By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
BOSTON, MA (27-Sep) -- Edward Cheserek and Jake Leingang never left each others shoulders at today's Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown cross country meet. The University of Oregon freshmen were together at the start, side-by-side at the five kilometer checkpoint, then neck-and-neck at the finish of the eight kilometer contest in Franklin Park. Stunning a large crowd on hand, the tandem took first and second to lead the 12th-ranked Ducks to an upset win over Wisconsin and Syracuse.
"Running with these guys was great," said Cheserek with a big smile, surrounded by happy teammates.
Cheserek and Leingang, both true freshman racing in their first collegiate races, didn't seem to have any nerves going into today's competition. Facing ranked opponents Wisconsin (8), Syracuse (9), and Providence (25), the duo simply stuck together from start to finish.
With the entire field still bunched passing the mile in approximately 4:50, Oregon was tucked in behind, biding their time and sticking to their pre-race strategy.
"The race plan was to have all seven of our guys in the top-20 by 5-K," said junior Jeremy Elkaim.
After a loop of famed Bearcage Hill, the leaders hit five kilometers in 15:33 led by Providence's Shane Quinn and Northeastern's Wesley Gallagher. Roughly five meters back sat Cheserek and his pal Leingang, along with the group of Ducks.
"I didn't really know what to expect coming in with my first college race, but I sat back and felt very good," said Leingang, a high school national champion over 5000m from North Dakota.
Reaching the four-mile mark, Syracuse's Martin Hehir led by a step on Providence's Quinn. Within five seconds of the pair, though, were at least six Duck harriers ready to make their moves in the final mile.
Descending Bearcage Hill with less than 800 meters remaining, it still seemed anyone's race. In the final turn, though, the freshman tandem of Cheserek and Leingang proved they had some gas left in the tank. Fending off Hehir, the duo crossed the finish at the same instant, Cheserek lifting his arms in jubilation, getting the narrow victory over his teammate.
Both recording a finish time of 24:11, Cheserek and Leingang only had to wait a brief moment to see the rest of their teammates come through the finish chute. In fourth was Ryan Pickering, then consecutively in seventh, eighth and ninth were Matthew Melancon, Elkaim, and Daniel Winn.
Grouped all together, each of the Men of Oregon were proud of their upset win.
"Our training has been going very well," said Elkaim, speaking on behalf of the team. "Coach [Andy] Powell says it was the best ever [training camp]. We didn't believe him but today helped us believe that. It was a step in the right direction."
The only blemish on the Ducks results --if you could call it one-- was Parker Stinson's 18th place finish.
Satisfied, though not overwhelmingly happy, was Oregon coach Powell, a native of Massachusetts. Powell, who still holds the state high school record for the Franklin Park 5-km course, made note that the upperclassmen needed to run better in the future if they want to contend for a national title.
In a ceremony after the race, Powell was inducted into the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Athletes Hall of Fame, an honor that went to both Powell and his wife and fellow Oregon coach Maurica Powell. Asked by Race Results Weekly if the day could have been any better, between the team win and the honor ceremony, he said yes.
"I think we certainly could have swept and went one, two, three, four, five, so then it would have been better," he said frankly. "And I think those guys [Oregon], if they are happy with their performance and don't continue to improve, we probably won't be good at the NCAA's. We still have a long ways to go and it's only September."
Preventing the Oregon sweep was Hehir in third, as well as Providence's Julian Saad taking fifth. In the team scores, Oregon tallied 22 total points, well ahead of Syracuse's 69, Providence's 81, and Wisconsin's 88.
Sisson Leads Top Ranked Providence To Easy Win
On the women's side, the number-one ranked Providence Friars controlled the five kilometer race from start to finish, with senior Emily Sisson taking the individual title.
From the gun, Sisson, fellow senior Laura Nagel, and sophomore Sarah Mary Collins separated from the group, passing the mile mark just ahead of Boston College's Liv Westphal and Cornell's Rachel Sorna.
Running comfortably quick, the Providence teammates wanted to race as one.
"We were hoping to hang together as long as we could cause we knew we were stronger together," said Sisson.
Just as if practicing an hour down the road back home in Rhode Island, the Friar trio did just that through the two-mile marker. Westphal, a native of France, was the only athlete in the 146-person field to keep pace step for step.
Though they entered the well-known wilderness loop with a mile to go as one, Sisson exited all alone up front. Leading with roughly 800 meters remaining, she would never look back, going on to win in 16:51.
Seven seconds behind Sisson came Nagel in second, while Boston College's Westphal overtook Collins for the third spot. Fourth went to Cornell's Sorna.
When asked if she gained confidence and was excited about the win, Sisson said yes, though quickly turned her attention to Providence's team success.
"At the same time, training with these girls and seeing each other improving, we are excited where we can go," she said. Last year, Providence was the second-place team at the NCAA National Championships behind the University of Oregon.
The overwhelming team win for Providence --scoring 50 points to Oregon's 85 and Cornell's 101-- solidified their top spot ranking. Entering the race, Oregon was third in the most recent USTFCCCA poll, with Cornell ninth.
"Every race we just want to prove that we can be number one," said Nagel.
Rounding out Providence's scoring five were freshman Catarina Rocha, seventh overall, and senior Erin Murphy, who placed 37th. The Friars next major competition will be on October 19 at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational.
PHOTO: Jake Leingang (l) and Edward Cheserek celebrate after finishing second and first, respectively, at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown cross country meet in Boston's Franklin Park (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
NOTE: Assistant Editor Chris Lotsbom will have a photo album from this meeting on the Race Results Weekly Facebook page later this weekend --Ed