NCAA DI XC Championships: Cheserek, Finn React To Defeats
TERRE HAUTE, Indiana — Edward Cheserek and Erin Finn were the odds-on favorites entering the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships this past weekend.
Cheserek, perhaps one of the greatest distance runners to ever lace up spikes under the NCAA umbrella, had won each of the previous three individual titles — including two in Terre Haute — and was going for an unprecedented fourth. No man in NCAA DI history had won four individual XC titles in the 77 years the men’s championship race had been contested and the Oregon senior appeared to have a clear path.
Even Cheserek’s fiercest rivals sat through some uncomfortable silence at the pre-meet press conference when they were asked how they could beat him.
And while Finn was quick to point during that same press conference that no woman was a true favorite, because none were undefeated, she was closest to it. Finn’s only loss of the season to that point came at the Roy Griak Invitational where she did not have the stamina — due to an injury-delayed offseason — to keep up with Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin over the final 1K. The Michigan standout proceeded to win her next four races by an average of 20 seconds.
By now, the results of the races are well known as Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan and Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer took home the individual titles. Tiernan — and Justyn Knight, for that matter — dashed Cheserek’s dreams of a four-peat with about 1K to go, while Schweizer took a hammer to Finn’s title hopes considerably later.
Less than 200 meters were left in the first race and it seemed as if Finn had all but wrapped up the crown when she surged ahead of Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer. But with the finish line a stone’s throw away, Schweizer kicked past a tiring Finn on the inside to steal the prize.
“By that point, I had thrown in my cards,” said Finn, who held off Rohrer for 2nd place. “That was what I had. I almost fell a couple times with my legs giving out. All I can be is a little sad that my all wasn’t enough, but I have to walk away being proud of my effort because it was definitely over 100 percent.”
Cheserek kept pace with Knight and Tiernan until Tiernan decided to make his move. Knight followed, but Cheserek didn’t have his usual top gear. As the race hit the final straightaway, many in the crowd were shocked that it was Tiernan and Knight dueling for the win with Cheserek a considerable distance behind them.
Tiernan pulled away from Knight in the final 400 meters and made sure to disarm the Canadian’s patented kick. Cheserek eventually crossed the finish line 26 seconds behind Tiernan in 3rd place.
The Oregon star quickly made his way through the mixed zone and offered little in the way of what transpired in his eyes on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course other than, “You saw what happened out on the course.”
When asked again what it takes to beat Cheserek — this time after he actually beat him — Knight made sure not to mince words.
“I don’t know what happened to him today if he just wasn’t feeling it or whatever, but he’s very talented,” Knight said. “Him losing today, and coming in third, doesn’t affect the legacy he’s left here in the NCAA. I think he’s just as strong as he was before.”