Freshman Cheserek runs away with NCAA cross country championship

Edward Cheserek capped a stellar freshman season at Oregon by running away with the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

Cheserek made his winning move about 7,500 meters into the 10,000-meter race in frigid, muddy and windy conditions. He passed defending NCAA champion Kennedy Kithuka, a senior from Texas Tech who had never lost a race in college, and ran to the line alone, winning by 18 seconds in a time of 29:41.

"It feels great, I was just running my own race," Cheserek told GoDucks.com after the race.

The Men of Oregon finished fifth in the team competition.

With the win, Cheserek, 19, joins an elite cadre of NCAA cross country champions from Oregon: Steve Prefontaine (1970, '71, '73), Alberto Salazar (1978) and Galen Rupp (2008). He is the first Duck to win the national title as a freshman.

The NCAA title win was the exclamation point on an outstanding freshman season. Cheserek was named National Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. He also was named Pac-12 Athlete of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, and first-team all-conference.

Cheserek was born into a family of sheep and cattle farmers in the village of Kapker, Kenya, living in a mud hut without electricity or running water, according to a New York Times story last spring. He was a cross country champion at Kapcherop HIgh School as well as a standout midfielder on his school's soccer team.

He attended St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., on an academic scholarship, where he gained national acclaim as a runner, breaking the 49-year-old boys' indoor high school record at the Millrose Games in New York City. He was the Gatorade national cross country runner of the year last winter as a high school senior.

Cheserek, who has not yet declared a major, now turns his attention to the indoor season.