No Rest, No Problem: Edward Cheserek Completes Difficult NCAA Double
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Oregon coach Robert Johnson nearly let his nerves get the best of him Friday night while watching the men’s 5000-meter run.
Then Johnson realized it was Edward Cheserek — one of the most prolific runners in NCAA history — that he was worrying about. Those fears melted away as Cheserek turned up the heat on the final two laps and pulled away for a decisive victory over Virginia Tech’s Thomas Curtin.
Not one to be afraid of setting a quick pace, Curtin took off at the start and splintered the pack. Cheserek latched onto Curtin’s shoulder, just like he did against Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan during the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in November when the Australian tried the same tactic.
And true to form, Cheserek broke Curtin’s will in the last quarter of the race — just as he did to Tiernan four months ago.
Cheserek won by nearly three seconds (13:47.89 to 13:50.70) and captured his 10th individual NCAA title in the process.
"I was a little scared, believe it or not, because the 5000 went out so hard," Johnson said. "I kind of wanted it to be a little slower and then get moving in the latter part of the race, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise."
With his legs already warmed up, Cheserek showed his fiery competitive streak once again as he anchored the Ducks’ distance medley relay less than 30 minutes later.
Johnson said Cheserek would be a "game-time decision" for the event during Thursday’s press conference. He left the choice completely up to Cheserek and told him before they left the team hotel that they’d talk about it after he finished his first race.
It turned out to be a short discussion.
"I cooled down and talked to Coach (Johnson) and he said, ‘Are you sure you want to run the DMR,’" Cheserek recalled. "And I said, ‘Why not? Let me try it.’"
Once those words left Cheserek’s mouth, Johnson said it was a "done deal."
The same could be said for the race when Cheserek got the baton.
Oregon entered the final leg of the DMR in a tight spot. For Cheserek to complete the difficult double, he’d need to beat a fresh Izaic Yorks, the same guy who ran one of the fastest miles ever recorded by a collegian two weeks ago (3:53.89).
Yorks left a vapor trail with Cheserek hot on his heels. The Washington senior hit the 800-meter split unofficially in 1:55.
"I knew the only way that I felt that I had a good chance (to win) was to open it up so hard that he (Cheserek) might die," Yorks said. "Obviously that didn’t happen. He’s a tough guy."
The King narrowed the gap, shot past Yorks with 100 meters to go and won by seventy-three hundredths of a second. Cheserek’s anchor time of 3:52.84 is one of the fastest ever recorded.
"For us to get that win, against the nation’s leader in the mile, is fantastic," Johnson said.
The Ducks’ mark of 9:27.27 set a meet record and tied for the fifth fastest time ever run in collegiate history.
Cheserek isn’t done this weekend, though. He’s scheduled to run the 3000 on Saturday and if he wins, he’d become just the second man to complete the 5000-DMR-3000 triple (Galen Rupp).