By Jonathan Gault
March 9, 2017
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships kick off tomorrow and once again, Oregon’s Edward Cheserek is at the center of attention. Arriving fashionably late to the pre-meet press conference at the Presidential Suite at palatial Kyle Field, it didn’t take long for the NCAA’s top coaches and athletes to sing the praises of the 13-time NCAA champion.
“Thinking about Edward and all his success and for him to go for the [mile-3k-5k] triple, I want it to happen,” said Florida’s superfreshman Grant Holloway, the #1 seed in the 60 hurdles and #2 seed in the long jump. “I’ve been watching Edward for about — I’m a freshman, so three years now. He’s [got] God-given talent. You can’t really get upset with that. You can’t really fault him. Everything he’s done, everything he’s training for, it’s just wonderful. I like seeing people succeed.”
Holloway’s head coach, Mike Holloway (no relation), also shared his respect for the Oregon senior.
“Everyone knows what Edward’s trying to do, I think it’s one of the biggest stories in the world right now,” Mike Holloway said. “Honestly, as Grant said earlier, we’re hoping Edward has a great meet.”
“But honestly all we can do is take care of Florida. And I tell my team that. There’s a computer that keeps the score, we’ve just got to give it a reason to put some points besides Florida.”
The fact that both the Holloways want Cheserek to succeed is noteworthy as he is the only thing standing between Florida and their fourth indoor title in the last eight years. Going by seeds, the Gators are projected to score 53 points. Oregon is the only other team slated to score more than 30, but should Cheserek pull off the mile-3k-5k triple and anchor the Ducks to a third straight DMR title, he’d lift Oregon’s projected score to 43 — within striking distance of the title should some Gators falter or some Ducks rise up.
Cheserek, who doubled at NCAA Indoors as a freshman and tripled as a sophomore and junior, said that in an ideal world, he wouldn’t mind a reduced workload. But he and the Oregon coaching staff reached the decision to triple together, and Ducks coach Robert Johnson believes a triple (or quadruple) is the “proper progression” after Cheserek won the 3k, 5k and DMR at NCAAs last year.
“When it comes to my college career, I wish I can just run one event and just chill, but it’s good to have fun, running with your teammates,” Cheserek said. “Winning the team thing is something I like to enjoy in life.”
LetsRun.com’s DMR preview already laid out the case for why I believe Cheserek will run the DMR, but in case you needed any more evidence, he was practicing handoffs today on the track.
Oregon Track vs. Georgia Field
The Oregon women are expected to run away with the NCAA team title. Literally; they don’t have a single field event athlete entered in the meet. In an interesting twist, the Georgia women — the #2 team by seed projections — don’t have a single athlete entered in the running events.
Georgia head coach Petros Kyprianou has turned the Bulldogs into a national power on the strength of the program’s jumpers and multi-eventers, but he’d still like to create a well-rounded squad.
“I will take some of [Oregon’s] runners to be honest with you,” Kyprianou said. “It would make us a little more balanced. For us, it is what it is and we try. Some coaches get it done, some cannot. We try to do the best we can with just develop that culture in the field events.”
Johnson admitted that while he may not have any field eventers in Texas this weekend, that is an anomaly.
“We’ve touted ourselves ever since I’ve been here as being a balanced team,” Johnson said. “It just so happens to be this year we don’t have anybody in the field events. But at the end of the year they’re going to hand out the Terry Crawford award to the most balanced program and we’re going to be in the running for that.”
Oregon has won that award — which takes into account cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field — every year since it was established in 2009. If the Ducks win the indoor meet as expected this weekend, they’ll be ⅔ of the way to a historic XC/indoor/outdoor sweep, something that has never been accomplished by a Division I women’s program.
Both Johnson and Kyprianou said that they had no issues with the scoring system.
“If you were to say you need to have a full team of 20 to be able to participate as a team, then I wouldn’t be here,” Kyprianou said. “So I feel It’s good for me and my team. I’ve just gotta do a better job on the track.”