Cheserek Is Not To Blame For Sit-And-Kick Races
When you’re the best, there’s always criticism to be found. Despite his 17 national titles, Cheserek was consistently criticized for his unwillingness to assert a fast pace during championship races as well as other meets like the Penn Relays.
But who can blame him? Why did no one else make the pace fast? Is it really his fault that races he competed in turned out to be slow? After seeing the results from this past weekend, I think the answer is a resounding “No”.
10k National Champion Marc Scott used the classic sit-and-kick method to secure his first ever national title while Grant Fisher did the same exact thing in the 5k. In fact, Fisher even went on to say in his post-race interview that in championship races “everyone thinks they can kick”, which obviously seems to be the case.
With Josh Kerr now dominating in the 1500, will he receive the same criticism Cheserek gets for his national titles? Kerr’s past two title wins haven’t been that fast and have been won with last-lap heroics.
Want To Win An NCAA Championship? Have Great Range…
Of the five national champions in the distance events, all of them displayed the ability to compete at a high level in events other than what they achieved NCAA gold in.
Emmanuel Korir split 43.34 in a 4x4 to compliment his personal best of 1:43 in the half-mile.
Josh Kerr ran an underrated double at the Mountain West Conference Championships where he ran 1:48.04 at altitude to win after also winning the 1500.
Maybe one of the best displays of range came from Edwin Kibichiy who ran 28:38 for the 10k, took bronze in the ACC 5k, and even added on a time of 3:46 in the 1500 (just one second off of his PR).
After an impressive last 400 in the Stanford Cardinal Classic 5k, Grant Fisher showed that his leg speed was no fluke when he became the 1500 PAC-12 champion with a scorching 51.81 second last lap.
And how could we forget about Marc Scott? The Tulsa senior was one of only three individuals who qualified for NCAA’s in both the 5k and 10k.
Of course, there are plenty of All-Americans who have shown equally impressive range (especially the milers) which would continue to explain why these individuals had such great success this season.
Andres Arroyo had his first All-American performance for the the first time in two years after running a huge personal best of 3:41 in the 1500 earlier this spring. I like to think that his success in the longer distance indicated that he was strong enough to get through the rounds and make himself a contender in fast races.
The 1500 included guys like Justine Kiprotich, Craig Engels, and Neil Gourley who all owned strong personal bests in the 800. Josh Thompson went on to find that he is a very talented steeplechaser with a personal best time of 8:32 at the Portland Track Festival just a few days ago.
The list goes on for All-Americans in the longer distances as many of them are capable of balancing the fitness required for the 5k and 10k.
Foreigners Are Still Dominating The NCAA
Of the five NCAA distance champions, Grant Fisher was the only American. Korir (Kenya), Kerr (Scotland), Kibichiy (Kenya), and Scott (Great Britain) all took gold ahead of America’s top-tier talent.
Even the top finishers behind these NCAA champions are international athletes. Just take a look at the 5000. Jack Bruce (2nd) is from Australia, Justyn Knight (3rd) is Canadian, Marc Scott (4th) is British, Amon Terer (5th) is Kenyan, and Chartt Miller (6th) is Australian. After Fisher, the next American to cross the line was Minnesota-native Joe Klecker who placed 7th overall.
Justine Kiprotich (2nd in 1500), although raised in America, was born in Kenya. He was followed by Scotland’s Neil Gourley who placed 5th in the 1500.
And the 10k? Marc Scott (1st) is British and Rory Linkletter (2nd) is Canadian. Butler’s Erik Peterson was the first American to cross the line in 3rd, but he was quickly followed by France’s Arsene Guillorel who placed 4th.
My point? Not much has changed among the collegiate elites as Americans still can’t seem to find their place among the top of the podium.
While I would like to see less rosters composed entirely of Kenyans, Australians, or Brits, I can’t blame collegiate coaches for looking into foreign athletes as a new way to build to their program. Unless you have the big-name appeal of Oregon, Stanford, or Colorado (to name a few) it’s not easy to recruit the greatest high-level athletes the U.S. has to offer.
Underclassmen Are Thriving In The Shorter Distances
In the 800, we saw a true freshman and a true sophomore finish 1-2, each running times of 1:45. Had Saruni not tripped and fallen, we could have very easily seen two freshmen cross the line in first.
Although he ended up in 7th place, Devin Dixon of Texas A&M proved that he is one of the best 800 runners in the nation as just a freshman. Is it really a fluke that these runners are so young? The top two 800 times in the NCAA have both been run by freshmen in the span of a year…
The 1500 wasn’t that much different as the top finishers in that race were both sophomores (Kiprotich is a redshirt sophomore).
Of course, success of the underclassmen seems exclusive to the mid-distances. In fact, not a single freshman or sophomore became an All-American in the steeplechase. Yes, Fisher did win the 5k as a sophomore, but an overwhelming number of All-Americans in the steeplechase, 5k, and 10k were juniors and seniors. I will continue to argue that this is simply because it takes much more time to build a base for the longer races than it does the mid-distances.