By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
September 26, 2014
BOSTON — For the University of Oregon Ducks, a 2,580 mile trek east from their home in Eugene was well worth the flight, as the third-ranked men’s team earned a dominant win here at the Boston College Coast-to-Coast Battle In Beantown. Led by reigning NCAA Cross Country champion Edward Cheserek and New Hampshire native Eric Jenkins, the men Of Oregon scored a mere 24 points, topping east coast powers Syracuse and Providence. On the women’s side, Boston College’s own Liv Westphal broke from a strong field to claim the individual title on her home course, as the pre-race favorite Michigan Wolverines took the team crown.
EDWARD CHESEREK, ERIC JENKINS LEAD DUCKS TO STRONG WIN
A year ago, the Oregon Ducks came to Boston’s Franklin Park cross country course and put on a show, winning the 8-kilometer race by 47 points. Edward Cheserek, only a freshman, won the individual race with teammate and fellow freshman Jake Leingang by his side.
Twelve months later, Cheserek would again be out in front of the field at the finish, this time joined stride for stride by teammate Eric Jenkins. Working together in both practice and executing their strategy to perfection during today’s race, the duo took control of the contest in its latter stages and never looked back.
“I was trying to bring my teammates together,” said Cheserek, 20. “Coach was like, ‘Run as a team, find each other up there.'”
Through a pedestrian opening mile in 4:55 and two miles in 10:08, it was clearly evident that no individual or team wanted to test the waters and make a move.
In their bright yellow vests, the men of Oregon expected this, sitting back and letting the rest of the field lead. As the kilometers passed, Providence’s Shane Quinn and Benjamin Connor took over the pacing, all the while Jenkins and Cheserek sat behind rounding up their fellow Ducks.
“It was perfect, that was exactly the plan. Coach wanted us to start out running as a pack and get everyone together and finish one-two,” said Jenkins.
After going up famed Bearcage Hill for the final time, it was Cheserek and Jenkins emerging well out in front, leaving the rest of the field behind. Down the final straight, Cheserek looked at his friend and teammate and motioned to finish together. That they did, both crossing the line in 24:20. Cheserek was officially credited with the win by the slimmest of margins.
“Coming down here is just a tune-up, see where I am for now,” Cheserek said following a lengthy cool-down run. “I feel a little bit better than last year. I was a freshman coming from high school out of shape. This year it’s just like starting getting there. I still have a lot of work to do.”
Both Cheserek and Jenkins, as well as coach Andy Powell, emphasized that Oregon came here to work on team tactics and win as a group. Scoring 24 points, they finished well up on Syracuse (52), Providence (79), and Georgetown (103).
“The goal was, we knew Syracuse was good and Providence was good. Coach Powell wanted our guys to be in front of Syracuse’s and Providence’s number two guys,” said Jenkins. “I think for the most part we did that… I knew the team would do well and we just came down from a really good training camp.”
Coach Powell, who attended Oliver Ames High School here in Massachusetts and is regarded as one of the state’s best ever prep runners, said that Cheserek and Jenkins have made quite the tandem in practice, pushing each other to improve. Combined with the school’s impressive team depth, Oregon looked impenetrable today.
“They executed well,” said Powell, a white Oregon capped pulled down over his eyes. “All in all pretty good. We left some good guys back home too so I think once we get the whole group together it’ll be pretty exciting to see where they go.”
Powell also noted that Cheserek has shown vast improvement from a year ago, saying that the Kenyan-born sophomore has lost a few pounds and is steadily building off an impressive outdoor track season.
“He is a lot better than he was last year, that’s for sure,” said Powell with a confident chuckle, a signal of fast times to come. “He’s a much different runner than he was last year.”
Behind Cheserek and Jenkins came Providence’s Brian Doyle (24:27) and Syracuse’s Martin Hehir (24:31). Oregon teammates Daniel Winn and Sam Prakel were fifth and sixth.
LIV WESTPHAL WINS ON HOME COURSE WHILE MICHIGAN CAPTURES TEAM VICTORY
Entering today’s 5-kilometer women’s race, Boston College’s Liv Westphal thought there would be no better way to honor her school than with a win on home turf. Three years ago, Boston College welcomed the native of Limoges, France, with open arms. This was her chance to say, ‘thank you.’
Determined to emerge victorious (she finished third last year), Westphal ran with gusto and resolve, not deterred by the strong field that saw ranked teams like Michigan, Georgetown, Syracuse and Providence competing.
After an opening mile of 5:11, Westphal made a decisive move on Bearcage Hill, dropping Michigan sophomore Erin Finn, Georgetown’s Katrina Coogan, and Dartmouth’s Dana Giordano. From there on, the 20-year-old ran alone out in front.
By two miles her lead was ten seconds on Finn, a number that would ultimately grow to 21 seconds at the finish. Down the final stretch with less than five meters remaining, Westphal raised her arms slightly in celebration. Etched across her face was a grand smile as she won in 16:30.
“It means a real lot,” said Westphal, who retains her French accent. “I’m French and I came to BC three years ago. I’m a senior now and time has just flown by. I cannot believe I am a senior now, and Boston is really my home now. I don’t know, I love this course and my teammates are my American family. I’m very attached to it. It’s my last cross country season and I think I was owing this to Boston.”
Westphal raced very well in cross country last year, taking sixth an the European Championships Under-23 race and 17th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. This year, her goal is to finish in the top fifteen at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., while guiding the Eagles to a team birth.
“It’s actually the first year over the summer I’ve trained specifically toward cross country, because previous years I’ve just trained for European Championships,” said Westphal. “I’m really excited not only about my shape, but our team in general because we are going to be really strong.”
Finn wound up second in 16:51, followed by teammate Shannon Osika in 17:03. Coogan was fourth in 17:07, with Cornell’s Taylor Spillane rounding out the top five in 17:09.
“Liv just had a wonderful day. She was the best runner out on the course today,” said Finn. “She was definitely feeling better than I was. She definitely knows this course. Every time we went around a corner she was a few more meters ahead of me. She really used the tactic to psyche me out and it worked, so props to her.”
In part thanks to Finn and Osika’s top-three finishes, Michigan earned a commanding team win with 55 points. Second went to Georgetown (77), with Syracuse (134), Boston College (192), and Dartmouth (207) making up the top five. Reigning national champion Providence College was sixth, 211 their score.
“I thought we were solid. Our first four I thought ran quite well,” said Michigan coach Mike McGuire. The Wolverines are currently ranked first by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. “Overall, solid, but we have plenty of work to do.”
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