The 2010 Liberty men's cross country team captured its sixth consecutive Big South Conference title.
Redshirt senior Sam Chelanga won his second consecutive national title at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind. His championship punctuated a very successful 2010 season for the Liberty men's and women's cross country teams.
Team Accomplishments Big South Champions x 2 Liberty continued its recent string of success at the Big South Conference Cross Country Championships, contested Oct. 30 in Blacksburg, Va. The men's squad notched its sixth consecutive Big South title, while the Lady Flames were victorious for the fourth time in the last five years. News and Notes: -- Led by a 1-2-3 finish by seniors Chelanga, Evans Kigen and Josh Edmonds, Liberty defeated High Point, 33-45, for the men's title. -- Liberty men's runners have now swept the top three spots at the Big South Cross Country Championships four times, after previously doing so in 1997, 2006 and 2007. -- It was a full team effort for the Flames, who placed eight runners in the top 20. -- Liberty's sixth straight title tied Radford (1985-90) for the longest string of men's cross country championships in Big South Conference history. -- The Flames have now won 12 Big South men's cross country crowns in 20 years as a conference member. -- Jennifer Klugh, Dacia Bushman and Hailey Neal finished 1-3-4 for the Lady Flames, marking the first time Liberty has ever placed three women's runners in the top five at the Big South meet. -- The Lady Flames tallied 39 points, outdistancing runner-up Coastal Carolina by 25 markers. -- It was Liberty's largest margin of victory at the Big South meet since 1991. -- Liberty has now won seven Big South women's cross country team titles.
Running Well at Regionals Both the Flames and Lady Flames fared well at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, held Nov. 13 in Louisville, Ky. The men's squad placed eighth, while the Lady Flames came in 10th. News and Notes: -- Chelanga and Kigen finished first and second, respectively, in the men's race, making Liberty the only Division I men's squad in the nation to post a 1-2 finish at its regional meet this season. -- Edmonds made it three Flames to earn all-region honors in the men's race, courtesy of his 15th-place finish. Liberty was the first team to get its No. 3 runner across the line. -- It was the third time in the last four seasons that Liberty has boasted a trio of all-region men's runners. -- The men's squad's eighth-place showing was the team's fourth top-eight finish at the regional meet in the last five seasons. -- The Lady Flames came in 10th, marking their third-highest regional finish in program history. -- Liberty finished nine places and 189 points ahead of the next Big South women's team (High Point) at the regional meet. -- The same seven Lady Flames (Klugh, Bushman, Neal, Khristina Kanagy, Betel Yosef, Rod'Esther Castor and Denise Troyer) who had competed for Liberty at the 2009 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships comprised the Lady Flames' 2010 regional squad. -- The group improved eight places in the final team standings (going from 18th to 10th) and improved its collective time by 5:40 from the 2009 meet, held at the same course.
National Notoriety Chelanga and Kigen helped the Liberty men's program take its place in some exclusive company on the national cross country scene, as a result of their outstanding seasons. News and Notes: -- Thanks to Chelanga's second consecutive national title and Josh McDougal's national championship in 2007, Liberty became just the ninth school to win three or more men's individual titles in the history of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. -- The Flames joined Washington State, Kansas, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Indiana and UTEP on the exclusive list. -- Liberty joined Air Force as the only men's teams to send multiple individual qualifiers (Chelanga and Kigen) to this year's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. -- The Liberty men's squad defeated three nationally-ranked teams this season, including No. 21 Tulsa and No. 25 Minnesota at Pre-Nationals and No. 18 North Carolina at the regional meet.
Individual Accomplishments Chelanga's Championship Season Redshirt senior Sam Chelanga finished his collegiate cross country career in style in 2010. He went undefeated in his five races and became just the 10th NCAA Division I men's runner ever to win back-to-back national cross country titles. Below is a meet-by-meet look back at Chelanga's year.
Brooks Paul Short Run (Oct. 1 – Bethlehem, Pa.) -- Chelanga won the men's 8K gold race by 15 seconds, in a time of 23:34. -- He had previously won the 2008 Paul Short title, running a time of 23:05 that still stands as the course record. -- Chelanga was tabbed Big South Runner of the Week on Oct. 6.
Pre-Nationals (Oct. 16 – Terre Haute, Ind.) -- Chelanga captured the men's 8K white race title by 12 seconds, in a time of 23:19.9. -- He became a two-time Pre-Nationals champion, after previously winning his race in 2008. -- It was the fifth time in the last six seasons that Liberty has boasted a Pre-Nationals men's individual champion. Josh McDougal won three straight Pre-Nationals crowns between 2005 and 2007. -- Chelanga was named Big South Runner of the Week for the second time.
Big South Championship (Oct. 30 – Blacksburg, Va.) -- Chelanga ran a course-record 8K time of 24:03.55, outdistancing teammate Kigen by 32 seconds. -- It was Chelanga's third consecutive Big South cross country individual title. -- Chelanga's victory gave him the title of Big South Runner of the Year for the third straight season. -- Liberty has now won the Big South men's individual championship seven years in a row, including Josh McDougal's four straight titles between 2004 and 2007.
NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championship (Nov. 13 – Louisville, Ky.) -- Chelanga won the 10K race in 29:55.8. For the second straight meet, Kigen finished second behind him, 16 seconds back. -- It was Chelanga's third consecutive NCAA Division I Southeast Regional title and the fourth regional crown of his college career. -- As a freshman at Fairleigh-Dickinson, Chelanga was victorious at the NCAA Division I Mid-Atlantic Regional meet. -- Liberty runners have crossed the line first at six of the last seven NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. Josh McDougal was the regional champion in 2004, 2005 and 2007. -- Chelanga was recognized as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year for the third straight season.
NCAA Division I Championship (Nov. 22 – Terre Haute, Ind.) -- Chelanga outkicked Arizona's Stephen Sambu to win the national title by four seconds, in a 10K time of 29:22.2. -- He became the 10th NCAA Division I men's runner ever to win back-to-back national titles, and the first since Wisconsin's Simon Bairu in 2004 and 2005. -- Chelanga became the seventh NCAA Division I men's runner ever to finish in the top two at three different NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, and the first since Washington State's Henry Rono (1976-77 and 1979). -- He joined Josh McDougal (2007) as the only Liberty runners ever to complete an undefeated cross country season. -- Including both cross country and track & field, Chelanga is now a three-time national champion and a 10-time All-American. -- Chelanga was named the USTFCCCA National Male Athlete of the Year for the 2010 cross country season. It was his second consecutive year capturing the award.
Consistent Kigen Redshirt senior Evans Kigen complemented Chelanga's effort at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships with a 31st-place finish. As a result, he completed a strong season as a cross country All-American for the second straight year. News and Notes: -- Kigen is now a three-time cross country All-American, also including his eighth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships while competing for New York Institute of Technology. -- He finished as the runner-up to Chelanga at both the Big South and regional meets, capturing All-Big South and all-region distinction for the second consecutive season. -- Kigen was recognized as the Big South Men's Cross Country Runner of the Week on Sept. 22, after winning the Coastal Carolina Invitational (Sept. 17) in course-record fashion.
Edmonds Ends Well Redshirt senior Josh Edmonds provided Liberty with a talented, experienced No. 3 runner during his final season with the Flames. His year featured a third-place finish at the Big South meet and a 15th-place regional showing. News and Notes: -- Edmonds became an all-region performer for the second time, finishing 15th at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. -- During his career, he made consistent progress at the regional meet, going from 42nd place in 2006 to 40th place in 2007 to 18th place in 2008 to this year's 15th-place effort. -- Edmonds joined Josh McDougal as the only cross country runners in program history to become four-time All-Big South performers. -- As with the regional meet, Edmonds improved each time he ran at the Big South Cross Country Championships. He placed ninth as a freshman in 2006, before moving up to sixth in 2007, fourth in 2008 and third this season. -- Edmonds was also tabbed Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second time in his career, after previously winning the award in 2008.
Keeping up with Klugh (or at least attempting to) Redshirt sophomore Jennifer Klugh enjoyed a breakthrough cross country season, winning the Big South title, garnering all-region honors and rewriting the school record book. News and Notes: -- Klugh placed 15th at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, becoming the fifth Lady Flame ever to earn all-region honors at the Division I level. -- She won the Big South individual title by six seconds, becoming the Lady Flames' first Big South women's cross country individual championship since Heather Sagan in 2001. -- Klugh was recognized as both Big South Runner of the Year and Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year, making her the first conference women's runner to sweep both honors since Coastal Carolina's Jolene Williams in 1999. -- Klugh was also the first sophomore to be tabbed Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women's cross country since 1995. -- The Buckeye State native won a pair of Big South Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week awards, on Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. -- Klugh ran the three fastest 6K times in program history during the 2010 campaign, including a school-record 20:55.5 effort at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, Nov. 13 in Louisville, Ky.
The Best of Bushman Senior Dacia Bushman cemented her place as one of the top women's cross country runners in program history, coming in third at the Big South meet and lowering her 6K personal best to 21:17 at the Brooks Paul Short Run. News and Notes: -- Bushman earned her third career All-Big South cross country award, thanks to her third-place finish at the conference meet. -- She is only the fifth Lady Flame ever to earn a trio of All-Big South cross country recognitions. -- Her 21:17 effort in the 6K at the Brooks Paul Short Run on Oct. 1 made her the third-fastest 6K runner in program history, trailing only Klugh and Piper Newby.
Neal Nets Honors Senior Hailey Neal showed significant improvement from her junior season, moving up from 12th to fourth at the Big South Championship and slicing her 6K time from 23:01 to 21:27. News and Notes: -- In addition to her major climb up the Big South ladder, Neal went from 120th place at the 2009 regional meet to 53rd place this time around. -- She ranks No. 5 on Liberty's all-time 6K performance list, after clocking a 21:27 at the Brooks Paul Short Run on Oct. 1. -- Only Klugh, Newby, Bushman and Rebekah Ricksecker own faster 6K personal-best times in Liberty women's cross country history. -- Neal won the Big South Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week award on Sept. 22, after coming in second at the Coastal Carolina Invitational.
Rewriting the Record Book Klugh, Bushman and Neal completely altered the Liberty record book for the women's cross country 6K this past season. Six of the nine fastest 6K clockings in program history happened in 2010. Here is a look at the top 10 women's 6K performances in Liberty women's cross country history.
1) 20:55.5 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship 2) 20:58 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run 3) 21:01.6 – Jennifer Klugh, 2010 Pre-Nationals 4) 21:07.7 – Piper Newby, 2007 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship 5) 21:17 – Dacia Bushman, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run 6) 21:22.5 – Piper Newby, 2007 Pre-Nationals 7) 21:24.6 – Rebekah Ricksecker, 2008 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship 8) 21:25.0 – Dacia Bushman, 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship 9) 21:27 – Hailey Neal, 2010 Brooks Paul Short Run 10) 21:31.4 – Piper Newby, 2006 Pre-Nationals
Coach Collects More Hardware Head coach Brant Tolsma, assisted this year by first-year distance coach Derek Scott, added to his already impressive collection of Big South Conference hardware. Tolsma was voted the Big South Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year, after guiding Liberty to a sweep of the team titles. News and Notes: -- Tolsma has been named the Big South Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year six years in a row and 10 times total. -- His Big South Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year trophy was the fifth of his career. -- Tolsma is now a 45-time Big South Coach of the Year, including cross country and track & field, in his 25 seasons at Liberty.
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