2011 Liberty graduate Sam Chelanga ranked No. 36 in the world for both the men's 5K and 10K distances in 2012. (Photo by Brian Mason)
Now competing for the Oregon Track Club Elite, 2011 Liberty graduate Sam Chelanga ranked No. 36 in the world for both the 5K and 10K distances in 2012, according to the February 2013 issue of Track & Field News magazine. Meanwhile, fellow Liberty track & field alumni Melinda Bendik, Josh Cox and Kolby Shepherd all ranked among the top 40 Americans in their respective events during the Olympic year. Each athlete's 2012 ranking and season highlights are listed below, in alphabetical order.
Melinda Bendik – A redshirt senior on Liberty's 2011-12 women's track & field team, Bendik was not listed in Track & Field News' year-end rankings. However, her school-record hammer throw of 202-7 at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet is superior to the magazine's No. 39 mark on the 2012 American list. Bendik's stellar senior season included Big South and ECAC hammer titles, as well as a 16th-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The NCAA performance earned second team All-America honors for Bendik.
Sam Chelanga – Chelanga's No. 36 world rankings in 2012 came thanks to a personal-best 13:09.67 clocking in the 5K and a 27:29.82 effort in the 10K. His 5K performance came on his new home track at Hayward Field, when he finished eighth at the Prefontaine Classic on June 2. Chelanga's top 10K clocking of the year happened during his runner-up finish at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Stanford, Calif., on April 28. Those were two of Chelanga's five Liberty alumni records during 2012, which also included the 3K (7:50.52), road 5K (13:43) and half marathon (1:01:19).
Josh Cox – Cox, a 1998 Liberty graduate, made an impressive showing during his fourth appearance in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Jan. 14 in Houston, Texas. He finished 14th in the men's race with a personal-best and Liberty alumni-record time of 2:13:50 at the age of 36. The time ranked him No. 16 on the American list for 2012.
Kolby Shepherd – Shepherd closed out his collegiate career in style on June 8 at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He pole vaulted a career-best 17-8.5 to tie for fifth place in the men's final and earn All-America honors. With the clearance, the Dublin, Ga., native broke the Liberty record, tied the Big South Conference record and tied for the No. 40 spot on the American list for 2012.
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