TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Freshman Edward Cheserek posted his third top-four finish in as many races to lead the fourth-ranked Men of Oregon to a runner-up finish Saturday morning at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind. The Duck women followed with a fifth place finish against a strong field of ranked teams.
Meanwhile, newcomer Tanguy Pepiot impressed in his Oregon debut by claiming a strong victory in the men’s individual race.
“Our men and women continue to build toward the championship season,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “We had a number of individuals making their season debuts today, which was important because we need to see how they might be able to help us in these championship meets.”
After winning the Boston College XC Invitational last month and taking second at the Bill Dellinger Invitational two weeks ago, Cheserek used a deliberate pace to finish fourth in 23:33.0. The Newark, N.J., runner ran in the top five the entire race and comfortably finished in the top four for the third time this fall.
Racing in cool temperatures, defending NCAA champion Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech lead nearly wire-to-wire for the men’s victory, covering the 8,000 meter LaVern Gibson Championship Course in 22:52.8. Anthony Rotich of Texas-El Paso was second in 23:25.5 with Chris O'Hare of Tulsa third in 23:32.0.
No. 2 Colorado won the team competition with 90 points, but had to withstand a challenge from Oregon, which ended up second with 113 points. With 3,000 meters to go, the Buffalos led by just one point, 53-54, before increasing that margin down the stretch.
The Ducks got a huge boost from their two seniors, Parker Stinson and Mac Fleet. Stinson, from Austin, Texas, ran in the top five for much of the race before settling into 15th at the finish line in 23:45.8.
Fleet, from San Diego, Calif., picked off a half dozen runners up the hill to the finish line in order to finish 16th in 23:46.8 in his first race this fall.
The men also had freshman Jake Leingang 34th in 24:03.06, junior Daniel Winn 44th in 24:09.3 and sophomore Matthew Melancon 74th in 24:26.1.
“It was good to see Mac Fleet come out like that in his first race of the season,” said Johnson. “And our freshmen continue to run well and show maturity well beyond their years.”
Following Colorado and Oregon, No. 18 Iona was an impressive third with 126 points, followed by No. 29 Stanford (148), No. 9 Tulsa (159), and No.10 Princeton (276). No. 1 Oklahoma State, which did not compete its top runners, was seventh with 300. No. 19 Boise State, the Dellinger runners-up, was eighth with 313 points, with Oklahoma (409) and Southern Utah (425) rounding out the top10.
In the women’s race, without any frontrunners, the sixth-ranked Ducks placed a sizable group in the chase pack to earn a fifth place finish with 214 points.
Megan Patrignelli paced Oregon for the fourth time this season. The junior from Monroe, N.Y., covered the 6,000 meter course in 20:46.3 to place 25th.
She was followed by sophomore Molly Grabill, who was 36th in 20:53.5 and freshman Maggie Schmaedick 45th in 20:59.7.
Sophomore Annie Leblanc took 53rd in 21:03.2 in her first cross country race of 2013, while sophomore Abbey Leonardi was 55th in 21:05.0.
“Our women really don’t have one individual star so we have to run as a pack and we’ll work on getting that pack stronger as we head to the championship season,” said Johnson. “We’re still adding in some pieces here and there so it’s still a bit of a work in progress, but I think we have been making good progress each meet.”
No. 5 Georgetown won the Pre-Nationals with 116 points. No. 2 Florida State was second with 162, followed by No. 20 Butler (176), No. 16 Virginia (191) and Oregon to round out the top five.
No. 14 Michigan was sixth with 219 points, followed by No. 12 Colorado (223), No. 21 William & Mary (248), No. 11 Stanford (275) and No. 23 Princeton (420).
Emma Bates of Boise State, who was the runner-up at the 2013 Dellinger meet, put on a burst of speed over the final 30 meters to win in 20:09.01.
In the individual races, Pepiot opened his Oregon career with an impressive win, crossing the tape in 24:45.24.
The junior from Besancon, France, ran with the leaders the first two thirds of the race as the lead pack began to dwindle. He moved up to second with a mile to go, and then went to the front rounding the final bend before the long uphill straightaway that leads to the finish line.
Pepiot had to hold off a late charge by Stuart Robertson of Virginia Tech, who came up to Pepiot’s shoulder 25 meters before the finish line. But Pepiot had one last burst left to get to the tape first in 24:45.3. Robertson was second in 24:48.4.
In the women’s individual race, junior Mia Elbon finished fourth in 21:42.2 for the Ducks.
The championships season is up next for Oregon with the Pac-12 meet Nov. 2 at Colorado.
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