Liberty’s Chelanga, Villanova’s Procaccio Take Home Top Division I XC Honors

By Keith Nunez, USTFCCCA

November 25, 2009   

NEW ORLEANS – Oklahoma State’s Dave Smith and Villanova’s Gina Procaccio earned the men’s and women’s Division I National Cross Country Coach of the Year honors, while Liberty’s Sam Chelanga and Illinois’s Angela Bizzarri were named National Cross Country Athletes of the Year Wednesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

Procaccio, in her ninth season at the helm of the Villanova women’s cross country program, led the Wildcats to the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country National title on Monday, earning the program’s eighth Division I cross country title after finishing sixth a year ago. Villanova’s top five scoring runners earned USTFCCCA All-American honors en route to a team score of 86. In addition, Procaccio, the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, led Villanova to the Mid-Atlantic Region title and the Big East Conference title this season.

Oklahoma State’s Smith led his Cowboys to the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country title scoring 127 points to top runner-up Oregon with 143 points. The cross country national title was the second for the OSU program, the first coming in 1954. The Cowboys won the Midwest Region title this season, the fifth-straight regional title for the program, earning Smith the Roy Griak Midwest Region Men’s Coach of the Year award. The Cowboys also won their second-straight Big 12 Conference title earlier this season.

Liberty’s Chelanga, the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country runner-up, put on an absolute show on Monday at the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Championships running to a new LaVern Gibson course record 28:41.3, topping the field by over 20 seconds en route to his first NCAA title. The junior was named the USTFCCCA Southeast Region Athlete of the Year after taking top honors in that race a week prior to the national meet. He won all but one race during his ’09 season, finishing second at the Pre-National meet earlier this year. Chelanga’s NCAA Division I cross country title was the third such title for the program.

On the women’s individual side, Illinois senior stand-out Angela Bizzarri became the first women’s Illini cross country athlete to win the NCAA Division I cross country national title and just the second Illini cross country athlete overall to win the title. The Mason, Ohio native set a new personal best on the LaVern Gibson course running 13 seconds better than she did at the 2008 championships. Bizzarri, the Midwest Region Athlete of the Year earned her first regional title this season after finishing as the runner-up the previous three seasons at the Midwest Region meet.