April 25, 2015
Edward Cheserek once again isn’t unbeatable at the collegiate level.
For the second time since last year’s NCAA Outdoor championships, Edward Cheserek was defeated in collegiate competition today as Villanova’s Jordan Williamsz gunned him down at the end of a riveting, yet bizarre final leg of the 4 x mile Championship of America race at the 2015 Penn Relays. The final leg reminded us more of a cycling race than a running one but it was fun to watch. After a 52 last lap, Williamsz and Villanova were the winners in 16:18.07 to Oregon’s 16:18.93.
The very windy weather that had slowed races down a lot the last few days in Philadelphia was much less windy today (7 mph a few minutes before the race when we went to Weather.com) and the opening legs took advantage of it. Things went pretty much as expected on the opening legs as Villanova and Oregon were neck and neck. Oregon was .3 of a second better on leg 1, Villanova was .3 of a leg better on leg 2. The only huge surprise was that Cornell, headed by coach Zeb Lang (formerly coached by LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson), was right there with them. Cornell had stacked its lineup from fastest to slowest and sophomore James Gowans (3:45 pb) and junior Ben Rainero (3:45 pb, a US jr finalist at 1500 in 2012) came through big time.
In the end, this one was destined to be a two team affair just as everyone expected. But before we got down to the Cheserek-Williamsz action on the last lap there was a lot of bizarre action before then. As the third leg progressed, the race separated into a two team battle between Oregon and Nova. Oregon’s Will Geoghegan started to pull away with about 300 to go on leg # 3 from Villanova 5000 ace Patrick Tiernan. Just when one started to wonder if the 13:31 Tiernan was overmatched at the shorter mile distance, he turned on the jets over the final 200 and handed off right behind Oregon as Geoghegan split 4:01.0 to Tiernan’s 4:01.1.
Cheserek versus Williamsz straight up. This is what we wanted to see. And boy did it live up to the hype.
The clock read 12:04.4 when Cheserek started his final mile. Any illogical dream of a 3:55.5 anchor for the first sub-16 in history was immediately quashed when the first few steps of the anchor leg were very slow.
Cheserek, who time after time at the NCAA level has thrived by keeping the pace slow and then blowing everyone away on the last lap, stuck to his usual strategy. Except here, when he slowed it down, Williamsz, who is an 800/1500 guy(1:46.77, 3:36.74) smartly refused to lead. Cheserek went out into lane two on the first turn of the anchor but Williamsz stayed right behind him.
The two guys up front were jogging and soon the teams behind them started to catch up. Within a little more than 200, Stanford (who began the anchor leg 3.9 seconds back), Georgetown (who was 6.7 seconds down) and Cornell were are all with the lead pack again. As the pace continued to dawdle, more and more teams started to catch up.
From 400 to 500 into the final leg, Cheserek and the others up front nearly stopped running. They literally almost came to a complete stop. Finally Georgetown’s Ahmed Bile, the son of 1987 world 1500 champ Abdi Bile, came up on the outside to the lead with a sudden burst but he then bizarrely looked up into the stands and slammed on the breaks himself. The crowd booed, as these guys were imitating cyclists on a track. Finally once Cheserek realized no one was going to lead, he went to the front again and resumed a somewhat-normal pace (normal as in modest 5k pace).
This is what we had for the leader’s 400s on the last leg from the finish line:
1st lap: 65.5 (Cheserek leading)
2nd lap: 68.5 (Ches leading)
900 meters into the leg, Cornell went into the lead and 9 teams were in contention (Penn, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Indiana had also caught up to the leaders). But for the most part, none of the guys catching up from behind wanted to lead either as most of them had worked pretty hard to get up there. For example, eventual fifth placer Wisconsin got back into the thick of things and at the start of the last leg they were 17.3 seconds down. Yes, Joe Hardy caught up and yet he split ‘just’ 4:02.3 on the leg. They third lap was also a crawl.
66.1 (Oklahoma leading, Cheserek right behind)
The last lap was bound to be a burner. With 300 to go, Wisconsin’s Joe Hardy went to the lead but Cheserek was just waiting to make his move. With about 200 to go, Cheserek turned on his jets and went to the lead. For a second, it looked like Williamsz might be boxed in by the fading Hardy (directly in front of him) and Stanford’s Sean McGorty (running directly to his right) but he squeezed through and had a clear line on Cheserek heading into the final turn. Williamsz pulled even and then ahead as they entered the short Penn Relays homestretch. Cheserek had no response and Villanova was your champion.
Williamsz’ final 400 was probably a few tenths faster than 52.5 since he was in fourth at the bell.
Quick Thought #1: Williamsz followed Rojo’s advice and ran a tactically brilliant anchor leg. We haven’t even looked at the messageboard but we are sure it’s exploding with people complaining about how slow the anchor leg was (Williamsz split 4:13.6, Cheserek 4:14.5). Not us, we found the last leg to be riveting. It will be interesting to see if this race causes Edward Cheserek to change his tactics moving forward. He’s always been content to sit and kick. In distance races, that’s probably still a perfectly fine strategy for him as after all he is the reigning NCAA champion at 10,000 and mile. But in a short race like this, going out in over 3:20 for your first 1200 isn’t a great plan against a 3:36 guy like Williamsz.
Editor’s update: We’ve checked the messageboard and yep they are being critical:
Quick Thought #2: The slow anchor legs cost Oregon an Nova a chance at the 16:04.54 Penn Relays record.
Quick Thought #3: Is Cheserek a little off his game? Is his super indoor season starting to wear on him? Or was his loss today and his slight appearance of vulnerability yeserday in the DMR just a testament to how good Jordan Williamsz is? We’ll find out over the final few months.
Results and then screenshots from the Flopro stream appear below.
|1||Villanova||16:18.07||Sam McEntee (4:02.0), Robert Denault (4:01.4), Patrick Tiernan (4:01.1), Jordan Williamsz (4:13.6)||AC|
|2||Oregon||16:18.93||Daniel Winn (4:01.7), Johnny Gregorek (4:01.7), Will Geoghegan (4:01.0), Edward Cheserek (4:14.5)||AA|
|3||Stanford||16:20.44||Thomas Coyle (4:02.2), Erik Olson (4:01.8), Jack Keelan (4:04.3), Sean McGorty (4:11.2)||AB|
|4||Georgetown||16:22.50||Darren Fahy (4:03.6), Collin Leibold (4:02.5), Ryan Gil (4:04.0), Ahmed Bile (4:12.4)||AG|
|5||Wisconsin||16:24.01||Carl Hirsch (4:05.6), Malachy Schrobilgen (4:07.3), McKena Ramos (4:08.8), Joe Hardy (4:02.3)||AJ|
|6||Penn||16:24.57||Chris Hatler, Thomas Awad, Nick Tuck, Clark Shurtleff||AL|
|7||Oklahoma||16:24.62||Alex Deir, Jacob Burcham, Dylan Blankenbaker, Brandon Doughty||AE|
|8||Indiana||16:28.57||Joshua Roche, Matthew Schwartzer, Kyle DuVall, Owen Skeete||AM|
|9||Texas||16:35.16||Brady Turnbull, Mark Pinales, Craig Lutz, Logan Emery||AH|
|10||Cornell||16:40.15||James Gowans, Ben Rainero, David Melly, Connor Herr||AP|
|11||Columbia||16:44.83||Ben Ritz, Daniel Nestor, Marc Violone, Casey Adams||AK|
|12||Dartmouth||16:54.22||Connor Clark, Silas Talbot, Joey Chapin, Curtis King||AO|
|13||Buffalo||17:14.13||Tyler Scheving, Brian Crimmins, Cameron Bruce, Thomas Meehan||AR|
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