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Chelanga Voted Big South Athlete of Year

July 13, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sam Chelanga celebrates his second straight NCAA cross country national title in November. (Photo by Sean Hartnett)

For the third consecutive year, Liberty redshirt senior distance standout Sam Chelanga has been voted the Big South Conference Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year by the league's athletics directors, senior woman administrators and sports information directors, it was announced today by the conference office.

Chelanga earned 109 points and 21 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 six years in a row, after Josh McDougal won the Howard Bagwell award in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08. Chelanga joins McDougal as the only three-time Howard Bagwell award winners in conference history.

Chelanga outdistanced Coastal Carolina baseball All-American Tommy La Stella, who tallied 64 points. Two other Flames finished in the top five of the voting, including All-American quarterback Mike Brown (third place, 47 points) and golfer Robert Karlsson (fourth place, 24 points).

Meanwhile, UNC Asheville sprinter Natalie Pearson was voted the Big South Female Student-Athlete of the Year, with 70 points and nine first-place votes. Liberty's Jennifer Klugh (cross country/track & field) and Kelly Strickland (softball) both tied Charleston Southern women's basketball player Katie Tull for second place in the voting with 42 points each.

Chelanga excelled in his final collegiate season of cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field in 2010-11. He won a pair of national championships (cross country and outdoor track 5K) and five total All-America honors on the year. As a result, he closed his collegiate career with four national titles and 14 All-America certificates. Chelanga was one of 10 men's semifinalists for The Bowerman, college track & field's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Chelanga went undefeated in his five cross country races this season, capped off by his second consecutive national title at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. His winning time of 29:22.2 made him just the 10th men's runner ever to win back-to-back NCAA Division I national cross country crowns.

Chelanga's cross country season also included victories at the Brooks Paul Short Run, Pre-Nationals, the Big South Championships and the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. It was the third straight year that he swept the Big South and Southeast Region individual titles.

The Nairobi, Kenya native was honored as the USTFCCCA National Male Athlete of the Year and the Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year at the end of his successful cross country season.

Chelanga's indoor track campaign featured his third consecutive 5K runner-up finish at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. His time of 13:27.34 was the eighth-fastest indoor 5K clocking in NCAA history. Chelanga also placed 15th in the NCAA men's 3K final, earning second-team All-America honors.

Chelanga ran the fastest 3K by a collegiate athlete this year, posting a Liberty and Big South-record 7:48.24 clocking at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. The time also ranked No. 17 in the world for the 2010-11 indoor season.

Chelanga won the men's mile title at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships for the third consecutive year, marking the ninth Big South individual event title of his career. For the first time, he was named USTFCCCA Division I Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season.

Chelanga then wrapped up his collegiate career in style at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, winning the men's 5K title and placing second in the 10K within the span of less than 24 hours. His 5K time (13:29.30) was the seventh-fastest effort in meet history and his 10K clocking (28:12.18) ranks ninth in meet history.

For the third consecutive year, Chelanga was tabbed USTFCCCA Division I Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year for outdoor track. He also earned his third straight Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year honor.

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
2010-11 Sam Chelanga, Liberty (track & field)
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
2010-11 Natalie Pearson, UNC Asheville (track & field)
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)