam Chelanga has been voted the Big South Conference Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year for the 2009-10 season by the league's athletics directors, senior woman administrators and sports information directors, it was announced today by the conference office.

Chelanga earned 121 points and 22 first-place votes in repeating as the Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year award winner. Liberty distance runners have now captured the conference honor five years in a row, after current graduate assistant coach Josh McDougal won the Howard Bagwell award in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Chelanga outdistanced Coastal Carolina All-American pitcher Anthony Meo, who tallied 73 points. Flames redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Brown received 29 points to finish fifth in the voting.

Meanwhile, Radford softball player Kristen Shifflett was voted the Big South Female Student-Athlete of the Year, with 88 points and 10 first-place votes. Liberty's highest vote-getter on the women's side was redshirt senior track & field standout Jaime Watson. She collected 44 points and a single first-place vote for third place.

Chelanga was the NCAA Division I national champion in two sports in 2009-10, winning the cross country title in November and the 10,000-meter run in outdoor track & field in June. He also earned a pair of NCAA national runner-up finishes this season in the indoor 5K and the outdoor 5K, and increased his total of career All-American honors to nine, including seven at Liberty.

Both of Chelanga's national titles came in dominating performances. He captured the NCAA cross country championship by 25 seconds and broke the course record by 22 seconds. It was the largest margin of victory at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship since 1996. Meanwhile, his NCAA 10K crown came by an 18-second margin over the runner-up. No runner had outdistanced the field by so wide a margin in the NCAA 10K final since 2002.

The 2009-10 Big South Conference Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Chelanga was just a total of 1.14 seconds behind the national champion in his two NCAA 5K second-place finishes. In addition, only two different collegiate runners defeated him in a race all year, including his 16 cross country, indoor track and outdoor track races.

Chelanga's highlights from this past season also include his 27:08.39 clocking in the 10K race at Stanford's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on May 1, breaking his own NCAA all-time 10K record by 20 seconds en route to the third-fastest 10K time in the world in 2010. Additionally, his 13:37.01 effort in the NCAA indoor 5K final ranked No. 17 in the world for the 2009-10 indoor campaign.

Chelanga was one of 10 male finalists for The Bowerman, college track & field's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, was voted the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I Men's National Cross Country Athlete of the Year, and was named the USTFCCCA Division I Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year for both cross country and outdoor track.

Chelanga's 2009-10 season included four Big South titles, including the cross country championship and a trio of first-place finishes (mile, 3K and distance medley relay) at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. He also became the first runner in program history to win back-to-back 5K titles at the IC4A Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

In March 2000, the Big South Conference Executive Committee voted to create an annual Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year award, and name the male award in honor of Howard Bagwell, one of the founders of the Big South Conference. The annual nominees consist of the Players of the Year from each sport for the regular season most recently completed.

Big South Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year
2009-10 Sam Chelanga, Liberty (track & field)
2008-09 Sam Chelanga, Liberty (track & field)
2007-08 Josh McDougal, Liberty (track & field)
2006-07 Josh McDougal, Liberty (track & field)
2005-06 Josh McDougal, Liberty (track & field)

2004-05 Mike Costanzo, Coastal Carolina (baseball)
2003-04 Joseph Ngwenya, Coastal Carolina (soccer)
2002-03 Joseph Ngwenya, Coastal Carolina (soccer)
2001-02 Justin Owens, Coastal Carolina (baseball)
2000-01 Jason Colson, Winthrop (baseball)
1999-00 Keith Butler, Liberty (baseball)

Big South Female Student-Athlete of the Year
2009-10 Kristen Shifflett, Radford (softball)
2008-09 Megan Frazee, Liberty (basketball)
2007-08 Megan Frazee, Liberty (basketball)

2006-07 Aruka Felgueroso, Coastal Carolina (golf)
2005-06 Tiffany Evans, Radford (track & field)
2004-05 Katie Feenstra, Liberty (basketball)
2003-04 Katie Feenstra, Liberty (basketball)

2002-03 Amber Campbell, Coastal Carolina (track & field)
2001-02 Heather Sagan, Liberty (track & field)
2000-01 Amber Campbell, Coastal Carolina (track & field)
1999-00 Anthonia Akpama, Liberty (volleyball)