LYNCHBURG, Va. - As he prepares to compete in this weekend's NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, Liberty redshirt senior Sam Chelanga has earned a piece of hardware. He is the 2011 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I Southeast Region Men's Track Athlete of the Year.
Chelanga has won the USTFCCCA regional honor for cross country three years in a row and has claimed back-to-back regional awards for outdoor track, but this is his first time claiming the award indoors.
Chelanga has excelled at three different distances during his final collegiate indoor track & field season, the mile, 3K and 5K.
The Nairobi, Kenya native set a personal best in the mile on Jan. 21, clocking a 4:03.84 at the Hokie Invitational. He then won his third consecutive mile title at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships.
In the 3K, Chelanga ran the two fastest times in Liberty and Big South Conference history. He clocked a 7:48.24 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, before bouncing back for a 7:50.92 one week later at the Flotrack Husky Classic. In the pair of races, he defeated some top-notch professional runners, including Alan Webb and Ian Dobson.
Chelanga only ran on his home track at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center once this year, but it was an impressive performance. He clocked a facility-record time of 13:41.35 to win the Liberty Open 5K on Jan. 28. At the time, it was the fastest clocking in the world for 2011.
Chelanga, who has also collected four Big South Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week certificates this season, will travel to College Station, Texas this week for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. For the first time in his career, he will attempt the 3K/5K double at the NCAA indoor meet.
In search of his first indoor national championship, 10-time All-American Chelanga is slated to run the 5K Friday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. He has finished as the 5K national runner-up each of the last two years. Chelanga will then contest the 3K Saturday at 7:55 p.m. Eastern. Both races will be aired live on ESPN3.com.