NEW ORLEANS – The nation’s indoor track & field coaches have voted, and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) has named Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek the Division I Men’s National Athlete of the Year and Oregon head coach Robert Johnson both the Division I Men’s and Women’s National Coach of the Year.
Cheserek (Newark, N.J.) swept both the 3000 and 5000 meters events at the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., this past weekend – including taking the 5000 meters crown from The Bowerman Finalist Lawi Lalang of Arizona, the collegiate record holder in the event – to lead his Ducks to the national team title.
He outkicked the defending indoor mile and 3000 meter champion in the final two laps to earn the convincing win in 13:46.67 by more than six seconds over Lalang, who had been the winner of the past two indoor National Track Athlete of the Year awards. The next day he defeated Kirubel Erassa of Oklahoma State over 3000 meters with another late-race kick to win by two seconds in 8:11.59.
Cheserek is the first freshman to win the award, and the first Duck on the men’s side to win since Galen Rupp in 2009.
Johnson claimed both the National Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year honors after leading his men to their first title since 2009 and the women to their fifth consecutive national team crown. The men outscored 2013 champion Arkansas, 62-54, while the women just barely edged past Texas, 44-43½.
While the men’s team title was clinched well before the meet finale 4×400 relay, the women’s championship hung in the balance all the way until literally the final hundredths of a second of the meet. It was at the finish line of the 4×400 where Phyllis Francis leaned in ahead of Texas’ Ashley Spencer to win the race in 3:27.40 by just .02 and the meet by just half a point.
Johnson saw a number of his Ducks win national individual titles, including Cheserek (3000/5000), Francis (400) and Laura Roesler (800). Cheserek was named the Men’s Indoor National Field Athlete of the Year for his efforts.
This is Johnson’s fourth consecutive year earning the Women’s Indoor National Coach of the Year honor, and he was also named Women’s Indoor National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010.