Sam Chelanga is Liberty's third student-athlete ever to win the Eastern Track Collegian of the Year award. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)
Liberty redshirt junior Sam Chelanga has been tabbed 2009 Male Collegian of the Year by the publication "Eastern Track," it was announced today. The award is based upon his stellar performances during the 2008 cross country, 2009 indoor track and 2009 outdoor track seasons. Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) becomes the Flames' third Eastern Track Collegian of the Year in program history, joining two current members of the Liberty track & field coaching staff. Assistant coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand captured the honor in 2002, and graduate assistant Josh McDougal was recognized in 2007. Chelanga beat out Indiana (Pa.) long jumper Nafee Harris, Virginia Tech pole vaulter Yavgeniy Olhovsky, Manhattan thrower Milan Jotanovich and Hamilton distance standout Peter Kosgei to win the prestigious award. During his first season of competition in a Liberty uniform, Chelanga won All-America honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. He finished second to Oregon's Galen Rupp in both the 2008 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship and the 5K at the 2009 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championship. Chelanga then closed his season with a third-place finish in the 10K at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship. Arguably Chelanga's most impressive performance of the year came on April 24 at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif. He clocked a 10K time of 27:28.48 that evening, establishing an all-time NCAA record for the event. Chelanga nearly set an NCAA indoor record as well, posting the second-fastest 5K in collegiate history, 13:19.79, Feb. 13 at the Tyson Invitational. Chelanga captured numerous individual conference titles on the year, including the Big South cross country crown, indoor mile title and outdoor 1,500 and 5K championships. He also ran to the 5K title at the IC4A Outdoor Track & Field Championship. The Kenya native was previously recognized as the 2008-09 Big South Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year. He was also the Big South Co-Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year and the Big South Men's Cross Country Runner of the Year. Chelanga was additionally tabbed U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year in both cross country and outdoor track. Although not considered within the time frame of this award, Chelanga most recently won the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship national title, Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. His first NCAA national championship, which came in a course-record time of 28:41.3, made him a six-time All-American. Chelanga is tentatively slated to open his 2010 indoor track & field season at the Flames' next meet, the Jan. 22-23 Hokie Invitational in Blacksburg, Va.
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