EUGENE – Oregon sophomore distance runner Edward Cheserek is now officially “King Ches.”
Cheserek led a trio of Oregon runners in the 5,000 meters with his first place finish, just ahead of teammates Eric Jenkins in second and Will Geoghegan in fourth. The 23 points they earned in the event was the perfect end to a dominating day for the Ducks’ team, as they pulled away from the field and won the meet by 29 points.
Cheserek’s patented finishing speed – 54.66 on the final 400 – propelled him to the win in 13:48.67, .25 seconds ahead of Jenkins. The victory gave Cheserek eight individual NCAA titles in his short but glorious career at Oregon. He was won the NCAA cross country championship race twice in two tries, three NCAA indoor championships in four races, and three NCAA outdoor championships with just one defeat. In each of his two defeats, Cheserek finished in second place.
It’s already quite a legacy, Cheserek still has two years left at Oregon. Following the race, Cheserek said that he has no plans to turn professional, and plans to stay at Oregon for four years to finish his education. He also said that he hopes his application for U.S. citizenship is approved soon, though he was not sure of the timing on that.
“I’m trying to stick in school again, you know. For that (citizenship) I think it is pretty close. I really just go by the day, so I’m not sure how close it is. I always focus on one thing at a time.”
Cheserek came to the United States five years ago to attend high school in New Jersey, thanks to the invitation and the assistance of a missionary group that was working in his native Kenya. A recent story detailed how Cheserek had to run 60 miles in one day to get to the place he was supposed to leave from for the States. Due to the rainy season and the muddy roads, no vehicles could get him there in time. The run took 12 hours, but he made it in time, with only his backpack and running shoes.
Cheserek gave credit to his training partners for his success, and said, “It’s fun to have these seniors like Eric and Geoghegan here. I know these guys are leaving, but I think they are going to stick around for training (next year).”
|Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins 5,000 Meters
Jenkins and Cheserek have finished one-two in all of the championship races they have both been in this year. Jenkins has finished second each time except for the indoor 3,000 meter race when he edged Cheserek in the last few meters. Jenkins said “there was a big part of me that wanted (the victory),” but overall he said he was happy with the race.
“It was kind of a back and forth race,” Jenkins said. “I did a good job of getting to the front and sticking there. With two laps to go I was in the lead and then on that last lap we just kept winding up and winding up and I kind of ran out of steam. (Cheserek) stayed strong.
Jenkins and Cheserek have also finished together in several non-championship races this year. But Jenkins said he was going for the win on this day.
“You saw me at the line – I definitely wasn’t holding anything back,” Jenkins said. “The last lap was tough, the last 200 was even harder. I definitely went for it, (but) I tied up a little bit at the end. But overall I’m happy with it.”
Earlier in the meet, with the team race still very much in doubt, Oregon freshman Blake Haney picked up six big points for Oregon with his sixth-place finish in the 1500 meters.
The 1500 race started out slow in the first lap, and then got even slower on a 69.5 second lap. The pace didn’t really pick up until the bell, and the group of 12 runners stayed tightly-packed all the way to the finish, with Chad Noelle of Oklahoma State getting the win in 3:54.94. Noelle’s time was the slowest-ever winning time for a NCAA 1500.
In third place, just .16 seconds behind Noelle, was Haney, who was not projected to score in his first NCAA championship race. Haney had to run a personal record 3:40.81 on Wednesday to make it into the finals, but didn’t have to run nearly as fast once he got there.
“Coming in here I was just trying to do my best for the team and score as many points as I could,” Haney said. “We wanted to fly under the radar this year. Being overlooked was a little bit to my advantage . . . just a lot less pressure. I ran my race and executed pretty well.”
In stature and running style Haney reminds one of former Oregon NCAA champion Matthew Centrowitz. He has the ability to run relaxed, and accelerate quickly when necessary. He also seems to have a natural instinct to make quick moves and break free from a tight pack.
|Tremayne Acy and Andre DeGrasse
Sprint fans also had a lot to be excited about on Friday. The short races were both won by USC junior Andre DeGrasse. The Canadian sprinter won the 100 in a wind-aided 9.75, and came back just an hour later to win the 200 meters, also wind-aided, in 19.58. The latter time was the fastest ever run by a collegian and the fastest ever run at Hayward Field, though it won’t count as a record due to the wind.
Still, DeGrasse’s performance was breath-taking, and his 200 ranks as the sixth-fastest ever when considering wind-aided times. Just in his third year of running track, DeGrasse said he was surprised by the time.
“I was like, “wow” – this is unbelievable when I saw that time,” DeGrasse said. “I didn’t expect to run that fast. There are no limits. I’m not going to set any limits on myself. I’m just going to keep running, keep training, and trust my training.
“I’m going to try to put Canada back on the map and compete with the U.S. and Jamaica.”