Edward Cheserek Ready for Return to NYC at NYRR Millrose Games

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (13-Feb) — Bundled up in University of Oregon running gear, Edward Cheserek appears poised and concentrated heading into tomorrow’s NYRR Millrose Games. Returning to the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory for the first time since his days as a high school standout at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey, Cheserek will toe the line in the NYRR Wanamaker Mile for the first time.

“It feels good man,” Cheserek told members of the media, the anticipation audible in his voice. “It’s like coming home.”

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The five-time NCAA champion is somewhat of a dark horse entering tomorrow’s meeting. While he has run 7:49.56 for 3000m this season, the question is out on what the 21-year-old is capable of running against professional competition. Facing a stellar field that includes eight-time Wanamaker Mile winner Bernard Lagat, World Championships silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz, reigning NYRR Wanamaker Mile champion Will Leer, 2008 Olympic silver medalist and current world leader Nick Willis, as well as NCAA record holder Lawi Lalang, Cheserek has a plan: feed off the professionals.

“I don’t think of the time. I’m just going to go run my own race and knock out a qualifier for nationals,” Cheserek said under a black Nike cap. “I’m just [going to] go with the guys. I’m not trying to say I’m going to go for the win, but whatever happens, happens.”

Cheserek’s focused mentality was fortified by University of Oregon coach Andy Powell. Both Powell and Cheserek repeatedly told RaceResults Weekly that the NCAA indoor mile record of 3:52.88 set by Lalang last year wasn’t their main focus. Rather, the pair are concentrating on competing well and letting fast times come naturally. Interestingly, the past three consecutive NYRR Wanamaker Miles have produced NCAA indoor mile records.

Edward Cheserek, coach Andy Powell, and Johnny Gregorek of the University of Oregon in advance of the 2015 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly) Edward Cheserek, coach Andy Powell, and Johnny Gregorek of the University of Oregon in advance of the 2015 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

“This meet, for us, is just kind of about getting the [NCAA] qualifiers in. We’d like to leave with as many qualifiers as we can. And that’s it. We’re not talking about times or records,” said Powell, who mentioned that the Ducks contingent is in the middle of a tough training block and won’t peak until the NCAA Championships in March. “We’re training pretty hard, a little different from where the professionals are in their season, but we’re in the middle of the season… We’ll be a little tired but they’ll still run very well.

Powell continued: “The good thing, especially with someone like Edward, [is that] he’s only a sophomore. I think a lot of those records and stuff we can wait a bit longer in his career. For now it’s just having fun and traveling out here with a bunch of the guys.”

Cheserek has yet to break four-minutes in an open mile, though has dipped under the benchmark in anchor legs of the distance medley relay. To break four-minutes at The Armory, where he won numerous high school national titles and set a plethora of high school records, would make the evening quite memorable.

“For me it’s very special,” Cheserek began. “I think it’s really really good for me. To break four-minutes near home will be very big for me. I have my friends coming over, my cousins, my teammates. It’s going to be very good for me.”

How far Cheserek can run under four-minutes is the question on everyone’s mind. Centrowitz, who was a volunteer assistant coach to Cheserek and the Oregon Ducks last fall, feels he can contend for the win.

“I’m very impressed. Any time a college freshman, a true freshman comes in and wins as many national [collegiate] titles that he did, it definitely catches your attention,” said Centrowitz. “I’ve been following him closely.”

Similarly, Leer isn’t counting the collegian out of the picture for the victory tomorrow.

“I’m 1-0 against Ches in my career,” Leer said with a laugh. “I would like to continue my unbeaten streak against him, but he’s kind of a wildcard… He’s got an amazing finish, but so do a lot of guys in this field. If it gets tactical, you’re going to have a lot of guys who can run 25-seconds for the last 200m sitting there.”

Doing two, hard workouts a week with a long run on Sunday has prepared Cheserek for the task at hand. While he may not have the international accolades of some of his competitors, he does know that anything can happen once the race is underway.

“It’s very different for me because now, for now, I am just training at my level. Those guys [the professionals] train at higher levels. But when it comes to the race, you just go race to compete. You never know,” he said.

For coach Powell, the perfect scenario would be that Cheserek and teammate Johnny Gregorek both dip under the four-minute mile barrier for the first time, notching NCAA Indoor Championships qualifying marks for the discipline in the process. Gregorek has an indoor personal best of 4:01.65, while Cheserek’s stands at 4:02.21. Both were run on The Armory’s banked oval.

“When it comes time for the race, you just race to compete,” Cheserek said in a positive tone. “It’s going to be special.”

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