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 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships

 

23 Points From Cheserek, Jenkins, And Geoghegan Seal Team Title

 

Eugene, Oregon

Only a tricky wind marred an otherwise glorious day for track & field at Hayward Field on the final day of the NCAA men's championships. It was a day that featured many highlights: Andre Grasse ran a mind-blowing sprint double: 9.75w and 19.58w - one of the greatest one day sprint doubles under all conditions of all time. Marquis Dendy - Florida's Hoppin' Gator - dazzled an appreciative throng, winning the triple jump - to complete his horizontal jump double - with a winning leap of 58'1¼" in a series that included 3 jumps over 57 feet; Anthony Rotich closed hard down the homestretch for a narrow, hard-fought victory to became only the third man ever to win 3 NCAA steeplechase crowns. LSU's Vernon Norward threw down a 44.87 anchor leg to reel in Florida's Najee Glass and win the concluding 4x400 relay for the Tigers. And the University of Oregon men scored a runaway victory to successfully defend the men's team title.

As expected, Oregon's marquee athletes shined. But everywhere you turned members of the supporting cast were having career days. Early in the program, in an uber-tactical 1500m, Duck frosh Blake Haney [3:55.12] set the tone with an unexpected third place finish for 6 big points for Oregon. In the 400m, with defending champion Deon Lendore pulling up on the backstretch, unsung Oregon sophomore Marcus Chambers [45.59] stormed down the homestretch to finish second to Norwood [45.10] to deliver 8 more important points for the Ducks. Shortly thereafter, Johnathan Cabral harvested 8 more unexpected points for the host team when the senior finished second behind Arkansas sophomore Omar McLeod who won in a sizzling 13.01 - the number #2 all-time collegiate 110H clocking under all conditions, second only to hurdle legend Renaldo Nehemiah [13.00].

While the Oregon men piled on points throughout the day, the knockout punch was delivered in the men's 5000m where the host team had four - a virtual brace of Ducks - in the field of 24. Needing only 3 points to clinch the team title, Oregon's confidence was brimming with Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins - 1-2 finishers in Wednesday's 10,000 final - being joined by teammates Will Geoghegan and Jake Leingang at the 5000m starting line.

With a blustery wind suggesting caution, the men's 5000m got underway with Virginia Tech's Thomas Curtin charging to the front. The Hokie unfurled an honest pace, leading the field through the first mile in 4:28. The Duck quartet - with Cheserek tucked in the third position - was well placed. Shortly after 2 kilometers - passed in 5:41 - Curtin continued to lead with Colorado's Morgan Pearson in second as Jenkins moved up to join King Ches near the front. Geoghegan and Leingang remained tucked in on the rail in the top dozen of the still-bunched field. Curtin soon gave way to Villnova's Patrick Tiernan who provided a noticeable tempo increase. Positioning himself for what he knew would be a furious finish, Cheserek slid in behind the Wildcat pacesetter with 3 laps remaining. With 800 to go, Kemoy Campbell surged to the front as the serious running was underway. Three alert Ducks - Cheserek, Jenkins, and now Geoghegan - quickly covered the Razorback's move. At the bell, Cheserek - with Jenkins on his shoulder and Geoghegan close behind- accelerated into the lead in his quest to complete yet another NCAA distance double. As the leaders tore down the backstretch, Jenkins and Portland State's William Kincaid were briefly bumped off-stride when they jostled momentarily - an incident that gave Cheserek an unexpected edge he probably didn't need. Powered by a final lap in 54 seconds, Cheserek [13.48.67] raced down the homestretch unchallenged on his way to his 8th individual NCAA title. A smiling Jenkins crossed second in 13:48.92. And Campbell [13:49.23] had just enough to hold off Geoghegan [13:49.35] for third. Needing only 3 points to clinch the team title, Oregon rang up 23 points from their 5K flock to seal the win.

Oregon's 5K point scorers were festive in the mixed zone. "My plan was to just sit and just wait and look around until we could make a move toward the end," explained Cheserek who, with two full years of eligibility remaining, already has captured 8 individual NCAA crowns. "We were just looking around to see where the teammates were and we were pushing ourselves to get the points for the team." Runner-up Jenkins was pleased with his final track appearance in an Oregon singlet. "It was of a back and forth race, at least for me. I did a good job getting to the front and kind of sticking there," offered the Oregon senior. "That last lap I was just kind of winding up, winding up. And I just kind of ran out of steam. And he [Cheserek] just stayed strong. I am very happy with how it went down." Big points for Cheserek and Jenkins were expected. But the 5 points from Geoghegan's gutty 4th place finish were a bonus. "I was just trying to replicate indoor in that 3K," stated the happy senior in alluding to the Duck's 1-2-3 finish at the NCAA indoor 3000m final earlier this spring. "I wanted to beat everyone who wasn't wearing an Oregon uniform. I wanted to cross the line with these guys."

Jenkins took a moment to reflect on distance brotherhood at Oregon and what it means. "The training is really everything. So when we go into the races, it almost feels just like another day - especially since we're at home. Coming into the last lap when it gets tough and see your teammates around you, it gives you a sense of relaxation. It just kind of feels normal. I've taken it a little bit for granted for the last couple of years. But looking back on it now, you realize how special it is and how hard it is to duplicate it."

Robert Johnson, Oregon's head coach, expressed both elation and awe in describing the sensational, broad-based performance of his men's team. "Great day for the Ducks. Great day to be a Duck. Unbelievable performance," offered Johnson with a staccato delivery. "We thought heading into the day that if we could get to 70+ that would be enough to make sure we were happy in the end," said Johnson in reflection on the final Oregon point total of 85. "We just got on a roll there. Jonathan in the hurdles, Marcus in the 4 [400m] and those guys in the 5K - can't ask for more than that."

The head coach took time to give credit to several of his athletes who delivered unexpected points. "Marcus [Chambers] and Jonathan [Cabral] both had huge points. Will {Geoghegan] getting 4th in the 5K. Those guys are super, super studs for us and for them to be part of what we are doing here and being special is important to us."

Johnson was impressed and humbled by what his men's team showed him today - even against the backdrop of the incredible heritage of Oregon track and field. "When you start to compare with what we've done in the past, it's [this men's team title] pretty special. This is a pretty special place as far as history, tradition, and legacy go."

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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