March 14, 2015
Fayetteville, AR — After watching Edward Cheserek dominate the distance medley relay yesterday and the mile today at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, we wondered if he’d ever lose another NCAA race as King Ches had already racked up six individual NCAA crowns in less than 1.5 years of collegiate running.
And then the men’s 3000 happened.
With 200 meters to go, Cheserek put in his patented surge and went to the lead. Only this time, he didn’t instantly gap the field. Cheserek was followed by his teammate Eric Jenkins, the 7:45/13:18 man who had won the 5000 last night. Coming off the final turn, Cheserek had the lead but Jenkins was just outside of him. Then Jenkins pulled even and then ahead. Jenkins hit the finish line first in 7:58.81 thanks to a 25.81 last 200 to Cheserek’s 7:59.42.
Not only had the King lost, he’d lost to an American.
Or had he?
The LetsRun.com messageboard nearly exploded when Cheserek said after the race that he’d let his teammate win.
“When I saw my teammate coming over, I was like ‘let him take it’ because he’s my teammate, we’re not rivals. We’re just trying to score as many points as we can,” said Cheserek after the race.
If you take his word as the truth, then the questions becomes, “Would Cheserek have won had he not let up?”
That’s a question that will be hotly debated for months to come. Can we take a rain check on answering that one until NCAA outdoors?
Behind Jenkins and Cheserek, their teammate, grad-student Will Geoghegan nipped Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell (who tried to take the lead himself just before the bell) at the line (8:00.44 to 8:00.57) to cap of a historic 1-2-3 sweep for Oregon – a feat which clinched the team title for Oregon. Oregon only needed 11 points in the event to guarantee themselves victory but ended up with 24 – thanks to the first 1-2-3 finish in a men’s distance event indoors in NCAA history (The way things worked out, even if Oregon hadn’t scored at all in the 3000, they would have still tied Florida for the team title).
Results, quick takes and screen shots appear below.
*Lap by Lap splits here.
Quick Take #1: Did Cheserek let Jenkins win?
This race was a lot of fun to watch as we’d been debating all day prior to the race whether Jenkins and Cheserek would battle each other to the line (MB: Will Cheserek and Jenkins battle it out in 3k or finish together holding hands?). Somehow, even after it’s over, we’re still debating it.
You can listen to the post-race interview below with the Oregon top 3 where Cheserek says he let Jenkins win (Ches talks about it 1:10 in).
It was a little hard to understand Cheserek’s exact quote after the race (our best stab is below), but he essentially said he let Jenkins take it at the end of the race:
“When I saw my teammate coming over, I was like ‘let him take it’ because he’s my teammate, we’re not rivals. We’re just trying to score as many points as we can.”
It appeared that Cheserek was going close to all-out, but when he saw it was Jenkins passing him on the outside, he didn’t bother to put up a fight.
It is up for debate who would have won if Cheserek ran his hardest all the way through the line. His mindset likely changes because he would have been more wary of where exactly Jenkins was. Jenkins looked like he might have won anyway, regardless of whether Cheserek let up or not, but we will never get a definitive answer to this question.
The fact of the matter is Cheserek had to run the 2nd fastest 1k in NCAA history during the last 1k of the mile to get the win. He had tired legs and Jenkins was closing in 25.83. Yes, Cheserek has closed a race in 24.8 (last year’s NCAA 10k) but that was with fresh legs in race #1 of the championships, not race #4. Jenkins is very, very good.
Quick Take #2: Oregon’s 1-2-3 sweep was historic
Oregon became the first school to go 1-2-3 in a men’s distance race indoors; the last to do it outdoors was…Oregon, when Andy Wheating, A.J. Acosta and Matthew Centrowitz did it in the 1500 in 2010.
Cheserek is one of the all-time NCAA greats. Jenkins, with pbs of 7:44/13:18 and two national titles, is making a case for being of one of the best American collegians ever on the track. And Will Geoghegan, third in this race, ran a blazing 7:45 earlier this season. Add in Parker Stinson (third in the 5000), Johnny Gregorek (fourth in the mile), Daniel Winn (sixth in the mile) and this was one of the greatest distance squads in NCAA history submitting one of the greatest performances ever at NCAAs.
Oregon distance coach Andy Powell often doesn’t speak to the press, but when we congratulated him on a stunning meet and year he admitted he knew this was a special group. “Might be a once in a lifetime group of guys, ” he said. “I’m enjoying it.”
The Ducks won the four longest distance events (mile, 3k, 5k, DMR) and piled up a ridiculous 70 points in the distance events. Between the mile, 3k, and 5k, Oregon scored 60. For anyone who doesn’t like how the NCAA meet is scored, there’s your ammunition: the Ducks would have won the meet even if they only fielded athletes in three events (runner-up Florida scored 50).
The Ducks’ 74 team points ties 2013 Arkansas as the fourth-highest score at NCAA Indoors. No team has scored more since Arkansas in 1994. Congrats to Robert Johnson, Andy Powell and all of the Ducks athletes, who once again owned NCAAs. They’ve now won three straight team titles on the track (2014 indoor, 2014 outdoor, 2015 indoor).
It’s hard to argue with that type of success but there always will be critics. The Ducks are like the Yankees in baseball. When the Ducks or Yankees win, the critics always shout, “But they imported that talent.”
True indeed to some extent – Jenkins and Geoghegan are transfers to Oregon – so at least 28 of the Ducks points were earned by guys who were incredibly good for other coaches before coming to Oregon. The Ducks fired on all cylinders and there has never been a team distance performance like we saw tonight.
Quick Take #3: So how did Oregon only get sixth at NCAA XC?
With all this talk of distance domination, it seems ridiculous to think that Oregon was just sixth at NCAA XC last year — not even the top Oregon school, in fact, as the University of Portland was third.
How did that happen? Well Cheserek and Jenkins went 1-2, so they certainly did their part. The issue is that their other top-four placers this weekend (Stinson in the 5k, Gregorek in the mile, Geoghegan in the 3k) didn’t have XC eligibility and didn’t run for the Ducks last fall. It would have been great to see a showdown between this year’s loaded Colorado team and a Ducks squad with Stinson/Gregorek/Geoghegan.
Our joke was we were going to start referring to Andy Powell as the greatest NCAA track distance coach ever and the worst NCAA xc coach ever, but that joke doesn’t hold up as the Ducks had a different squad in xc.
Quick Take #4: If not for Oregon, Kemoy Campbell would be an Arkansas legend right now
Campbell was second behind Jenkins in the 5k last night and fourth behind the Oregon trio of Jenkins, Cheserek and Geoghegan tonight (and to be honest, he probably deserved (if there is such a thing in a race) to be third as he was nipped at the line after going for the lead at the bell). Remove the Ducks from those races, and he’s looking at a pair of NCAA titles on his home track. Arkansas has had a lot of great runners come through its program over the years, but few can match that feat. Moreover, they would have been historic and stereotype defying titles as nobody from Jamaica has ever won a NCAA distance crown.
Campbell said he wanted to win the 3k tonight, but gave credit the Oregon runners:
“It’s good competition,” Campbell said. “If you want to be a good runner, you’ve got to appreciate the competition.”
Campbell missed much of 2014 with an Achilles injury. After this weekend, it’s safe to say he’s back and better than ever. The good news for Campbell is he seems to be a lock to make the Olympics for Jamaica in 2016.
Quick Take #5: Morgan Pearson’s fifth-place finish was a nice consolation after a disappointing 5k
Pearson was just 14th in the 5000 last night as that race went poorly for him as he never felt comfortable after rolling his ankle. But he made amends for that with a solid fifth-place showing, which came as a surprise considering he was seeded just 12th coming in.
More: Discuss this race on our world famous messageboard:
*That was F***ing awesome – Oregon Civil War – Jenkins FTW!! Edward Cheserek is human!! (Wait: Ches says he let Jenkins win!)
*Official 2015 NCAA Indoor Day 2 Discussion Thread
Screen Shots from ESPN broadcast (click for larger image):