Welcome to the USA, Sam!

From WaPo, by Kelyn Soong:

Just seconds after Sam Chelanga crossed the finish line to win the USA Track and Field 10-Mile Championships early last month in Minneapolis-St. Paul, a race official sprinted over to drape a large American flag over his shoulders. Chelanga paused to catch his breath before wrapping the flag around his body, where it would stay for long after the race.

Elite champions are often handed their country’s flag. But for Chelanga, the scene symbolized much more. He had just become a naturalized U.S. citizen in August — a process that took five years — and the title was the Kenya native’s first as an American.

“It culminated the process from when I started, when I became American,” Chelanga said recently. “And having a ‘U.S. champion’ next to my name, that really felt good.”

Chelanga, 30, will be one of the professional runners lining up Sunday morning in Alexandria for the .US National 12K race. It will be Chelanga’s last competitive event of the season before he turns his attention to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where he hopes to make the Olympic team in either the marathon or 10,000 meters. The approximately 7.5-mile race on Sunday, which began in 2013, is open to runners of all abilities and features an elite field that includes several Olympians.

“Ever since I started running [these road] races, everything feels so special,” said Chelanga, an all-American at Liberty University. “I’ve watched it from the sidelines, and I always thought, ‘That’s so cool.’ And now I’m part of it.”

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