College Track and Field: Winningest runner in NCAA history competes in last collegiate race
EUGENE, Ore. – King Ches has run his last collegiate race in an Oregon singlet.
Edward Cheserek, the winningest runner in NCAA history, will not run at the West Regional meet due to a lower back strain. After consulting with Cheserek and team medical staff, head coach Robert Johnson and associate head coach Andy Powell made the determination to withdraw Cheserek from the NCAA West Regional Championships May 25-27 in Austin, Texas. As a result, the senior will not compete in the NCAA Championships next month at historic Hayward Field.
"This is a minor injury that could potentially become worse if he runs on it too soon," said 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. "
"Edward has a bright future in running and I know he is looking forward to a professional career after college," said 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."
Despite not competing in the NCAA Outdoor Championships his senior season, Cheserek will finish his unparalleled career as the winningest runner in NCAA history, having already cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest collegiate distance runner of all time.
"We are all incredibly proud of everything Edward has done for our program," said Johnson, "And we are equally proud of what he has done in the classroom. Edward is in good academic standing and will graduate this summer."
Cheserek won a combined 17 NCAA championships between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, including the 5,000 meters and 3,000 meters at the 2017 NCAA Indoor meet. He broke the 35-year-old record originally set by Suleiman Nyambui, who won 15 NCAA titles for Texas-El Paso from 1979-82.
Just as remarkable, in 21 career NCAA Championship finals, Cheserek won 17, finished second three times, and was third once.
The senior from Newark, N.J., also set the collegiate indoor record in the indoor mile (3:52.01) this season and is a seven-time Pac-12 champion, including four in cross country. His last collegiate race was the 10,000 meters at the Pac-12 Championships, which he won in 29:11.76.
A 21-time all-American, Cheserek is also the only three-time finalist for the Bowerman Award and was a second team academic all-American in 2015.
His 17 NCAA titles are the most of any male student-athlete in NCAA Division I history. Only Jenny Thompson won more titles. The eight-time Olympic gold medalist won 19 NCAA titles in women's swimming for Stanford.
Here is a look at Cheserek's 17 career NCAA Championships:
Freshman Year, 2013-14 (4 titles - Cross Country, 3K indoors, 5K indoors, 10K)
No. 1: Cheserek burst onto the scene for the Ducks in 2013-14 as a freshman out of St. Benedict Prep in Newark, N.J. His potential for greatness was apparent from the outset, as he became the first freshman in Oregon history to win the NCAA Cross Country Championships, in a blazing 29:41.1, immediately putting his name alongside Oregon legends Steve Prefontaine, Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp.
No. 2: Four months later, Cheserek would open his terrific indoor career with a highly anticipated showdown against Arizona's Lawi Lalang in the 5,000 meters. After the two put distance between themselves and the field, Cheserek took off and left no doubt with an electric finish down the homestretch to win in 13:46.67, throwing his arms up at the finish in what would become a familiar sight for Duck fans and track and field enthusiasts around the country.
No. 3: On the second day of competition in Albuquerque, Cheserek made it 3-for-3 in NCAA Championship races, finishing with a winning time of 8:11.59 to help clinch the first team indoor title for the Men of Oregon since 2009.
No. 4: Cheserek knocked down another milestone to open his outdoor career, becoming the first freshman to win the 10,000 meters since 1979. He won in 28:30.18 to the delight of a roaring Hayward Field crowd, exploding through the final 200 meters to win. Cheserek's victory would help the Men of Oregon end a 30-year title drought outdoors.
Sophomore Year, 2014-15 (5 titles - XC, Mile indoors, DMR indoors, 5K, 10K)
No. 5: With four titles already under his belt, Cheserek again put his name alongside UO legend Steve Prefontaine at the 2014 Cross Country Championships. The sophomore phenom jumped to a lead with 2,000 meters to go and won his second straight title, in 30:19.4, joining Prefontaine as the only Ducks to accomplish that lofty feat. Cheserek and teammate Eric Jenkins also became the first teammates to finish 1-2 in the men's championships since 1989.
No. 6: At the Indoor Championships in Arkansas, Cheserek would win his first title as part of a relay team. Taking the handoff in third on the final leg of the distance medley relay, Cheserek made up a formidable gap before creating a gap of his own to claim a win for the Ducks by nearly two seconds.
No. 7: The next day, Cheserek won his first championship in the mile in a scalding 3:57.94. He also finished second in the 3,000 meters, leading until the homestretch when Jenkins passed him for the win.
No. 8: Cheserek and Jenkins would mount another 1-2 finish in the 10,000 meters at the Outdoor Championships in June at Hayward Field, this time with Cheserek finishing out front for his second 10,000 title in as many tries. The two led for the majority of the race before Cheserek kicked to the front in the final 100 meters to win in 28:58.92.
No. 9: Yet another 1-2 finish for Cheserek and Jenkins the next day in the 5,000 meters helped the Men of Oregon repeat as champions outdoors to go along with a win on the women's side. Cheserek won in 13:48.67 for his eighth career individual title, and ninth total, moving him past Prefontaine's career total of seven individual championships.
Junior Year, 2015-16 (6 titles - Cross Country, 3K indoors, 5K indoors, DMR indoors, 5K, 10K)
No. 10: Cheserek would make NCAA history to open his junior season in November of 2015, becoming the first man ever to win three consecutive individual NCAA cross country titles, with a winning time of 28:45.8. The King shifted into overdrive with 1,500 meters remaining, leaving Villanova's Patrick Teirnan in the dust to claim his spot in the NCAA cross country record books.
Even with 10 NCAA titles, nine individually, on his resume, Cheserek outdid himself with a performance at the Indoor Championships that left a buzz around the country that wouldn't die down for months to come.
No. 11: On the first day of competition, Cheserek stole the show in Birmingham, Ala., with an astounding double in the 5,000 meters and DMR, even with the 3,000 looming the next day. In the 5,000, it was a two-man race before Cheserek pulled away with two laps remaining to win in 13:47.89. It wasn't until Cheserek came off the track that a final decision was made on the DMR.
No. 12: He both tried and succeeded, barely 30 minutes after winning the 5K, running a 3:52.84 anchor over 1,600 meters to lead the Ducks to a meet-record 9:27.27 first-place finish.
No. 13: The next day, Cheserek completed a triple that had only been done once before, winning the 3,000 meters to lead Oregon to a sweep at the NCAA Indoors and the third-straight indoor title for the men. He pushed the pace with 500 meters remaining to claim title No. 13 in 8:01.40, and joined Galen Rupp (2009) as the only person ever to win those three events in the same national championship.
No. 14: Running in an NCAA Outdoor Championship at Hayward Field in June for the first time without Jenkins, Cheserek made it 3-for-3 in the 10,000 meters with a blowout win in 29:09.57 to move within one win of tying the record for NCAA titles.
No. 15: He tied that record held by Suleiman Nyambui the next day with his second-career 5,000-meter championship outdoors. Despite admitting to feeling fatigued, Cheserek surged into the lead with 250 meters to go before powering through the Bowerman Curve to win in 13:25.59 and match Nyambui with 15 career NCAA championships.
Senior Year, 2016-17 (2 titles – 3K indoors, 5K indoors)
No. 16: Cheserek made his record-breaking win look easy at Texas A&M, putting distance between himself and the field with two laps to go and cruising to the historic title just a few hours after winning the mile semifinals in 3:59.30.
No. 17: Cheserek won his 17th and final NCAA title in the 3,000 meters, out-kicking Syracuse's Justyn Knight in the final stretch to win his third-career 3,000-meter title indoors. It was his ninth-career indoor championship.
By winning the 5,000 meters the night before and taking second in the mile prior to the 3K, Cheserek scored 28 points in his final NCAA appearance to break his own individual record (22.5 points) for most points scored at an NCAA Indoor Championship meet.