It’s Settled: Cheserek Is The King

June 12, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. — Let there be no doubt. Edward Cheserek beat Eric Jenkins in today’s men’s 5,000 final at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and there can be no ifs, ands or buts. With both runners going all-out over the final 200 meters, it was Cheserek who took down his Oregon teammate at Hayward Field, using a 54.66-second last lap to win a thrilling race in 13:48.67 to Jenkins’ 13:48.92, as the Ducks went 1-2-4 in the 5000 to cap a dominating team performance and repeat as NCAA champions. Cheserek covered the final 1600 meters in 4:08.39, even faster than Lawi Lalang closed to take down Cheserek last year.

Two nights earlier, Cheserek defeated Jenkins to win the 10,000, but it was clear nothing had been settled. Tension hung in the air in the mixed zone after the race as Jenkins said “I don’t actually chalk this up as a real loss.” That tension had evaporated by Friday evening, as the two were all smiles after the race, embracing after recording their fourth 1-2 finish in an NCAA championship race this year. Read that sentence again, because the last part isn’t likely to happen again for a long, long time.

Jenkins had given Cheserek his best shot and come up short, and he was at peace with that.

“I wasn’t holding anything back,” Jenkins said. “I definitely went for it. The last lap was tough, the last 200 was even harder and I just kind of tied up a little bit at the end, couldn’t stay relaxed, but overall I’m happy with how I did.”

Edward Cheserek Was King (click for day 3 photo gallery) Edward Cheserek Was King (click for day 3 photo gallery)

Oregon couldn’t quite replicate its 1-2-3 sweep of the 3,000 indoors but still managed to take three of the top four spots as Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell turned the tables on the Ducks’ Will Geoghegan (who outkicked Campbell in the 3,000 indoors) to snatch third and relegate Geoghegan to fourth. Woody Kincaid of Portland was the other man kicking for the podium in the final 100 and he took fifth in 13:49.54.

Recap, results, analysis and interviews below.

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Place Name Affiliation Time Heat (Pl)
1 Edward Cheserek SO Oregon 13:48.67 1 (1)
2 Eric Jenkins SR Oregon 13:48.92 1 (2)
3 Kemoy Campbell SR Arkansas 13:49.23 1 (3)
4 Will Geoghegan SR Oregon 13:49.35 1 (4)
5 William Kincaid JR Portland 13:49.54 1 (5)
6 Justyn Knight FR Syracuse 13:50.96 1 (6)
7 Thomas Curtin JR Virginia Tech 13:52.11 1 (7)
8 Sean McGorty FR Stanford 13:53.63 1 (8)
9 Erik Olson SR Stanford 13:55.74 1 (9)
10 Patrick Tiernan SO Villanova 13:55.81 1 (10)
11 Weston Strum SR Northern Arizona 13:55.93 1 (11)
12 Jake Leingang FR Oregon 14:00.35 1 (12)
13 Collin Leibold JR Georgetown 14:10.21 1 (13)
14 Colin Bennie FR Syracuse 14:12.88 1 (14)
15 Michael Clevenger JR Notre Dame 14:13.44 1 (15)
16 Lane Werley JR UCLA 14:15.63 1 (16)
17 Morgan Pearson JR Colorado 14:21.10 1 (17)
18 Ty McCormack SR Auburn 14:26.63 1 (18)
19 Willy Fink SO Eastern Michigan 14:30.54 1 (19)
Thomas Awad JR Penn DNF 1,
Kirubel Erassa SR Oklahoma State DNF 1,
Jacob Thomson FR North Carolina St. DNF 1,
Jack Goodwin JR Florida State DNF 1,
Mason Ferlic JR Michigan DNF 1,

The Race
This one was fairly uneventful for the first two miles as Virginia Tech’s Thomas Curtin led them through 1600 (4:32) and 3200 (9:07). Most of the field was still together with a mile to go when Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan went to the lead and started to string the pack out with a 65.47 lap. There were still 13 men in the lead pack with three laps to run but the big guns Cheserek and Jenkins were positioning themselves near the front as they prepared for the final kick. With them at the front were Tiernan, Campbell, Portland’s Woody Kincaid and Syracuse true freshman Justyn Knight.

Oregon 1-2-4 (Click for photo gallery) Oregon 1-2-4 (Click for photo gallery)

The next lap was run in 67.29, not nearly enough to drop anyone in the front group, as Campbell took over the lead with Cheserek running on his outside. Campbell upped the ante with a 61.40 penultimate lap and Cheserek responded by taking the lead slightly before the bell as Jenkins moved onto his shoulder. Campbell, Geoghegan, Kincaid, Tiernan and Knight all still lurked behind.

The pace ratcheted up even further on the backstretch as Kincaid moved up on the outside and put in a surprising surge. That got the attention of Jenkins and Cheserek, who really picked up the pace as they and Kincaid began to battle for position. Cheserek assumed the lead early in the final turn and launched into his sprint as Jenkins followed.

Cheserek had a gap of a meter or two coming off the final turn and Jenkins realized he needed to accelerate if he was going to catch his teammate. He put his head down and dug deep with 75 to go and was able to gain a step or two back on Cheserek, but couldn’t get more than that as Cheserek streaked away to his eighth individual title. Jenkins had to settle for second while Campbell, who was in fifth with 150 to go, swung wide off the final turn and outsprinted Geoghegan and Kincaid for third.

Several runners ended up failing to finish in the warm, sunny conditions (70s and windy), notably 13:27 man Kirubel Erassa of Oklahoma State and Ivy League champ/13:33 man Thomas Awad of Penn.

Quick Take #1: This settles it: Cheserek is better than Jenkins

There was some debate about whether Jenkins’ win over Cheserek in the 3,000 indoors proved anything (Cheserek said he let Jenkins win and he also had to double back from the mile final a few hours earlier). Likewise, Wednesday’s 10,000 win by Cheserek, where Jenkins refused to give chase over the final 100, didn’t settle the “who’s better?” debate. Today did, and when you consider it as part of Cheserek’s body of work over the past two years (his win over Jenkins in the 5,000 outdoors last year and his win at NCAA XC), the evidence is clear: Cheserek is the superior runner.

Quick Take #2: Eric Jenkins put together an incredible senior year

Quick Take #1 is not meant to take anything away from Jenkins, who put together a historic senior year. Remove Cheserek from the results, and Jenkins would have almost matched Galen Rupp‘s legendary 2008-09 campaign — wins at NCAA XC, the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 and the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 (Rupp also anchored Oregon’s winning DMR at NCAA indoors). Of course, Cheserek’s name is going to stay in the results, but Jenkins’ transition from very good runner to absolute stud has been a joy to watch this season. After Lawi Lalang‘s departure at the end of the 2014 outdoor season, most pundits agreed that no one would be able to challenge Cheserek in the distances this year. The fact that there was a legitimate debate over who would win tonight’s race shows just how far Jenkins has come since last year’s fourth-place finish, where Cheserek beat him by nine seconds.

Now Jenkins is on to USAs, where he’s got a shot to challenge for a spot on the Worlds team this summer. He said he will consider all options in weighing where to sign for his professional career. We asked him about whether the doping allegations leveled at Alberto Salazar might scare him off the Nike Oregon Project, but he said he hasn’t really given much thought to it yet as he’s been focused on this race.

Quick Take #3: Edward Cheserek is working on his American citizenship and plans to stay all four years at Oregon

Cheserek said he thinks American citizenship is “very close right now” but wouldn’t comment on exactly how close, saying he is taking it day-by-day.

Quick Take #4: Oregon rode its distance dominance to another massive team score and team title

Just like last year, coming into the meet it was expected to be a close battle between several schools for the men’s team title. Here’s Track & Field News‘ pre-meet projection:

1. Oregon, 65 points
2. Florida, 63
3. LSU, 59
3. Texas A&M, 59

Here’s what actually happened:

1. Oregon, 85
2. Florida, 56
3. Arkansas, 53
4. LSU, 45

Oregon simply crushed the field, racking up 85 points, the second-highest total since 1984. The only team with more? Last year’s Oregon squad, which scored 88. Add in the injured Devon Allen, last year’s 110 hurdles champ, and this year’s Ducks probably crack 90.

The Ducks outperformed projections in almost every event and that included the distances, where Oregon scored 47 points between the 1500, 5,000 and 10,000 thanks to big performances from true freshman Blake Haney (third in 1500) and fifth-year senior Will Geoghegan (fourth in 5,000). Even if you scored Oregon in just those three events, they still would have finished third in the team score. Cheserek and Jenkins by themselves would have been fifth.

Quick Take #5: Woody Kincaid’s fifth-place finish didn’t come as a surprise

Kincaid wasn’t surprised that he was duking it out with Cheserek and Jenkins at the end as he said his plan was to hang near the front until the kicking started. With 300 to go, a gust of wind came down the backstretch and that’s when Kincaid decided to attack. Kincaid said with 200 to go, he was thinking he would win the race, but once Cheserek went by him on the final turn, he realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Kincaid has indoor and outdoor eligibility remaining and said that he’s planning on going to Iten, Kenya, this summer to train. He hasn’t figured out all the specifics but said that former Portland runner Alfred Kipchumba will be helping to set him up with people to train with.

Quick Take #6: True frosh Justyn Knight of Syracuse is a fan of the sport and Syracuse is going to be very good in xc next year.

We caught up with Knight, who was sixth at just age 18, and he threw in a Yomif Kejelcha reference into the interview. Knight said realizing that Kejelcha, whom Knight raced last year at World Juniors when Kejelcha won and Knight was 8th, is now winning Diamond League races has given him the confidence to take on the big guns in the NCAA.

Knight’s got a few races left this year before he starts to get ready for what he hopes will be a podium year for the up-and-coming Syracuse cross country team. The Orange were fifth year last year. He’s got good reason to be excited about next year’s xc season.

Check out this stat:

# of NCAA Qualifiers in 5000 and 10,000 in 2015 For Top 5 NCAA XC Teams
#1 Colorado – 2
#2 Stanford – 2
#3 Portland – 2
#4 NAU – 3
#5 Syracuse – 5

Quick Take #7: Knight isn’t the only one looking forward to xc; Stanford’s Sean McGorty thinks the Cardinal are going to be very good.

Stanford was 2nd last year in xc, and while they lose Maksim Korolev and Michael Atchoo, they’ll have five guys back from the top 100. Plus they’ll get back Jim Rosa and add in some studly freshmen led by Grant Fisher and Alex Ostberg.

Quick Take #8: Patrick Tiernan is pleased with his year

Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan talked about how thinks he’s had a good year, but lost his momentum when his inside move was cut off as they approached the bell. Next up for him is some rest as he thinks he’s not quite ready to race in Europe.

*Day 3 Photo Gallery

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