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Oregon’s Cheserek, Colorado Repeat at NCAAs

CHESEREK, COLORADO RETAIN NCAA MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY TITLES
By David Monti, @d9monti

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

TERRE
HAUTE, IND. (22-Nov) — Like the freight trains that rumble
relentlessly through this hardscrabble Midwestern city each day,
Oregon’s Edward Cheserek stormed to his second consecutive NCAA
Division I Cross Country Championships win here today with a late-race
breakaway, prevailing by a comfortable four seconds. Behind him, the
men of the University of Colorado retained their 2013 team title,
placing three men in the top-10 and scoring 65 points, 30 better than
second place Stanford. Both the individual and team victories were
expected.

“Actually, I came in (and thought) I’ve got to defend
my title,” a beaming Cheserek told a small group of reporters in a
cramped mixed zone. “Actually, I did exactly what my coach told me.”

Cheserek’s
coach, Andy Powell, told him to remain patient and not to attack too
early. Sticking with that plan, Cheserek ran near the front of a huge
89-man lead pack through 3000 meters in a pedestrian 9:12. Running
close together to fight off the strong winds, the pack was still
80-strong through the 5-K mark (15:31). Cheserek stayed patient,
listened for his coach’s instructions, and saved his energy for the
final two kilometers.

“This year I get more mature, how to race smart, and how to time myself, well,” Cheserek explained.

The
race finally started to stretch out approaching the 8-K mark when
Arkansas senior Stanley Kebenei pushed to the front, followed by
Cheserek, Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan, California’s Chris Walden,
UTEP’s Anthony Rotich, Oregon’s Eric Jenkins, and Northern Arizona’s
Futsum Zienasellassie. Stanford fifth-year senior Maksim Korolev, the
only man to beat Cheserek this season, was hanging on in 9th place.

“The
last 5-K was just tough,” said Korolev, who would finish fourth. “I
just, you know, didn’t gut it through and make it with them.”

Cheserek,
who has competed on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course
three times, knew exactly where he was, and knew it was time to go. He
could see Kebenei was struggling, and he remembered last year’s race
when Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka took the lead too early and had
nothing left in the final two kilometers.

“I took a mistake
last time, last year,” Cheserek told reporters. “Kithuka took the lead
and I was, like, ‘just run hard the last 2-K.’ This is, like, my third
time running here and I know exactly where 2-K is.”

Cheserek
made one hard push, and quickly dispatched with his rivals. He had the
long, slightly uphill finish straight to himself, crossing the line in
30:19.4, some 38 seconds slower than last year. Before finishing, he
looked back to see his teammate, Eric Jenkins, trading surges with
Zienasellassie, and ultimately finishing second (Zienasellassie got
third). Despite taking the top-2 positions, Oregon’s team would only
place 6th because their fifth man, Cole Watson, finished 155th (131st
among scoring athletes).

In contrast, Colorado’s fifth man,
Pierce Murphy, was 35th (26th among scoring runners), assuring coach
Mark Wetmore’s Buffaloes a commanding victory.

I’m very happy
with them,” Coach Wetmore told Race Results Weekly. “You know this is a
hard race to do without mistakes, and I think we got good races out of
everybody.” He continued: “They’re a close bunch of guys, like
brothers, and they’ve gone through a lot together: the arduous
training, the sacrifices on the weekend, etc. There’s a bond, and they
wanted to do it for each other.”

Colorado senior Blake Theroux,
who finished ninth, echoed Wetmore’s comments. Speaking with reporters
while standing arm-in-arm with his teammates he said: “(We’re) just
another part of the tradition; that’s all we are.” He continued: “We
were talking about winning every single day since June first. Every
single day since outdoors we’ve talked about this day, and we’re going
to come out here and kill it. That’s what we did.”

Colorado’s
“team of equals” is just the kind of squad that Wetmore, who has been
head coach at Colorado for 22 seasons, likes to coach.

“For us, it is ONLY a team sport,” he said.

PHOTO:
Edward Cheserek in the homestretch just before winning his second NCAA
Division I Cross Country Title in Terre Haute, Ind.

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