June 11, 2015
EUGENE, Ore. — What would happen when University of Oregon teammates Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins entered the homestretch of the men’s 10,000-meter final together and clear of the field? It was the biggest question heading into Wednesday night at Hayward Field and after 9,900 meters of racing at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, we finally received an answer.
Before we get into the post-race interviews, body language analysis and all of the hypothesizing that will inevitably come to pass about this race on the message boards, let’s examine the facts of the final 100 meters of Wednesday’s race.
Jenkins, who had taken the lead with three laps to go, held a narrow lead over Cheserek coming off the final bend. Both runners had a sizeable gap over Brigham Young’s Jason Witt in third. They were going to finish 1-2 in some order and give the Ducks 18 points.
As they turned into the homestretch, Cheserek began to accelerate and passed Jenkins on the outside. A gap began to form, and after about 25 meters, Jenkins also started to speed up. He narrowed the gap on Cheserek (who was turning his head around on both sides to check for other runners) but didn’t catch him. As they neared the finish line, Cheserek remained in the lead while Jenkins had his eyes fixed on the video board beyond the end of the track to ensure that no one was gaining on them. And that’s how it stayed until the line, Cheserek crossing first in 28:58.92 with Jenkins following just .21 of a second later at 28:59.13.
After they crossed the finish line, Cheserek turned towards Jenkins but Jenkins didn’t turn or acknowledge Cheserek. He avoided all contact with Chesrek and quickly exited the track. With the win, Cheserek became the seventh man in history to repeat as NCAA 10,000 champ, and the first since Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Shadrack Songok in 2007-08.
Those are the facts, and they are indisputable.
“I don’t actually chalk this up as a real loss”
The NCAA record book will forever show that Edward Cheserek defeated Eric Jenkins in the men’s 10,000 meter run tonight. But Jenkins doesn’t see it that way.
“You’re always upset losing,” Jenkins said after the race. “I hate to lose. I don’t actually chalk this up as a real loss though. I was having a lot of fun winning.”
Much like indoors when Cheserek said he let Jenkins win the 3000 but with the roles reversed, Jenkins doesn’t consider it a loss as he said that the plan was to cross the line together, but that’s not what happened as Cheserek surprised Jenkins with a surge to the front as they entered home stretch.
“I was expecting to cross the line [together] but Ed kind of got a little bit of a jump on me,” Jenkins said before implying that he wasn’t going all out. “I wanted to make sure I’ve got a little pop in my legs for the 5k.”
Indeed, if track fans are unsatisfied with the finish to Wednesday’s race — especially after the 3k indoors — they should look forward to Friday’s 5,000 final with great anticipation. We asked Jenkins after the race if the plan was to race all-out against Cheserek if a similar scenario arises and he confirmed that it was.
“Yeah I think that is the plan,” Jenkins said. “This is gonna be my last race as a collegiate so I’m not planning on saving anything.”
And with that, the stage is set for a 5,000 final on Friday evening that will be as hotly-anticipated as last year’s Cheserek-Lawi Lalang showdown. Both men will enter the race on equal footing, as each has 10,000 meters of racing in his legs — as opposed to the equally controversial 3k final indoors, where Cheserek ran the DMR and mile (the latter on the same day) and Jenkins ran the 5k earlier in the meet. There will be no qualifiers after the race is done. Jenkins has committed to giving everything he’s got, and if Cheserek (presumably) does the same, it should produce a phenomenal race.
Below, we provide a quick race recap and follow that with quick takes and video interviews.
The race started at an honest, though not breakneck, pace as Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zienasellassie, the NCAA third-placer in cross country handled the early leading, taking the field through the 1600 in 4:36.66. His teammate Matt McElroy took over two laps later and the pace gradually slowed, from 70s to 71s to 72s. The race really began to slow down as the runners crossed the halfway mark in 14:49 and after a 76.9 13th lap, Texas’ Craig Lutz decided he had had enough. Lutz took the lead and immediately dropped the pace, running a 67.65 lap — the fastest of the race to that point — as the pack began to string out. By 6400 meters, a lead pack of four runners had formed — Lutz, 27:56 man Witt of BYU, Cheserek and Jenkins — after covering the previous 1600 in 4:42. Lutz continued to drive the pace, covering the fifth mile in 4:40 and they were briefly joined for three laps by Campbell’s Lawrence Kipkoech before he dropped back again with just under a mile to go.
With three laps to go, Jenkins made his move and began to ratchet down the pace, throwing in a 64.41 and a 63.43 as they hit the bell at 27:59.78. At that point, Lutz had already been dropped (he was out of contention by 9000) and Witt was about to go as well. Jenkins and Cheserek finally freed themselves from him on the first turn of the final lap as Witt waved the white flag and looked over his should to make sure he had third in the bag.
From there, Jenkins held the lead until the final 100 when Cheserek surprisingly passed him. (Cheserek closed his final lap in 58.89 to Jenkins’ 59.35).
With Witt and Lutz firmly ensconced in third and fourth, the only drama remaining was the identity of the fifth-place finisher as a pack of five men were battling for that honor and which of those five men wouldn’t end up scoring and earning first team All-American honors. In the end, Colorado’s Pierce Murphy kicked best, improving his indoor finish by one place thanks to a 58.76 last lap, the fastest of the race and Princeton’s Sam Pons was the unlucky loser as he ended up 9th.
Results and quick takes below. Lap by lap splits here.
|1||Edward Cheserek||SO||Oregon||28:58.92||1 (1)|
|2||Eric Jenkins||SR||Oregon||28:59.13||1 (2)|
|3||Jason Witt||SR||BYU||29:04.58||1 (3)|
|4||Craig Lutz||SR||Texas||29:11.17||1 (4)|
|5||Pierce Murphy||JR||Colorado||29:15.18||1 (5)|
|6||Matt McElroy||SR||Northern Arizona||29:16.55||1 (6)|
|7||Matt McClintock||JR||Purdue||29:16.57||1 (7)|
|8||Malachy Schrobilgen||SO||Wisconsin||29:17.07||1 (8)|
|9||Sam Pons||SR||Princeton||29:17.54||1 (9)|
|10||Lawrence Kipkoech||FR||Campbell||29:34.29||1 (10)|
|11||Marc Scott||SO||Tulsa||29:37.18||1 (11)|
|12||Futsum Zienasellassie||JR||Northern Arizona||29:41.34||1 (12)|
|13||Martin Hehir||SR||Syracuse||29:47.29||1 (13)|
|14||Nate Jewkes||SR||Southern Utah||29:51.74||1 (14)|
|15||Dan Lennon||JR||Syracuse||29:55.69||1 (15)|
|16||Spencer Gardner||SR||BYU||29:59.02||1 (16)|
|17||Ryan Mahalsky||SR||Lehigh||30:03.16||1 (17)|
|18||Max Straneva||SR||Syracuse||30:06.94||1 (18)|
|19||Ernest Kibet||SO||Louisville||30:14.66||1 (19)|
|20||Brandon Lord||SR||Georgia||30:19.98||1 (20)|
|21||Morsi Rayyan||SR||Michigan||30:31.11||1 (21)|
|Glen Burkhardt||JR||Penn State||DNF||1,|
Quick Take #1: Neither Jenkins nor Cheserek seemed terribly excited after the race / The tension after this race was noticeable.
Going 1-2 at NCAAs in any event is an impressive accomplishment (Cheserek and Jenkins were the first teammates to do it in the 10k since Arkansas’ Dan Lincoln and Alistair Cragg crossed together in 2003), but speaking to the two after the race, it would be difficult to tell that’s what Jenkins and Cheserek had just done. Perhaps some will say it’s because they’d been there before. Afterall, the two went 1-2 in XC and in the 3k indoors and they were widely expected to do so again in the 10k. Nobody who has been paying attention this year would call Wednesday’s result a surprise.
But the lack of excitement most likely stemmed from the noticeable tension in the air as Jenkins said that the finish did not go according to plan. Here’s a transcript of his interview with LetsRun’s Weldon Johnson after the race (starts at 3:38 mark)
Johnson: “Was there any talk, sort of finishing together?”
Jenkins: “Yeah, of course. (Pause)”
Johnson: “But you guys didn’t finish together. Did that change?”
Jenkins: “As you said, it gets a little competitive and seeing that home straightaway, you’ve got the crowd behind you. I’m not surprised with how it turned out.”
Jenkins expanded on that in a separate interview afterwards (we tried to do a separate interview with Cheserek but he refused, saying that he had to cool down).
“I was expecting to cross the line [together] but Ed kind of got a little bit of a jump on me,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to make sure I’ve got a little pop in my legs for the 5k.”
Jenkins viewed it as more important to conserve energy for Friday’s 5,000 final than going all-out to beat Cheserek in a race where they already had 1-2 locked up. It certainly seemed to us that Jenkins came off the final turn expecting to cruise in together first and second like they did in the Pac 12 5k, was surprised to see Cheserek jump him, but then tried to respond a little and see if he could surprise Cheserek at the line.
Quick Take #2: BYU’s Jason Witt was satisfied with third.
With Cheserek and Jenkins the heavy favorites, we asked the 25-year old Witt if he came into the race, racing for third. He said that wasn’t his plan. His plan was simply to get the most out of himself.
That being said, Witt admitted to being a realist and he knew if he had his best day and so did Cheserek and Jenkins that he wasn’t going to beat them.
Next up for Witt – most likely USAs.
Quick Take #3: Craig Lutz decided he “might as well go for it”
Lutz was the one who really got the racing started by taking the lead and pushing the pace just after halfway, and said that at that point, with McElroy fading and the pack really bunching up, he thought to himself: “you know what, senior year, might as well go for it.” Lutz wound up holding on for a deserved fourth-place finish, though he said it was a strange feeling afterwards because he got third two years ago, which almost made him feel like today’s race wasn’t as special. After considering the competition level though, Lutz was pleased with how his race went.
“When you look at the fields…I would say today was probably a harder field altogether, a little bit more depth and it was a faster time than we ran two years ago. I think I can be pretty happy with a fourth-place finish today.”
Lutz said that it was a difficult situation coming into the race with Cheserek and Jenkins as heavy favorites, but that he always wants to win when he steps on the line. Thus, his strategy was to put himself in a position to win late in the race, and he was satisfied that he accomplished that rather than going for it and blowing up.
Lutz has an indoor season of eligibility remaining and said that he considered using it but ultimately decided against it. Now he’s moving on to the professional ranks, where he’ll be looking for a group with the same sort of team atmosphere that he’s flourished under in Austin.
Discuss this controversial race in our world famous messageboard: MB: Eric Jenkins pissed off at Ches?
MB: Official 2015 NCAA Outdoor T&F Live Discussion Thread