Colorado repeats as national champion, Ducks' Cheserek takes individual race
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Two of the top programs in NCAA men’s cross country made history Saturday at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Colorado brought home its fifth men’s NCAA team championship -- all since the 2001 season under coach Mark Wetmore -- and Oregon sophomore Edward Cheserek and senior Eric Jenkins teamed for the first 1-2 finish for any program in 25 years.
The Buffaloes put three runners in the top 10 as junior Ammar Moussa was fifth, sophomore Ben Saarel seventh and senior Blake Theroux ninth. The Buffaloes’ team total of 65 points was the lowest winning score since Wisconsin’s 37 in 2005.
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“I’m just so lucky and so blessed,” Moussa said. “Everything we do on this team, we do for each other. Any one of the six or seven of us could have finished where I did today.”
For Wetmore, it was his first time to win repeat titles.
“It’s new. I’ve been at CU 20-something years and we’ve had a lot of big moments,” Wetmore said. “Sometimes people ask me what’s the biggest moment and I can’t answer. It’s always fun to do something you haven’t done before. Repeating is special.”
Cheserek repeated as champion with a 10,000-meter time of 30 minutes, 19.4 seconds, more than 38 seconds slower than his win last season despite fast conditions. A gigantic pack of runners at the front stayed big until the 8K when Cheserek finally made his move.
“My coach told me just sit … don’t even worry about the time. Just be smart and run smart, and be ready to at 8K,” Cheserek said.
The NCAA’s first repeat individual men’s winner since Sam Chelanga of Liberty won consecutive titles in 2008-09, Cheserek is Oregon’s first repeat champion since Steve Prefontaine in 1970 and 1971.
“Just continuing to do things that are unprecedented or haven’t been done in a long time,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said. “It’s not the expected [team] finish we were hoping for, but outstanding job by Edward and Eric.”
Finishing first and second was the plan since June, Jenkins said.
“I think going into the year, we talked about it and coach Powell talked about it. Actually being able to do it is a very different thing. Very happy,” Jenkins said.
Northern Arizona junior Futsum Zienasellassie, whose team finished fourth, almost prevented it from happening. He passed Jenkins with several hundred meters to go, but the Ducks’ runner countered right away.
“I could feel him on me,” Jenkins said. “I was trying not to tense up too much, trying to stay relaxed. Right when he passed me, I was like, ‘You know what, not today. I didn’t put in the work to this last straightaway to get passed the last 200 meters. I’m very, very happy with second.' ”
Colorado moved into fifth in NCAA history among men’s programs with its fifth title, posting a score of 65 with Stanford taking runner-up with 98. Portland was third with 175, NAU fourth at 188 and second-ranked Syraucse fifth at 206.
Indiana State’s John Mascari finished eighth, running in his hometown of Terre Haute.