The most unique feature of this race is that it was a sit-and-kick tactical race. At 8k the leader was just 24:39 and 40 men were within 5 secs of the leader.
I don't believe this has ever happened before at the NCAA XC.
Why did this happen? It's worth noting that Cheserek was an overwhelming favorite who doesn't like to lead. In fact his last two races (Pac 12 and West Regional) were also highly tactical races with 30+ guys in contention well into the second half of the race. Perhaps with such a dominant favorite, nobody likes to push the pace and look silly when Cheserek comes flying past.
Moreover, in several of the recent men's races the mid-race leader has pushed the pace hard and ended up badly beaten (Lalang, Kithuka...)
The most interesting question is whether this could become a new norm for championship cross country races.
Do teams need to train differently for sit-and-kick cross country?
click on 5000m, 8000m to see intermediate splits: