NCAA king takes on Merrie Mile
Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, the most decorated male athlete in NCAA history, visits Hawaii
Before the king runs into new territory, there are final matters to conquer. Edward Cheserek, the winningest runner in NCAA history, has three final exams today at the University of Oregon. King
Ches, as he is known in running circles, boards a flight tonight for Saturday’s Kalakaua Merrie Mile. The 17time NCAA champion will be done with his undergraduate work in business and venture full speed into life as a professional runner.
“My main thing is just come up there, race, enjoy the beautiful weather and my time there,” Cheserek said by phone. “I’ve never been there.”
Held a day before the Honolulu Marathon, the 7 a.m. mile in Waikiki is Cheserek’s third race as a pro. His illustrious career with the Ducks ended early in May when a lower back strain kept him out of the NCAA West Regional, the qualifier for the national outdoor track championship.
Cheserek finished his Oregon career with 17 NCAA titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, the winningest male athlete in Division I history. His titles in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs at March’s indoor championships broke the 35-year-old record of 15 titles held by UTEP’s Suleiman Nyambui (19791982). Stanford’s Jenny Thompson has the most NCAA titles with 19 in swimming.
There was no distance where Cheserek could not chase down a competitor. His three cross country titles came at 10 kilometers and track titles ranged from the mile (indoor in 2015) to 10,000 meters (outdoor 2014-16).
Healthy and with a sponsorship deal with Skechers, Cheserek made his pro debut at September’s 5th Avenue Mile in New York. With a month of training, he placed 16th in 3 minutes, 57 seconds. Two-time New Zealand Olympian Nick Willis won the race in 3:52 and the two will race against each other here on Saturday,
starting on Monsarrat Avenue near the Honolulu Zoo, going down Kalakaua Avenue before turning back.
“I went back home to Eugene. I (thought) I need to train more, harder,” Cheserek said.
He won the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 5K in 13:38 on Thanksgiving Day. His attention has been divided between training in Eugene and his final semester. Cheserek believes he will get a better idea of where he’s at — and where he needs to be — once running gets his undivided attention.
“I’m looking forward to playing harder,” Cheserek said. “All those professionals, they just focus on training. I think if I get time to focus on one thing, I’ll be OK or in real good position to see where I can mix it up with the top guys.”
Cheserek plans to train in Hawaii after the weekend before fully launching into 2018 as a pro. In the long run are the Olympics, where the Kenyan-born runner who moved to New Jersey for high school would like to run in a USA uniform. He said his application for U.S. citizenship is still ongoing. An easier route is to run for the country he was born in, but Cheserek feels a deeper connection with the country “where I grew up.”
“I just want to run for the country I love,” Cheserek explained. “I love the people. I look up to these good runners, Meb (Keflezighi), Galen Rupp … (Steve) Prefontaine, all these famous runners. I want myself to be like that someday. (Bernard) Lagat is always my mentor. He gives me motivation to push myself every single day.”
Oregon’s Edward Cheserek reacted as he crossed the finish line to win the men’s 3,000-meter run during the NCAA college indoor track and field championships in College Station, Texas.