BIRMINGHAM, AL — One word could describe the conclusion of the 2016 DI Men’s Track and Field Championships.
It was a day that was dominated by Oregon, who would literally run away with the national title en route to head coach Robert Johnson’s second Men’s and Women’s sweep of the championships in three years.
Things really kicked into second gear when Oregon’s sophomore hurdler Devon Allen won the 60-meter hurdles. He narrowly defeated LSU’s Jordan Moore 7.56 (a new personal record) to 7.60 in a close heat.
“I’m just exited to get the win,” Allen said. “I just came out here to compete and score points and I did my job. It was a little sloppy, but I hit a new PR so I can’t complain. It puts me in a good position for outdoors, so hopefully I’ll run fast, and I’m just happy to go home.”
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Allen was happy with the win, but knew it wasn’t his best performance, referring to it as sloppy more than once on occasion. That being said, the Oregon sophomore who twilights as a wide receiver for the football team in the fall, knew to trust in his coaches and come away with those points the Ducks needed.
“I listen to what my coach told me, stay on the hurdle,” Allen said. “That puts me in a good position, so no matter if you hit the hurdle or not, if your running fast enough it puts you in a better position.”
That led to the 60 meter dash. Friday’s preliminaries were arguably the most exciting race of the day. To say it was fast is an understatement as three sprinters unbelievably finished with times better than 6.53. How could they possibly outdo themselves?
By running faster.
“It was excellent,” Houston’s junior sprinter Cameron Burrell — who finished second with a remarkable time of 6.48 — said. “Ronnie Baker ran a great race, we were probably neck and neck the whole way. I probably made a slight mistake by leaning a bit early, but congrats to him.”
“It feels great,” TCU’s senior Ronnie Baker said. “There was a lot of pressure coming back the second year trying to defend the national title, and I’m really happy that I could come out here, run against some of the fastest guys in the nation and get it done. Now, I have the fastest time in the whole nation and that is absolutely unbelievable.”
Christian Coleman — a sophomore out of Tennessee — and John Teeters — a junior from Oklahoma State — would set PRs of their own, rounding out a top four that all improved their times to better than 6.53.
“Six of us PR-ed in the prelims, everybody came here ready to run,” Burrell said. “It was fast, a great race, everybody was here to run fast.”
“I was super excited,” Baker added. “I love when the guys run fast. It’s better competition, everyone’s on their A game. It allows you to step up, and I stepped up.”
There was some question on how good the field in the 60 meter would be with so many familiar faces lost to graduation and some new faces looking to continue the tradition.They certainly didn't leave any doubt after Saturday night.
“You can’t count anybody out,” Burrell said. “All of these guys all work really hard. there’s a lot of great coaches and a lot of great athletes.”
You can’t talk about fast this weekend without bringing up Oregon’s Edward Cheserek. He was simply remarkable, pulling off the triple on the weekend, winning the 5000 meter, anchoring the Distance Medley Relay and then the 3000 meter. By the time he took to the track for his 3000 meter race, all he had to do was have a modest race and Oregon would lock up their third straight men’s title.
Cheserek, unfortunately for the rest of the nation, only seems to know how to run one way.
The Oregon junior won his third event of the weekend, once again in record setting fashion, setting the facility mark with a time of 8:00.40. It was his 11th overall national championship and his return to Oregon for a senior season should see him essentially annihilate any record he hasn’t touched yet.
“It went really well,” Cheserek said. “Coach told me to just relax as much as you can, sit back and just wait until a couple laps left and then you can go. I knew everyone in the field was giving it a last kick so my gut was telling me just go and I was ready to go.”
Cheserek has now achieved at least 20 points in three straight NCAA Indoor championships. He has continued to move his way up the all-time leader board in points, entrenching his name alongside other Oregon legends like Steve Prefontaine in Cross Country and Galen Rupp in Indoors.
“I think a little bit about it,” Cheserek said. “I know that it’s out there, but try not to worry too much about it because we need to worry about the team title.”
At the end of the weekend, Cheserek and the Ducks were simply too much for the rest of the field. They now join Florida, Arkansas and UTEP as the only three-time champions. With names like Cheserek, Blake Haney, Sam Prakel and Allen on the roster, there could easily be more in the not so distant future.
“Since I’ve been coming to Oregon we’ve been doing the same thing,” Cheserek said. “I think we just really try to keep it going.”