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Chelanga Repeats as NCAA Indoor 5K Runner-up

March 12, 2010  Fayetteville, Ark.  RSS
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Sam Chelanga finished second in the 5K at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships for the second year in a row.

Sam Chelanga finished second in the 5K at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships for the second year in a row.

Watch a postrace interview with Sam Chelanga (courtesy of Flotrack.org)

Pre-meet favorites Liberty redshirt junior Sam Chelanga and Northern Arizona junior David McNeill battled it out for the 5K title, Friday evening at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. However, McNeill was able to hold off Chelanga at the Randal Tyson Track Center, giving Chelanga his second consecutive national runner-up finish in the event.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya) and McNeill, the top two finishers at the 2009 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in November, exchanged the lead several times and maintained a fast pace throughout the 5K final. Chelanga made a strong charge down the backstretch on the 25th and final lap, but McNeill won the sprint to the finish line to claim the first NCAA national title of his career.

McNeill's official time, 13:36.41, was the second-fastest winning performance in meet history. Chelanga finished a close second at this meet for the second straight year, in a season-best 13:37.01. The duo finished more than four seconds clear of anyone else in the field.

Chelanga is now a seven-time All-American, including three times in the indoor 5K. He placed fourth as a freshman in 2007, before his back-to-back runner-up showings the past two seasons.

Jaime Watson (R-Sr., Ravenna, Mich.) competed in the women's 800-meter prelims earlier Friday evening, making her NCAA national meet debut. Her time of 2:08.49 placed fifth in her heat and 15th overall, matching her seed entering the meet but falling short of qualifying for Saturday's final.

Liberty's 2009-10 indoor track & field season is now complete. The 2010 outdoor campaign began Friday and will continue Saturday, at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in Conway, S.C.