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Chelanga Finishes as NCAA 10K Runner-up

June 10, 2011
|  Des Moines, Iowa
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NCAA 10K national runner-up Sam Chelanga is sandwiched between (left) national champion Leonard Korir of Iona and (right) third-place finisher Stephen Sambu of Arizona. (Photo by Brian Mason)

Although the men's 10K final began about 22 hours later than originally scheduled due to a series of weather delays at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Friday evening's race certainly lived up to its billing. In the fastest men's 10K race in more than 25 years at this meet, Iona's Leonard Korir outkicked Liberty's Sam Chelanga for the title, relegating Chelanga to the sixth national runner-up finish of his collegiate career.

Korir's official time of 28:07.63 was the fastest winning effort at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships since 1984, when BYU's Ed Eyestone won the event in a time of 28:05.30. Chelanga, now a 13-time All-American (including his second-team All-America nod in the 2011 indoor 3K), clocked a season-best 28:12.18 for second place.

The highly-anticipated race matched up the only three NCAA runners who have ever dipped under 27:30 for a 10K during their college careers—Korir, Chelanga and Arizona's Stephen Sambu.

By the midway point of Friday's race, Korir, Sambu and Chelanga had broken away from the rest of the 24-member field, making it a three-way battle for the championship.

After the trio exchanged the lead numerous times, Chelanga took over first place with two laps remaining. He covered the circuit in 65.77 seconds, breaking away from Sambu slightly and setting up a final lap sprint against Korir.

Just like this year's 5K final at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, Korir's potent finishing kick was too much for Chelanga to overcome. Chelanga sped through his 25th and final lap in 60.90 seconds, but Korir was able to pull away with a very impressive 56.18 clocking and win by about 4.5 seconds.

Korir's second track & field national championship of the season denied Chelanga an opportunity to defend his 10K national crown from 2010. Korir also became the first collegiate runner to defeat Chelanga in a track & field or cross country 10K race in two years.

After the race, Chelanga stated, "It was a bit disappointing losing, but I know I had the ability to win the race. Overall, I am not disappointed though. I did all I could."

Chelanga will now run the last race of his collegiate career Saturday at 2:21 p.m. Eastern, when he competes in the men's 5K final. The race will be broadcasted live on CBS, during the network's 1-3 p.m. coverage of the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships' final day of competition.

Watch Flotrack's post-race interview with Sam Chelanga here:

Watch more video of NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships 2011 on flotrack.org