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Chelanga, Kigen Set For Final NCAA XC Meet

November 19, 2010
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sam Chelanga hopes to repeat his performance from the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, when he won the national title in record-setting fashion. (Photo Courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune Star)

Live NCAA.com Video Streaming (Begins Monday at noon)

Flotrack.org Meet Coverage Page

NCAA.com Official Championship Information Page

Complete History of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships (Courtesy of Track & Field News)

Sam Chelanga and Evans Kigen, two of the greatest distance runners in Liberty University history, will both wrap up their collegiate cross country careers Monday afternoon at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

The redshirt seniors have qualified for the meet as individuals and both are returning All-Americans from 2009. Chelanga captured his first NCAA Division I national title at this meet a year ago, while Kigen's first NCAA Division I All-America certificate came as a result of his 20th-place effort.

The duo will begin the men's 10K at 12:48 p.m., at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

Men's Lineup
Sam Chelanga (R-Sr., Nairobi, Kenya)
Evans Kigen (R-Sr., Eldoret, Kenya)

How to Follow the Flames
Both the women's 6K and men's 10K races will be video streamed live on NCAA.com. The streaming is scheduled to begin at noon, in time for the start of the women's race at 12:08 p.m. and then the men's race at 12:48.

Flotrack.org will also be on hand in Terre Haute, providing extensive coverage of the meet. The website will feature three live preview shows, scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. Flotrack.org will also conduct numerous post-race interviews with the top individuals and coaches.

Weather Forecast
Like Lynchburg, Terre Haute has enjoyed a very mild fall so far. The trend is expected to continue into next week, with a forecast high temperature of 68 degrees on Monday. The weather has not reached the 60s for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships since 1999.

There is a chance of rain on Monday, but the weather has been dry in Terre Haute this fall. So, the footing should not turn muddy.

Wind could play a bigger factor in Monday's race, with a 20-mph breeze out of the south listed in the latest forecast. The course's longest straightaway, featured at both the start and end of the 10K, goes in a primarily southerly direction.

Course Preview
The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course is hosting the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships for the seventh straight season and the eighth time in the last nine years. It provides a nice challenge for runners, with its numerous undulations and loops, and is also friendly to spectators.

Chelanga and Kigen are both familiar with the course. This will be Chelanga's seventh race in Terre Haute and Kigen's fourth visit. Chelanga owns both the 8K (22:51.3) and 10K (28:41.3) course records, although his 8K split at the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships (22:47) was actually faster than his course record.

How They Got Here
Chelanga and Kigen punched their tickets to Terre Haute with an impressive 1-2 finish at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships, Nov. 13 in Louisville, Ky. Chelanga clocked a 29:55.8 to win his fourth career NCAA regional crown by 16 seconds. Kigen followed in 30:11.5, taking runner-up honors by seven seconds over his nearest competitor.

Liberty was the only school to record a 1-2 individual finish at any of the NCAA Division I regional meets on Nov. 13.

Twice as Nice
Liberty had never sent more than one individual to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in a single season until 2008. Since then, the Flames have qualified two men's runners to the national meet three times in a row.

Chelanga and Jordan McDougal competed in Terre Haute in 2008, before back-to-back seasons of Chelanga and Kigen qualifying together. Last year, Chelanga and Kigen became Liberty's first cross country duo to earn All-America honors at the same meet.

Liberty is one of only two men's programs in the nation to qualify two men's individual runners to the 2010 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, along with Air Force.

A Look Back at Last Year
Nov. 23, 2009 was a memorable day in the history of the Liberty cross country program, including numerous "firsts" at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Chelanga won his first NCAA Division I national title, doing so in record-breaking fashion. His winning time of 28:41.3 smashed the 10K course record by 22 seconds and was the fastest clocking at the national meet since Henry Rono's (Washington State) 28:19.6 in 1979.

Chelanga crossed the line 25 seconds ahead of runner-up David McNeill of Northern Arizona. It was the largest margin of victory at this meet since 1996 and the fifth-largest in NCAA Division Cross Country Championships history.

Meanwhile, Kigen ran a personal-best 30:01.0 for 20th place. It marked the first time Liberty had ever boasted two cross country All-Americans in the same year.

National Experience
Chelanga is making his fourth appearance at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, while Kigen has qualified for the second time. Kigen also competed in the 2007 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, while representing New York Institute of Technology. Below are both Flames' career summaries at the national meet.

2006: 16th place (Representing Fairleigh Dickinson) – All-American
2008: 2nd place – All-American
2009: 1st place – All-American

2007: 8th place (Division II – Representing NYIT) – All-American
2009: 20th place – All-American

The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
Monday will mark Sam Chelanga's seventh race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, and he has experienced a full gamut of race outcomes in Terre Haute.

Chelanga's biggest highlight at Terre Haute came during the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, when he dominated the field to claim his first NCAA national championship. His winning time of 28:41.3 stands as the 10K course record.

Chelanga also owns the 8K course record, which he set at the 2008 Pre-Nationals. He blazed a 4:16 opening mile and never looked back, clocking a 22:51.3.

Earlier this season, the Nairobi, Kenya native cruised to victory in the Pre-Nationals 8K white race, in a time of 23:19.9. He crossed the finish line 12 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Hill of N.C. State.

However, Chelanga has lost the other three times he has visited Terre Haute, marking his only three collegiate cross country setbacks. He placed 16th (first among freshmen) at the 2006 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and second to Oregon's Galen Rupp at the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. In the 2009 Pre-Nationals white race, Stanford's Chris Derrick came from behind to defeat Chelanga.

Chelanga's Challengers
Only two active collegiate runners (Stanford's Chris Derrick and Northern Arizona's David McNeill) have ever defeated Chelanga in a race, and they are expected to provide his toughest competition on Monday. Last season, Chelanga won the national title with McNeill placing second and Derrick coming in third.

Chris Derrick, Junior, Stanford – Derrick is the No. 1 runner on the nation's No. 1-ranked team. He has enjoyed a strong season, running alongside teammates Elliott Heath and Jake Riley in most of his competitions. Derrick edged his teammates for first place in the Pre-Nationals blue race on Oct. 16, in a time (23:16.9) which was faster than Chelanga ran in that day's white race. Derrick was then awarded third place, behind Heath and Riley, at the Pac-10 Championship. The junior placed seventh at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships as a freshman and was third last year.

David McNeill, Senior, Northern Arizona – McNeill, like Chelanga, is a two-time NCAA Division I national champion. He won the 5K title at both the indoor and outdoor track & field national meets in 2010, edging Chelanga on the final lap each time. McNeill got a late start to this cross country season, after representing Australia in the Commonwealth Games, but was victorious in the NCAA Division I Mountain Regional Cross Country Championships on Nov. 13. This will be his final collegiate race, as he is out of track & field eligibility.

A Perfect 10 in the 10K?
The fact that Monday's race is a 10K should benefit Chelanga. After all, he is the NCAA's all-time record holder in the 10K on the track. His record-setting 27:08.39 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on May 1, 2010 is the fastest personal best among Monday's competitors by nearly a minute. Northern Arizona's David McNeill owns the next-fastest 10K clocking, a 28:03.02 he achieved in Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 11, 2008.

Undefeated Season
Chelanga is one race away from completing his first undefeated cross country season. He lost a single race during each of his first three collegiate cross country campaigns, but is unbeaten in four races, thus far in 2010. No opposing runner has come within 12 seconds of Chelanga this season.

Josh McDougal is the only Liberty runner who has ever enjoyed an unblemished cross country season, all the way through the NCAA national meet. He did so during his national championship season of 2007.
Here is a look at Chelanga's year so far:

Oct. 1 – Brooks Paul Short Run (8K) – 1st place – 23:34 - :15 margin of victory
Oct. 16 – Pre-Nationals White Race (8K) – 1st place – 23:19.9 - :12 margin of victory
Oct. 30 – Big South Championship (8K) – 1st place – 24:03.55 - :32 margin of victory
Nov. 13 – NCAA SE Regional Championship (10K) – 1st place – 29:55.8 - :16 margin of victory

Keeping Up with Kigen
Kigen surprised many people with his 20th-place finish at last year's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. He may be poised for an even better performance this time around, if his results so far this season are any indication.

The Pre-Nationals meet and the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships provide good points of comparison. Kigen competed in both races in 2009 and 2010, and both events were held on the same course each year.

In 2009, Kigen placed 57th in the Pre-Nationals white race, in an 8K time of 24:38.2. This season, he improved to 20th place, in 24:11.8.

Meanwhile, Kigen was the sixth-place finisher at the 2009 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, crossing the line in 30:13.51. This year, a 30:11.5 effort netted second place in the regional meet.

History in the Making?
If Chelanga is able to successfully defend his national title on Monday, it would place both himself and the Liberty men's cross country program in some exclusive company.

-- Only nine men's runners have ever won back-to-back national titles at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The list includes Drake's Fred Feiler (1944-45), Rhode Island's Robert Black (1948-49), Kansas' Herb Semper (1950-51), Houston's Al Lawrence (1959-60), Washington State's Gerry Lindgren (1966-67), Oregon's Steve Prefontaine (1970-71), Washington State's Henry Rono (1976-77), Arkansas' Godfrey Siamusiye (1995-96) and Wisconsin's Simon Bairu (2004-05).

-- Only six men's runners have ever placed in the top two at three different NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The list includes Notre Dame's Oliver Hunter (1940-42), Houston's John Macy (1957 & 1959-60), Washington State's Gerry Lindgren (1966-67 & 1969), Oregon's Steve Prefontaine (1970-71 & 1973), Western Kentucky's Nick Rose (1973-75) and Washington State's Henry Rono (1976-77 & 1979).

-- Only eight schools have captured three or more men's individual titles in the history of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The list features Washington State (7 championships), Kansas (5), Oregon (5), Colorado (4), Wisconsin (4), Arkansas (3), Indiana (3) and UTEP (3).