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Chelanga Becomes U.S. Citizen

August 17, 2015  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Former Liberty cross country/track & field standout Sam Chelanga became a U.S. citizen on Friday. (Photo by Brian Mason)

Former Liberty cross country/track & field standout Sam Chelanga became a U.S. citizen on Friday. (Photo by Brian Mason)

Read LetsRun.com's feature article on Sam Chelanga

Sam Chelanga, a four-time NCAA national champion while wearing a red, white and blue Liberty uniform, will now be eligible to wear those same colors once again. Chelanga became a U.S. citizen on Friday in Tucson, Ariz.

Now 30 years of age, Chelanga has lived in the United States since leaving his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya in 2006, including his tenure as a Liberty student-athlete from 2007-11.

"I love America a lot," Chelanga told LetsRun.com. "[Becoming an American] is everything to me. I live in America and my [son] is American. I pay taxes, but I can do more than that as an athlete. And with citizenship that can become a reality."

Chelanga wasted little time representing his new nation, competing in Sunday's Falmouth Road Race in Falmouth, Mass. He placed fourth overall and first among Americans with a time of 32:21 for the seven-mile course, crossing the line just four seconds behind race champion and training partner Stephen Sambu.

Just three weeks earlier, Chelanga was victorious at the Wharf to Wharf race in Capitola, Calif., covering six miles in 27:24 to hold off runner-up Shadrack Kosgei by two seconds.

Chelanga plans to return to action on Sept. 7 in New Haven, Conn., when he will compete for his first U.S. national title at the USATF 20K Championships.

Chelanga is also looking ahead to next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he hopes to become Liberty's first-ever Olympian. He is still undecided about which event(s) to contest, with the 10K and marathon as his most likely options.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon will be held on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Chelanga has never contested a full marathon, but boasts a personal best of 1:01:04 for the half marathon distance.

Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., will play host to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, July 1-10. Chelanga captured the 10K title at the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field and later lived in Eugene while competing for the Oregon Track Club Elite.

Only two Americans (Galen Rupp and Chris Solinsky) have ever run a 10K faster than Chelanga's personal best of 27:08.39, which still stands as the all-time collegiate record.

Chelanga is currently living in Tucson, Ariz., with wife Marybeth and two-year-old son Micah. He trains under the direction of coach James Li, alongside Sambu, Leonard Korir, Lawi Lalang and Bernard Lagat, another Kenyan-born runner who later became a U.S. citizen.