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Liberty Trio Earns Conference Accolades

February 18, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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(L-R): Sam Chelanga, Marie Williams and Kolby Shepherd all earned conference awards today. (Chelanga photo courtesy of Arkansas Media Relations)

(L-R): Sam Chelanga, Marie Williams and Kolby Shepherd all earned conference awards today. (Chelanga photo courtesy of Arkansas Media Relations)

Liberty's Sam Chelanga, Kolby Shepherd and Marie Williams were all honored as Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Athletes of the Week today, while Chelanga also took home the Big South Conference Choice Hotels Men's Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Week honor.

Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya) shared the ECAC Division I Men's Track Athlete of the Week honor with Army senior Brandon Thurman, while Shepherd (So., Dublin, Ga.) and New Hampshire senior Spencer Shaw were co-ECAC Division I Men's Field Athletes of the Week. Meanwhile, Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) captured the ECAC Division I Women's Field Athlete of the Week award.

The NCAA indoor record for the men's 5,000 meters had stood at 13:20.4 since 1981, before Chelanga and Oregon senior Galen Rupp took the track at the Tyson Invitational, Feb. 13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Rupp held off Chelanga in a sprint to the finish, setting a new collegiate record time of 13:18.12, while the Liberty sophomore posted the second-fastest time in NCAA history, 13:19.79.

Chelanga, Liberty's third different Big South Men's Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Week in the last four weeks, sliced 18 seconds off the school and Big South 5,000-meter records, formerly held by Liberty graduate and 14-time All-American, Josh McDougal. Chelanga was one of three runners to better the Randal Tyson Track Center facility record, while automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championship.

Competing at Liberty's final indoor home meet of the season, the Liberty Quad, Shepherd pole vaulted a personal-best 16-5.25 to win the competition. The sophomore has boosted his clearance height at each of his four meets this season, progressing from 14-3.25 to 15-9 to 16-2.75, before his aforementioned effort on Feb. 13. Shepherd, now the No. 3 pole vaulter in program history, has won event titles at the Liberty Open, Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup and Liberty Quad this year.

Williams opened the pentathlon at the Liberty Quad with a personal-best 9.03 clocking in the 60-meter hurdles on Feb. 13, providing a sign of things to come. The Sunshine State native went on to improve her personal best by 74 points, to 3,578. Williams, the No. 3 pentathlete in Liberty history, won the competition by 217 points and qualified for the ECAC Indoor Track & Field Championship.

Chelanga will be back in action this Saturday, when he runs the 3,000 meters at the Virginia Tech Challenge in Blacksburg, Va. The race will begin at 1:15 p.m., and Chelanga will attempt to improve upon his NCAA provisional-qualifying time of 8:00.99.

Shepherd and Williams will return to action Feb. 26-27, at the New Balance Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships in Clemson, S.C. Shepherd will aim to defend the conference pole vault title he won last season as a freshman, while helping the Flames seek their unprecedented 12th consecutive Big South championship. Meanwhile, Williams will return to the Big South meet for the first time since 2007, when she won the pentathlon with a meet-record 3,447 points. She and her teammates will chase their first Big South indoor team title since 2005.