ALBUQUERQUE. N.M. -- Oregon distance specialist Edward Cheserek is barely a year removed from his high school track and field exploits.
Impressive though they were, high school is high school.But, he hardly shied during the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships, winning two events and providing a boost to his teammates.
The 5-foot-6 freshman was a huge factor during the two-day meet that concluded Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
His victory in Friday’s 5,000-meter final, combined with teammate Parker Stinson’s third-place finish, helped propel the Ducks to the top of the men’s standings at the end of Day 1. His victory in Saturday’s 3,000 final added to the point total.
“Outstanding performance by Edward Cheserek to get two national championships there,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said. “He’s a hell of an athlete. He’s a great kid, very humble, just all-around awesome. You can’t say enough about it.”
Cheserek could. He demurred over the fact he was the only men’s competitor to win two 2014 individual indoor titles.
“It’s okay,” he said following his 3,000 triumph, deflecting praise. “But I’m not the only one. Some guy did it several years ago.”
Someone probably did. But Cheserek and his Duck teammates have etched the most memories.
Sixth-ranked Oregon began Saturday’s schedule with 24 points, followed by Arizona 16, Stanford (14) and Florida (13), respectively. They never trailed, nailing a 62-54 victory against runner-up and defending champion Arkansas, the No. 2-ranked team entering the indoor championships. Top-ranked Florida finished third with 35 points.
“Overall great team performance by the men,” Johnson said.
Cheserek’s performance proved the launching pad. Friday’s 5,000 victory saw him beat the event’s top two runners -- top-ranked Reed Connor of Wisconsin and second-ranked Patrick Tiernan of Villanova. Cheserek, ranked third in the 5,000, also beat highly-regarded Arizona senior Lawi Lalang, who was top-ranked in the mile and the 3,000, and ranked fourth behind Cheserek in the 5,000.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said of the impact of Cheserek’s victory and Stinson’s third-place finish. “There in the 5,000, that was the first one to go and we got a ton of points out of that. Sixteen points out of the 5K was awesome. So, great start on Friday by the men.”
Lalang withdrew from Saturday’s 3,000 event, where Cheserek scored his second victory without drama.
A native of Kenya, he arrived at Oregon via St. Benedict Prep in Newark, N.J. And, went right to work, winning the NCAA Division I cross country title last fall.
"It’s really good for me,” he said of this week’s indoor championship experience. “I just came here as a freshman. I had to train for years and then come here for school. I was training long this year.”
“They may just be naive enough to not to know how special they are on the big stage,” Johnson said. “And you’ve seen that today. Not one point in time did he ever bat an eye. When he was told to go, he went and he was gone. All of his victories were very decisive and it was clear-cut. No messing around. No worries or apprehension about them at all.”