April 25, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. - Liberty redshirt sophomore Sam Chelanga closed out the inaugural New York Road Runners Distance Carnival with an exclamation point, late Friday evening at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif. Chelanga won the men's 10,000 meters, breaking the all-time NCAA record (as recognized by Track & Field News) with a world-leading 27:28.48 clocking and defeating five Olympians in the process.

Chelanga (Nairobi, Kenya), who entered the race with a 10K personal best of 28:15.99, shaved exactly five seconds off of the existing collegiate standard, 27:33.48, set by Oregon's Galen Rupp on April 29, 2007. Henry Rono of Washington State ran a 27:22.4 10K in Vienna, Austria on June 11, 1978, but his mark is not recognized by Track & Field News, because it was achieved outside the NCAA collegiate season.

Chelanga also lowered Josh McDougal's Liberty and Big South Conference 10,000-meter records (28:27.65) by nearly a full minute. Chelanga picked up not only an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, but an "A" qualifier for this summer's IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany as well.

Strong winds had buffeted Edwards Stadium for much of the day, but fortuitously calmed down just before the gun went off for the 10K. Chelanga tucked in behind the leaders for most of the race, as the talented field maintained a fast, even pace. The lead pack passed through the first mile in 4:25 and hit the two-mile pole at 8:49. At the halfway mark, Chelanga was still among the leaders at 13:46.

Chelanga, a two-time NCAA national runner-up, jumped out in front for the first time with just three laps remaining. He recorded back-to-back 65-second circuits before blazing a 61.05 final lap. Chelanga's sprint to the finishing tape enabled him to hold off hard-charging Collis Birmingham, who set the Australian 10K national record with his 27:29.73 effort. Two-time U.S. Olympian Anthony Famiglietti, who had entered the evening with aspirations of breaking the American record, settled for fourth place in 27:39.68.

Liberty will wrap up its busy weekend of track & field Saturday, at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa. The first two Flames athletes in action will be Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) and Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.), who are slated to begin the triple jump at 9 a.m.