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Chelanga Clocks NCAA-Leading 13:44 5K

February 12, 2010  Fayetteville, Ark.  RSS
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Sam Chelanga jumped to the top of the NCAA performance list with his 13:44.16 5K, Friday at the Tyson Invitational. (Photo courtesy Arkansas Athletic Media Relations/Wesley Hitt)

Sam Chelanga jumped to the top of the NCAA performance list with his 13:44.16 5K, Friday at the Tyson Invitational. (Photo courtesy Arkansas Athletic Media Relations/Wesley Hitt)

Liberty redshirt junior Sam Chelanga ran the NCAA's fastest 5K this season and redshirt senior Jaime Watson shattered her own program 800-meter record, Friday evening at the Tyson Invitational. Their performances highlighted the Flames' showing on the opening day of the prestigious meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya), who clocked the second-fastest 5K in collegiate history (13:19.79) at last year's Tyson Invitational, was impressive once again on Friday. He finished his 5K season debut in 13:44.16 to outdistance race runner-up Scott MacPherson of Arkansas by more than seven seconds for first place. His time ranks first on the current NCAA Division I performance list and No. 16 in the world for 2010.

Perhaps most importantly, Chelanga's effort automatically qualifies him for the men's 5K final at the 2010 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. The 2009 NCAA national runner-up in the men's indoor 5K will return to the Randal Tyson Track Center to contest the event, March 12 at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Chelanga's teammate Evans Kigen (R-Jr., Eldoret, Kenya) also raced the 5K distance for the first time this season, finishing seventh in the same race at 14:08.98. His time is an IC4A qualifier, as well as a provisional qualifier for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Watson (Ravenna, Mich.) also hit the NCAA provisional qualification standard on Friday, courtesy of her stellar 2:06.15 clocking in the women's 800. She now ranks No. 12 on the NCAA national performance list, after placing fourth in the event. The only three runners to defeat Watson—Alysia Johnson, LaTavia Thomas and Heather Dorniden—are all past NCAA Division I national champions at 800 meters. The time shaved more than two seconds off of Watson's own Liberty and Big South Conference 800-meter standard, set at the 2008 ECAC Division I Championship.

Rebekah Ricksecker (R-Sr., Laurel, Del.) ran the second-fastest mile of her career, late Friday evening, capturing eighth place out of 43 entrants with her 4:51.74 effort. It was the second time in seven days that Ricksecker has clocked a 4:51 mile.

Earlier in the day, sophomore Olivia Charnuski (Elmira, Ontario) lowered her 60-meter hurdles personal best to 8.70 seconds. The new Big South Conference leader in the event has now improved her career-best time in four consecutive meets, dropping it from 8.92 to 8.70 in the process.

Meanwhile, Chenoa Freeman (Sr., Lincoln, Del.) got Liberty's day started by posting a 56.07 in the women's 400-meter dash. Freeman has run under the 57-second mark in four of her five starts at the 400-meter distance this season.

Liberty's final scheduled competition prior to the 2010 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships will take place Saturday at the Tyson Invitational. Five Flames and Lady Flames will be in action, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern, when Alyssa Pegues (So., Warner Robins, Ga.) competes in the women's triple jump.