CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Liberty's Sam Chelanga has been named the 2010-11 Men's Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the third-straight year, while Natalie Pearson of UNC Asheville earned her second-straight Women's Track and Field Athlete of the Year honor, it was announced today. The men's and women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year is an annual award voted on by the League's Head Track and Field Coaches at their annual June meeting.
Chelanga, a redshirt-senior from Nairobi, Kenya, posted a stellar 2010-11 campaign, featuring two national championships and two national runners-up. He got his season going by earning a second-consecutive Cross Country National Championship in a time of 29:22.2 and was named the Cross Country National Athlete of the Year for the second-straight year. His second national championship came at the NCAA Outdoor National Championship as he turned in a season-best 13:29.30, including a 58.15 final lap, to win the 5,000-meter event. He finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championship in the 5K with a time of 13:27.34 and turned in a time of 28:12.18 to finish second in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championship. Chelanga was named a Bowerman semifinalist for the second-straight year and was tabbed the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Regional Athlete of the Year in Cross Country and both Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field. He set the Big South record in the indoor 3,000 meters with a time of 7:48.24 at the New Balance Games in Boston, Mass., in February. Chelanga finishes his collegiate career as the most decorated Big South student-athlete with four individual NCAA National Championships and 14 All-America honors, including 12 at Liberty.
Pearson, a senior from Sheffield, England, became Asheville's first-ever two-time national qualifier as she earned her second-straight bid to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in the 200-meter event. She finished 24th overall with a time of 23.99 to earn Honorable Mention All-America Honors. During the 2010-11 season, Pearson took home the gold in both the 100 and 200 meter events at the Big South Outdoor Track and Field Championship and was second in the 60-meter and 200-meter races at the Big South Indoor Track and Field Championship. Her effort in the outdoor 200 meters set the VMI facility record as she crossed the line in 23.78. She finishes her career as Asheville's record holder in the 55, 60, 100 and 200-meter events and is the only Bulldog student-athlete to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
Men's Honorable Mentions: Javon Young (Charleston Southern), Jason Flanagan (Coastal Carolina) and Felix Kitur (VMI).
Women's Honorable Mentions:, Kierra Gabe (Coastal Carolina), Erica Peake (Coastal Carolina), Manika Gamble (High Point) and Christina Fenske (High Point).