Edward Cheserek seeks to make NCAA history as Ducks battle for podium finish
Edward Cheserek is one step away from making NCAA history.
On Saturday morning, the senior will attempt to become the first man to have four NCAA Cross Country Championship titles under his belt. Currently, he ties with three others for winning three NCAA titles: Washington State’s Gerry Lindgren (1966, 1967, 1969), Oregon’s Steve Prefontaine (1970, 1971, 1973) and Washington State’s Henry Rono (1976, 1977, 1979).
Cheserek is the only athlete among the bunch to have won three consecutive titles.
If he accomplishes this feat, it will be his 16th NCAA individual title between cross country, indoor and outdoor track, effectively putting him in a league of his own. He is tied with Suleiman Nyambui, who represented Texas El-Paso, for owning 15 individual titles.
The showdown will take place over the 10,000-meter course at 9 a.m. PST on the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Indiana. The women will contest the 6,000 meters at 8 a.m.
The road to cross country history will not be a cakewalk. Some of Cheserek’s biggest rivals include Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, who has been undefeated in his region, Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zienasellassie and Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan, who was last year’s runner-up.
Though Cheserek has three individual cross country titles under his belt, he has yet to celebrate a team championship. The last time the Oregon men hoisted the championship trophy was in 2008.
Along with Cheserek, the other Ducks who seek to improve from last year’s fourth place are seniors Tim Gorman and Jake Leingang; juniors Bryan Fernandez, Travis Neuman and Sam Prakel; sophomores Tanner Anderson and Matthew Maton; and freshmen Jackson Mestler, Austin Tamagno and Levi Thomet.
Of the line-up, five of them — Cheserek, Leingang, Neuman, Anderson and Maton — have NCAA experience, which will be beneficial in guiding the No. 13 men to the podium.
Additionally, Maton ran a career-best race at the NCAA Regionals last week, where he placed second behind Cheserek. He could build on this momentum to easily improve from last year when he placed 85th.
Meanwhile, the No. 12 Oregon women last won the championship in 2012. Although half of last year’s team — which placed third — has graduated, the team still retains its nucleus of seniors Ashley Maton and Maggie Schmaedick; juniors Emma Abrahamson, Frida Berge and Alli Cash and sophomore Jessica Hull.
Adding to the depth of the NCAA-seasoned runners are senior Samantha Nadel, sophomore Kelly O’Neill and freshman Katie Rainsberger.
Rainsberger has emerged as Oregon’s top runner in three out of her four appearances this season as well as the top freshman in the Pac-12 and Regionals.
Maton, who will be donning an Oregon singlet for the last time, has been described by the coaches as the women’s squad’s most improved runner. Her steady improvement this season shone through in the regionals when she jumped 40 places from last year’s result to finish 41st.
A live stream of the event is available on NCAA.com.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls
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