Sam Chelanga has been voted Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year three straight times. (Photo by Brian Mason)
Liberty redshirt senior Sam Chelanga has been named the 2010-11 Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year for the third straight season, it was announced today. The Big South Men's and Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year awards are voted upon by the league's head track & field coaches at their annual June meeting. This is the seventh consecutive year Liberty has won the Big South Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year award. Prior to Chelanga's trio of recognitions, Josh McDougal captured the honor four straight times, between 2004-05 and 2007-08. For the second year in a row, UNC Asheville redshirt senior sprinter Natalie Pearson was voted Big South Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year. The award considers an athlete's accomplishments in cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field, and Chelanga excelled in all three sports in 2010-11. He won a pair of national championships and five total All-America honors. As a result, he closed his collegiate career with four national titles and 14 All-America certificates. Chelanga went undefeated in his five cross country races this season, capped off by his second consecutive national title at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. His winning time of 29:22.2 made him just the 10th men's runner ever to win back-to-back NCAA Division I national cross country crowns. Chelanga's cross country season also included victories at the Brooks Paul Short Run, Pre-Nationals, the Big South Championships and the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. It was the third straight year that he swept the Big South and Southeast Region individual titles. The Nairobi, Kenya native was honored as the USTFCCCA National Male Athlete of the Year and the Southeast Region Men's Athlete of the Year at the end of his successful cross country season. Chelanga's indoor track campaign featured his third consecutive 5K runner-up finish at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. His time of 13:27.34 was the eighth-fastest indoor 5K clocking in NCAA history. Chelanga also placed 15th in the NCAA men's 3K final, earning second-team All-America honors. Chelanga ran the fastest 3K by a collegiate athlete this year, posting a Liberty and Big South-record 7:48.24 clocking at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. The time also ranked No. 17 in the world for the 2010-11 indoor season. Chelanga won the men's mile title at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships for the third consecutive year, marking the ninth Big South individual event title of his career. For the first time, he was named USTFCCCA Division I Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season. Chelanga then wrapped up his collegiate career in style at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, winning the men's 5K title and placing second in the 10K within the span of less than 24 hours. His 5K time (13:29.30) was the seventh-fastest effort in meet history and his 10K clocking (28:12.18) ranks ninth in meet history. For the third consecutive year, Chelanga was tabbed USTFCCCA Division I Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year for outdoor track. He is also one of 10 men's semifinalists for The Bowerman, the most prestigious honor in collegiate track & field.
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