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2011 NCAA Outdoor Track Championship Preview
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Meet Schedule (Please note that the times listed are Central)
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Three members of the Big South Conference champion Liberty men's track & field team have qualified to compete in the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Sam Chelanga (men's 5K and 10K), Elliot Galeone (men's javelin) and Kolby Shepherd (men's pole vault) will take part in the meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, June 8-11.
How They Got Here
Sam Chelanga posted the fastest men's 5K (14:06.16) and 10K (29:00.94) times at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. Elliot Galeone was seventh in the men's javelin at 227-8, while Kolby Shepherd was one of 11 pole vaulters to clear 17-0.75.
Looking Back at Last Year
Four Liberty Flames competed in the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Sam Chelanga was the star of the show, rolling to the 10K national title and finishing a close second in the 5K final. Liberty was also represented by Elliot Galeone (men's javelin), Evans Kigen (men's steeplechase) and Clarence Powell (men's triple jump).
Chelanga's performance tallied 18 team points for the Flames, tying them with Kentucky for 13th place in the final team standings. It was the highest finish ever by a Big South Conference men's or women's track & field team at the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships, indoors or outdoors.
How to Follow the Flames
Saturday's events will be televised live on CBS, from 1-3 p.m. Eastern. This coverage will include Sam Chelanga's 5K race.
Wednesday and Thursday's events will be video streamed on NCAA.com. Watch LibertyFlames.com for the appropriate links, as they become available.
Flotrack.org will be on hand in Des Moines, taping many post-event interviews.
Live results will be available throughout the meet, courtesy of Flash Results.
Finally, LibertyFlames.com will be on hand Wednesday and Thursday, providing live blog coverage of Elliot Galeone in the men's javelin, Kolby Shepherd in the men's pole vault and Sam Chelanga in the men's 10K.
Liberty Competition Schedule (All times listed are Eastern and subject to change)
4:05 p.m. - Men's Javelin (Elliot Galeone)
6:35 p.m. - Men's Pole Vault (Kolby Shepherd)
9:50 p.m. - Men's 10,000 Final (Sam Chelanga)
2:21 p.m. - Men's 5,000 Final (Sam Chelanga)
Men's 5K Preview
Sam Chelanga will certainly have his work cut out for him if he wants to win the final race of his Liberty career, the men's 5K final on Saturday. He placed a close second in the event last season, but Track & Field News projects him to place only eighth this time around.
Including the 2011 indoor season, seven runners in the field have clocked 13:30 or faster this year. The list features Chelanga (13:27.34), Iona's Leonard Korir (13:26.01), Stanford's Elliott Heath (13:26.14), Oklahoma State's Thomas Farrell (13:26.59), Northern Arizona's Diego Estrada (13:26.94), Stanford's Chris Derrick (13:29.74) and Arizona's Lawi Lalang (13:30.64).
Track & Field tabs Lalang to win the race, after the freshman captured the Pac-10 title and sped to a time of 13:30.64 at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round meet. Meanwhile, Korir was this year's NCAA indoor 5K national champion.
Lalang, Korir and Chelanga are three of the five Kenyans entered in the 5K in Des Moines. In total, 11 of the 24 5K national qualifiers are foreign-born.
Chelanga is one of eight 5K entrants who will be running multiple races in Des Moines, joining Derrick, Heath, Korir, Colorado's Joe Bosshard and Florida State's Ciaran O'Lionaird as 5K/10K doublers. Additionally, Princeton's Donn Cabral and Indiana's Andrew Poore will contest both the steeplechase and 5K this week.
Chelanga owns the fastest personal-best time of any runner in the 5K field, an indoor 13:19.79 effort from the 2009 season. He is also a four-time NCAA national runner-up in the 5K, including the indoor and outdoor meets.
Men's 10K Preview
Last year, Sam Chelanga cruised to victory in the NCAA men's 10K final in Eugene, winning by more than 18 seconds. However, it is not expected to be nearly as easy for Chelanga to successfully defend his title, although Track & Field News does peg him for first place again.
Arizona's Stephen Sambu (27:28.64) and Iona's Leonard Korir (27:29.40) have both broken the 27:30 barrier this season. Thursday's race will be the first in NCAA history matching up a trio of sub-27:30 10K performers, also including the pair of sub-27:30 efforts Chelanga has posted during his collegiate career.
Chelanga has been challenged by both Sambu and Korir this year. Sambu challenged Chelanga on the final straightaway at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Meanwhile, Korir outsprinted Chelanga to win the NCAA indoor 5K national title.
Speaking of sprinting, Stanford's Elliott Heath and Florida State's Ciaran O'Lionaird are two faces to watch if the 10K comes down to a final kick. Heath unleashed a devastating kick to win this year's NCAA indoor 3K national crown. O'Lionaird won the ACC 1,500 title over Virginia's Robby Andrews, clocking 3:40.69 in the process.
Chelanga will attempt to become the sixth men's runner in meet history to claim back-to-back 10K national championships and the first since Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Shadrack Songok in 2007 and 2008.
Men's Pole Vault Preview
Washington senior Scott Roth is the top seed in the men's pole vault in Des Moines, thanks to his 18-9.25 clearance at the Mt. SAC Relays. He is also the reigning NCAA indoor national champion and the top returnee from the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships (tie for third place).
Roth is not Track & Field News' pick to capture the national title this week, though. Perhaps that is because he has not vaulted any higher than 17-0.75 since April 23 and placed just fourth at the Pac-10 meet.
Instead, Track & Field News lists Oral Roberts' Jack Whitt as the pre-meet favorite. The third-place finisher at this year's NCAA indoor meet cleared 18-4.5 at the Texas Relays. He is the only competitor other than Roth who has made it over 18 feet this season.
After Roth and Whitt, this event appears to be pretty wide open. Kolby Shepherd is picked eighth by Track & Field News, but he has defeated the publication's third (BYU's Chris Little), fourth (BYU's Victor Weirich) and fifth-place (Virginia Tech's Hunter Hall) finishers in head-to-head competitions including both the indoor and outdoor campaigns.
First-attempt clearances are important in championship meets, and Shepherd has become quite adept at doing so. Four of the six bars 17 feet or higher he has cleared this outdoor season came on opening attempts, including his 17-6.5 clearance at the Texas Relays.
Men's Javelin Preview
The men's javelin could be one of the more interesting events contested in Des Moines, as four of the top five finishers from the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships are back this year, led by defending national champion Craig Kinsley of Brown.
However, none of those lofty returnees ranks among the event's top three seeds. Those honors belong to Illinois State's Tim Glover (258-9), Western Kentucky's Ignacio Guerra (258-2) and Baylor's Nick Lyons (257-2).
Track & Field News predicts Kinsley to repeat, although he has topped out at 250-5 this year. The magazine picks Guerra second and Washington's Kyle Nielsen to repeat his third-place showing from 2010.
Galeone is seeded only No. 22 entering the competition, but does have a couple things going for him. First, he is one of just 10 entrants who also competed at the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Galeone also fared quite well the first time he competed at Drake Stadium, during this year's Drake Relays. He finished third in a very deep field, placing ahead of the throwers picked No. 6 (Georgia's Brian Moore), No. 7 (Lyons) and No. 10 (Florida's Stipe Zunic) by Track & Field News.
Triple Crown x 5
Liberty continued its dominance of Big South Conference men's cross country and track & field this year, claiming its fifth straight conference "Triple Crown." The Flames won Big South titles in men's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field in 2010-11.
Liberty has now claimed 15 consecutive Big South cross country/track & field championships, a streak which began at the 2006 Big South Cross Country Championship. During their time as a conference member, the Flames have won 42 of 52 possible Big South titles in men's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field.
Sam Chelanga, Elliot Galeone and Kolby Shepherd have all been key parts of Liberty's success at the Big South level during their careers, combining to win 16 Big South individual championships between the trio.
Another Big South Comparison
Liberty's Sam Chelanga, Elliot Galeone and Kolby Shepherd give the Flames more than half of the Big South Conference's representatives in Des Moines. The only other Big South athletes to qualify were VMI's Felix Kitur (men's 800) and UNC Asheville's Natalie Pearson (women's 200).
This week, redshirt junior pole vaulter Kolby Shepherd will be making his first visit to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The most recent Liberty competitor to become an All-American during her first NCAA outdoor appearance was Heather (Sagan) Zealand, the national runner-up at 1,500 meters in 2002. Josh Jones, an All-American in the decathlon at the 2000 NCAA outdoor championship meet, was the last Liberty men's athlete to do so.
Liberty's NCAA Team Finishes
Last season, the Liberty men's squad scored 18 points at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, thanks to Sam Chelanga's 10K victory and runner-up finish in the 5K. As a result, the Flames tied Kentucky for 13th place in the final team standings. It was the highest finish ever by a Big South Conference track & field team (men's or womens, indoor or outdoor) at the NCAA national meet.
This is the seventh consecutive year that Liberty has sent at least one men's distance runner to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the fifth straight year a Liberty men's thrower is competing at the meet.
History at Drake Stadium
Liberty has competed in the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium once before, in 2008. That year, current Liberty assistant coach Clendon Henderson and Evans Kigen were the Flames' top performers.
Henderson placed third in the men's discus, earning All-America honors in the final meet of his collegiate career. Meanwhile, Kigen ran a Big South-record time of 8:43.77 in the men's steeplechase final, taking 10th place in the event.
Of Liberty's three qualifiers to this year's NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, only Galeone has previously competed at Drake. On April 29, he finished third in the javelin at the Drake Relays, thanks to a throw of 227-5.
Check Another One Off the List
Kolby Shepherd's qualification to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships makes the pole vault the 14th different event a Liberty men's athlete has competed in at this meet.
The Flames have also boasted NCAA national qualifiers in the men's 100, 400, steeplechase, 5K, 10K, 400 hurdles, long jump, triple jump, high jump, discus, hammer, javelin and decathlon during their 23 seasons as an NCAA Division I member.
As a result, that list is now only lacking the 200, 800, 1,500, 110 hurdles, 4 x 100, 4 x 400 and shot put disciplines.
Tough to Beat in the 10K
Sam Chelanga not only enters this week's meet as the defending NCAA national champion in the 10K, but is also attempting to continue a stretch of dominance at the 10K distance.
Chelanga placed third in the men's 10K final at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 11, 2009 in Fayetteville, Ark. Since then, Chelanga has not lost to any collegiate athletes at the 10K distance in either cross country or track & field.
The impressive string, which spans nine races, includes three national championships (2009 & 2010 cross country and 2010 outdoor track 10K). It also features Chelanga's NCAA-record 27:08.39 clocking on May 1, 2010 in Stanford, Calif.
Close But No Cigar in the 5K
Sam Chelanga will attempt to claim his first NCAA national title at the 5K distance, after coming close on several previous occasions. Chelanga has posted four national runner-up finishes in the 5K during his career, including three straight at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships (2009, 2010 & 2011). He was also the 5K runner-up at the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
In his final collegiate meet, Sam Chelanga will attempt to etch his name alongside some of the top distance runners in NCAA history. If he wins the 10K title, Chelanga would become only the sixth men's runner ever to successfully defend his 10K championship at this meet. The most recent back-to-back men's 10K national champion was Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Shadrack Songok, in 2007 and 2008.
A Race for the Ages
Thursday evening's men's 10K final will mark the first time in NCAA history that three sub-27:30 runners will square off in the same race. Sam Chelanga has dipped under the 27:30 mark twice during his collegiate career, including an NCAA-record 27:08.39 effort at Stanford on 27:08.39.
This year, Arizona's Stephen Sambu ran 27:28.64 at Stanford, with Iona's Leonard Korir following closely behind at 27:29.40.
Sam Chelanga is attempting the 5K/10K double at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the second year in a row. He is one of six men's runners who will compete in both the 5K and 10K in Des Moines, joining Colorado's Joe Bosshard, Stanford's Chris Derrick and Elliott Heath, Iona's Leonard Korir and Florida State's Ciaran O'Lionaird.
In 2009, Oregon's Galen Rupp won both the 5K and 10K at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, achieving the feat for the eighth time in meet history.
An Unlikely Story
Considering all of the success Sam Chelanga has enjoyed during his collegiate career, it is remarkable that he did not begin running until after he had graduated from Bartolimo High School in Nairobi, Kenya.
When Chelanga did decide to take up running, he had some phenomenal training partners, including his older brother Joshua Chelanga (2:07:05 marathon runner) and friend Paul Tergat (2:04:55 marathon runner, former world record holder). As they say, the rest is history!
Elliot Galeone, who had never thrown the javelin before enrolling at Liberty in the fall of 2006, has displayed steady progress and improvement in the event. He threw 189-0 (57.62m) as a freshman in 2007, 204-7 (62.37m) as a redshirt sophomore in 2009, 224-3 (68.35m) as a redshirt junior in 2010 and a school-record 229-5 (69.93m) this season.
Keeping the Streak Alive
Elliot Galeone's qualification to Des Moines makes it five straight years a Liberty men's thrower has reached the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Jon Hart (hammer) and Clendon Henderson (discus) made the meet together in both 2007 and 2008. John Talbert threw the discus at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Now, Galeone has qualified in the javelin in both 2010 and 2011.
Two Milestones in Sight
Elliot Galeone is aiming to break the 70-meter barrier on Wednesday, after coming close on numerous occasions. He threw the javelin between 69 and 70 meters at five different meets this season, getting as close as 69.93 meters at the Big South meet on April 21.
Galeone is also within striking distance of the Big South all-time javelin record of 70.87 meters (232-6), set by Coastal Carolina's Thomas Jordan in 2004.
A Unique Combination
Elliot Galeone is a rare thrower who excels in both the discus and javelin. He won both events at the Big South meet and was one of only two athletes (also Florida's Stipe Zunic) to throw both implements at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
An Unlikely Story, Part 2
Elliot Galeone came to Liberty in the fall of 2006 as a walk-on, after posting modest personal-best marks of 48-5.5 in the shot put and 152-3 in the discus at Fallston High School. He had never picked up a javelin before joining the Flames.
Nearly five years later, Galeone is Liberty's javelin record holder and is preparing to compete at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the second straight season.
Shepherd's NCAA Pole Vault Predecessors
Although Kolby Shepherd is Liberty's first men's pole vaulter ever to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, he will not be the Flames' first men's athlete to pole vault at the meet. Numerous Liberty competitors have pole vaulted at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as part of the decathlon competition, and some of them have fared quite well.
In 1993, Todd Pettyjohn set what was then an NCAA Division I meet decathlon pole vault record, clearing 17-0.75 (5.20m). That helped him finish as an All-American. Two years later, Ryan Werner pole vaulted 16-8.75 (5.10m), on his way to a fourth-place showing in the NCAA Division I decathlon competition.
Welcome to the Club
Kolby Shepherd had pole vaulted 17 feet several times while redshirting, but did so for the first time in a Liberty uniform on April 2 at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational. That day, he sailed over 17-0.75 (5.20m), becoming the first Flame to vault 17 feet since Ken Howell in 1999.
Shepherd also became just the fourth Liberty competitor ever to break the 17-foot barrier, joining Howell, Todd Pettyjohn and Michael Prettyman in the exclusive group.
Beginning with the Liberty Collegiate Invitational, Shepherd has vaulted 17 feet or higher in five of his last six meets.
Happy Birthday to You!
Kolby Shepherd celebrated birthday No. 22 in style, April 9 at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas. He pole vaulted 17-6.5 (5.35m), equaling Todd Pettyjohn's long-standing school record. Pettyjohn had set his mark at the 1993 IC4A meet, and it was Liberty's oldest men's outdoor school record before Shepherd tied it.
Making the Most of His Redshirt Year
When Kolby Shepherd donned a Liberty uniform at the Coastal Carolina Invitational on March 12, it was his first time doing so in over a year. He redshirted both the 2010 outdoor season and 2010-11 indoor campaign.
Shepherd made a couple major breakthroughs during his year of redshirting. He pole vaulted 17 feet for the first time on April 3 at the Liberty Collegiate Invitational, sailing over 17-0.75 (5.20m).
Shepherd then boosted his personal best all the way up to 17-7.25 (5.37m) on Jan. 22 at the Hokie Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. In that meet, he defeated all three of Virginia Tech's Des Moines qualifiers (Joe Davis, Hunter Hall and Jared Jodon) at their home facility.
An Unlikely Story, Part 3
Like Elliot Galeone, Kolby Shepherd was a walk-on when he first joined the Liberty men's track & field team in the fall of 2007. He was a two-time state pole vault champion in Georgia as a high school student at Trinity Christian School, but Shepherd's high school personal-best clearance was just 14-0.
Shepherd has made steady progress throughout his time at Liberty, clearing 16-6.75 (5.05m) in 2008, 17-0.75 (5.20m) in 2010 and 17-7.25 (5.37m) in 2011.