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Liberty Sweeps Big South Track Weekly Awards

March 30, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Kolby Shepherd was named Big South Men's Field Athlete of the Week, after winning the pole vault at the Raleigh Relays.

Kolby Shepherd was named Big South Men's Field Athlete of the Week, after winning the pole vault at the Raleigh Relays.

Liberty captured all four Big South Conference track & field weekly honors on Wednesday. Sam Chelanga was named Men's Track Athlete of the Week, Dacia Bushman was tabbed Women's Track Athlete of the Week, Kolby Shepherd was honored as Men's Field Athlete of the Week and Mia Aghaji was selected as Women's Field Athlete of the Week.

This is the first time Liberty or any other conference school has won all four Big South weekly track & field honors in the same week. The Flames previously captured three of the four awards on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, Feb. 17 and March 10.

Chelanga has now collected eight Big South weekly awards this year, also including two in cross country and five during the indoor track & field season. His latest award comes on the heels of his 28:15.64 effort in the 10K, Friday at the Raleigh Relays. The stellar clocking ranks No. 1 in the world during the early stages of the 2011 outdoor track & field season.

Chelanga won the race by nearly two minutes over Coastal Carolina's Kyle Kling, in a time which was 22 seconds faster than Chelanga's winning effort at the 2010 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship. The redshirt senior has now all but clinched a berth in the 10K at the NCAA Division I Preliminary Round meet.

Just before Chelanga took the track in Raleigh, Bushman ran an impressive 10K of her own. Her ECAC-qualifying time of 35:15.84 briefly ranked as the fastest NCAA Division I time in the nation and cut almost 90 seconds off of her previous personal best. Bushman, who finished third overall in the race, clocked 18:00 for her first 5K before closing the race with a 17:15 5K.

Although the cool weather in Raleigh presented ideal conditions for the distance runners, it was not nearly as hospitable for many other athletes. For example, only five men's pole vaulters in Section I were able to clear their opening height. One of them was Shepherd, who won the competition with a 16-6.75 clearance. He defeated multiple-time All-American Luke Schoen of Albany on misses.

Meanwhile, Aghaji was the lone Liberty athlete to set a school record at the Raleigh Relays. She triple jumped 40-0.75, adding three inches to her own mark of 39-9.75, which she had achieved as a freshman on March 15, 2008. Aghaji finished fourth out of 26 competitors in the competition.

Liberty will return to action Friday and Saturday, with its first home outdoor meet of the 2011 season. The Liberty Collegiate Invitational will get underway Friday at 1 p.m. at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. Shepherd is slated to pole vault, while Aghaji is entered in the women's triple jump, high jump and 4 x 400 relay.