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By Steve Ritchie / Special to the Statesman Journal
June 13, 2014

University of Oregon's Edward Cheserek

Eugene – Super frosh Edward Cheserek may have narrowly lost his bid to stay perfect in NCAA championship races, but the Oregon Ducks still got a huge boost out of a very fast men’s 5000 meter final on Friday evening at Historic Hayward Field.

With the Hayward crowd in a frenzy, race favorite Lawi Lalang and Cheserek, winner of Wednesday’s 10000 meters, battled head to head on the last lap. Cheserek took the lead with just over 200 meters to go, and it looked like his blazing kick might secure the 5K – 10K championship double for him. Lalang, however, had other plans. He stayed just behind Cheserek on the last curve and pulled even on the straightaway, as the pair weaved around runners who were being lapped.

Battling all the way to the line, the Arizona senior had just enough to pull out the win by .35 seconds over Cheserek. Both Lalang, 13:18.36, and Cheserek, 13:18.71, dipped under Sydney Maree’s 35 year-old meet record of 13:20.63.

“I knew he was going to (kick) towards the last 200 and I should be ready to kick with him,” Lalang said. “I wasn’t concerned. I was going to let him go past and then chase him. It’s really nice to get the win, he is a good competitor.”

Cheserek admitted that the 10000 race on Wednesday took a lot out of him, especially at the finish.

“It was tough,” Cheserek said. “I was trying to go with 200 meters to go but he came back because he was fresh. Coming back from the 10000 was really tough. I was fighting to keep up with him but I couldn’t.”

As compelling as the race for first was, another big story was unfolding just behind the top two finishers. Oregon seniors Trevor Dunbar and Eric Jenkins pulled away from a tight pack of runners on the final lap to finish third and fourth, respectively, in the race. The 2-3-4 Oregon finish gave the Ducks 19 points, keeping them in the driver’s seat for a team championship. Their 53 points gave Oregon a healthy, 25 point lead over the

Florida Gators going into the final day of the NCAA championships today.

The men’s 400 final earlier featured an even closer finish, Deon Lendore of Texas A&M just edging Oregon senior Mike Berry by .05 seconds. Berry’s eight points for second, though, were more than projected, and their chief rivals, Florida and Texas A&M, pulled fewer points than anticipated from that event.

“I wanted to win,” Berry said. “That was my goal. Deon is a great opponent and that was a great race. It was my last race at Hayward as a Duck in front of all these great fans. It was neck and neck – you don’t know who is going to win until the times come up on the scoreboard. To come out second was a little disappointment but I gave it my all.”

It was a good day for the Oregon women, as well. Laura Roesler got a big win in the 800 meter final in her last individual race as a Duck. Jenna Prandini overcame a poor start to place third in the 100 meters, and, despite having to run in lane eight, Phyllis Francis grabbed second place in the 400.

When the dust cleared on Friday evening, the Oregon women remained in the hunt for a team title of their own, and will start Saturday clinging to a two-point lead over Texas A&M. Texas and Florida are both at 29 points and still within striking distance, as well.

Based on projections for Saturday’s events, however, it looks like Texas A&M is should be considered a slight favorite to emerge victorious and claim their fourth women’s team title since 2009.

Already the most decorated female in Oregon track and field history, Laura Roesler claimed her first outdoor NCAA championship on Friday, pulling away from the field over the last 200 meters to win easily in 2:01.22.

University of Oregon's Laura Roesler

Roesler said her primary emotion after the win was relief.

“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Roesler said. “I was pretty nervous but once the gun went off I just had to run within myself and I just needed to want it. I was getting tripped a little bit with 250 (meters) to go and I got pretty competitive and I was like, ‘alright play time is over.’ Coach Johnson said I had one move to make and one move only, so I went hard and went 100% and it worked out for me today.

Always a big favorite at Hayward, the crowd was so loud on her stretch run that Roesler was worried that someone was coming up behind and she tried to scan the video scoreboard to see what was happening on the track behind her.

“The crowd was so loud I didn’t know if that was for me or if someone was coming up behind me, and I looked at the scoreboard but it is so hard to tell from looking at the screen. But I was running fast so someone had to be pretty quick to be catching me. I just had to keep my form and get across that line first. . . I couldn’t have gone out any other way.”

Jenna Prandini, winner of the long jump for Oregon on Wednesday, was a favorite in the 100 meters, but after 20 meters she was a couple of strides behind the field. Prandini closed very strongly and snuck into third. Coach Robert Johnson appreciated the way his sprinter refused to give up.

“Not one of her best starts,” Johnson said. “Probably one of her worst. But she’s a fighter and was able to come back from last place to squeeze into third.”

Prandini has had a busy championship meet, and will have one more race, the 200 meters, on Saturday. She will be up against most of the same runners in the 200 that she faced in the 100, and will have another chance to secure 10 points for the team.

After reviewing video of the race, NCAA meet officials confirmed the disqualification for the Oregon men’s 4 x 400 relay on Friday morning.

Oregon finished second in the race, advancing them to Saturday’s final, but Arizona State filed a protest, claiming an infraction. Arthur Delaney, running the second leg for Oregon, apparently stepped on the inside line in his lane for several consecutive steps, and Coach Johnson got the bad news of the DQ after a sleepless night.

“I don’t think I slept a drop last night waiting for the decision this morning,” Johnson said. “The men’s 4x 4 that was little disheartening . . . I was told a thousand different things.”

While he conceded that the UO men are now in a two team race for the championship, Johnson said he didn’t feel comfortable yet.

“Florida has lots of potential (of) scoring. They have a 4 x 1, a 4 x 4, triple jump and (Dedrick) Dukes in the 200. So they have huge potential to score there. I’m not comfortable with this overnight lead.”

On Saturday the Ducks will counter with favorite Sam Crouser in the javelin, Mac Fleet and Sam Prakel in the 1500, Delaney in the 200, Tanguy Pepiot in the 3000 steeple, and Devon Allen in the 110 hurdles. If most of those six athletes do what they are expected to do, it should be Oregon out of reach.


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