When Edward Cheserek crossed the finish line in the 10,000-meter at the Pac-12 Championships, it would be his last time doing so in a collegiate race.
Few knew, but Cheserek had been running with a lower back strain. Given he placed first with a time of 29 minutes, 11.76 seconds, nine seconds faster than the runner-up, it makes the final victory all the more impressive.
“I keep adding [trophies], but I don’t know what I can do. There’s a lot in my house,” Cheserek said after the race. “I don’t have the space to put it.”
He won’t be able to add any more, but he still claims arguably the most impressive resumé ever. The injury prevented him from running in the NCAA West regionals, so he couldn’t qualify for the NCAA Championships. It is unfortunate for Cheserek; he was going for two more national titles, but it also all but eliminates the Oregon men from winning a national title.
“This is a minor injury that could potentially become worse if he runs on it too soon,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “As much as Edward would like to run, it is our responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of our student-athletes, and in this case, it means taking Edward out of the regional meet.”
On the track, “King Ches” won six national titles in three years. He’s undefeated in the 5,000-meter and the 10,000-meter at the NCAA Championships, and he was in a prime position to win two more.
For the Oregon men’s team, Cheserek’s 20 points at the NCAA Championships were crucial for its title hopes. Now Oregon will be fighting to podium against the top SEC schools like Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama, among others.
The abrupt end to Cheserek’s career eliminates him from tying the record for most NCAA Championships in a career with 19. He currently has 17 throughout cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. Seventeen is the most for a male in NCAA history.
Going forward, Cheserek will look to sign a professional contract and begin training for either Nike or Adidas.
“Edward has a bright future in running, and I know he is looking forward to a professional career after college,” said associate head coach Andy Powell. “We had to consider the big picture when evaluating this situation. I anticipate him being able to run fast later this summer and in years to come.”
His impact on the program can stretch beyond just national titles. Redshirt freshman Tanner Anderson is Cheserek’s training partner, and Anderson credits him for helping him adjust to collegiate races. Anderson will represent Oregon in the 10,000-meter at the NCAAs after placing third in regionals.
“He was able to help me out a lot,” Anderson said. “I could always learn different racing strategies and tactics from him, and different ways to approach races and not be so anxious and nervous.”
Cheserek’s legacy is often defined by numbers: championships and times. It may be that his biggest impact on the program isn’t quantitative after all.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917