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Chelanga, Klugh Lead Big South XC Sweep

October 30, 2010  Blacksburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames celebrate after their second consecutive Big South cross country title and fourth championship in the last five years.

The Lady Flames celebrate after their second consecutive Big South cross country title and fourth championship in the last five years.

Watch meet video highlight package

Watch post-race interview with
Sam Chelanga

Watch post-race interview with
Jennifer Klugh

Watch post-race interview with Head Coach Brant Tolsma

All footage courtesy of the Big South Network

Liberty earned a significant amount of hardware at the 2010 Big South Conference Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Blacksburg Middle School. Led by Sam Chelanga's dominating victory, the men's squad took home its sixth consecutive Big South title, and Jennifer Klugh's individual crown highlighted the Lady Flames' fourth team championship in the last five years.

Chelanga's third Big South cross country championship in a row led the Flames' impressive 1-2-3 sweep in the men's 8K race, which also included Evans Kigen and Josh Edmonds. Their efforts helped Liberty tie Radford (1985-90) for the most consecutive team titles in Big South men's cross country history.

The Flames, who placed eight runners in the top 20, tallied 33 points. It was Liberty's 12th Big South men's cross country championship in 20 years as a conference member. Fellow regionally-ranked squad High Point took runner-up honors for the fourth consecutive season, finishing with 45 points.

Liberty was also prominent in the women's lead pack on a sunny but cool day, with Klugh, Dacia Bushman and Hailey Neal placing first, third and fourth, respectively. As a result, the Lady Flames successfully defended their Big South championship from 2009. Liberty's total of 39 points put the team 25 markers ahead of runner-up Coastal Carolina, representing the Lady Flames' largest margin of victory at the meet since 1991.

After celebrating with his two victorious teams, head coach Brant Tolsma was tabbed both the Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year. The men's honor was his sixth in a row and 10th overall, while he became a five-time women's award winner. Currently in his 25th year at Liberty, Tolsma has now captured a total of 45 Big South Coach of the Year laurels, including cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field. Credit must also be given to Tolsma's staff, headlined by first-year distance coach Derek Scott.

Men's Meet Recap
As he has done many times during his spectacular collegiate career, Chelanga broke to the front of the pack early on in the race and covered much of the hilly terrain by himself. He crossed the 5K pole in just over 15 minutes, on his way to an 8K course-record time of 24:03.55.

The redshirt senior remains undefeated in his three 2010 cross country races, after finishing 32 seconds in front of teammate Kigen. Liberty runners have now won seven consecutive Big South men's cross country championships, as Josh McDougal preceded Chelanga's trio of titles with four victories in a row (2004-07).

Kigen finished second behind Chelanga, just as he did in 2009. The 2009 cross country All-American's time was 24:35.44. Edmonds followed in 24:44.88, wrapping up Liberty's first 1-2-3 sweep since 2007, when Josh McDougal, Jordan McDougal and Jarvis Jelen accomplished the feat.

Edmonds' performance allowed him to join Josh McDougal as the only Liberty runners ever to earn four All-Big South cross country honors. The redshirt senior was later recognized as the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second time in his career. Only Liberty's Evan Falat (2004 & 2005) had ever won the award twice, in conference history. Edmonds graduated with a 3.78 GPA as a criminal justice major and is just starting work toward a master's degree this semester.

Josh MacDonald narrowly missed winning All-Big South recognition as a freshman, crossing the line 11th in a time of 25:28.97. MacDonald was the second freshman to finish on Saturday, trailing only Big South Freshman of the Year Patrick Crawford of High Point. Crawford ended up sixth.

Redshirt senior Jake Reed closed out the Flames' top five. His 25:54.84 effort stood up for 16th place in the field of 81 runners. Three teammates followed Reed closely, in 18th, 19th and 20th place. Caleb Edmonds was 18th in 26:05.00, Mark Hopely took 19th in 26:08.68 and Isaac Wendland placed 20th in 26:18.91.

Women's Meet Recap
Klugh's victory in the women's race came in a much different fashion than Chelanga's triumph. The redshirt sophomore broke away from the field during the final mile, winning by six seconds in a 5K course-record clocking of 17:54.33. The time set a new personal best and was the fourth-fastest effort ever by a Lady Flame at the Big South Cross Country Championships.

Klugh, Liberty's first Big South women's cross country individual champion since Heather (Sagan) Zealand won back-to-back crowns in 2000 and 2001, was also voted Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year. A mathematics major with a 3.53 GPA, Klugh became the first sophomore to win the award since 1995 and the first women's Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year to also win the conference individual title since 1999. Jolene Williams of Coastal Carolina accomplished the impressive double in both 1998 and 1999.

Bushman's 18:07.82 netted third place and her third career All-Big South cross country recognition. She is the fifth Lady Flame ever to become a three-time All-Big South harrier. Neal followed in a personal-best 18:18.30 for fourth place, making it three Lady Flames in the top five for the first time in meet history.

Sophomore Khristina Kanagy continued the Lady Flames' string of personal-best times on the undulating but hard-packed course. Her time of 18:44.54 was good for 12th place in the field of 76. Classmate Betel Yosef stepped up with her best race of the season, a personal-best 18:52.56 effort that yielded 19th place.

Senior Rod'Esther Castor and junior Denise Troyer also played important roles in Liberty's victory. They both crossed the finish line before the fifth and final scoring member of the Lady Flames' two closest rivals, Coastal Carolina and VMI. Castor clocked 18:55.71 for 20th place, while Troyer was 24th in 19:08.04. Both times established new personal bests.

A number of Liberty runners will wrap up their 2010 campaign at Friday's Cavalier Invitational in Charlottesville, Va. The men's 8K race will begin at 4 p.m. and the women's 5K will go off at 4:45. Both races will be contested at Panorama Farms.

Final Men's Team Scores
1) Liberty – 33

2) High Point – 45
3) VMI – 69
4) Winthrop – 134
5) Radford – 153
6) UNC Asheville – 162
7) Coastal Carolina – 205
8) Charleston Southern – 209
9) Gardner-Webb – 247

Final Women's Team Scores
1) Liberty – 39

2) Coastal Carolina – 64
3) VMI – 71
4) High Point – 72
5) UNC Asheville – 141
6) Gardner-Webb – 189
7) Winthrop – 202
8) Charleston Southern – 215
9) Radford – 232

Men's Runner of the Year
Sam Chelanga, Liberty

Women's Runner of the Year
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty

Men's Freshman of the Year
Patrick Crawford, High Point

Women's Freshman of the Year
Tammy Cheung, VMI

Men's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Women's Coach of the Year
Brant Tolsma, Liberty

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Josh Edmonds, Liberty

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty

Men's All-Academic Team
Josh Edmonds, Liberty

Jevin Monds, High Point
Kyle Kling, Coastal Carolina
Andrew King, Charleston Southern
Adam Freudenthal, Winthrop
Paul Steinke, Gardner-Webb
Adam Schnapp, UNC Asheville
Nicholas Baer, Presbyterian College
Sam Keltner, Radford

Women's All-Academic Team
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty

Emma Bussard, UNC Asheville
Corinne Lariviere, VMI
Laura Scott, Gardner-Webb
Janel Reeves, Coastal Carolina
Kelsey Hunt, High Point
Adrienne Cuff, Charleston Southern
Hannah Scheren, Radford
Natalie Parkman, Presbyterian College
Jennifer Schofield, Winthrop