Cheserek’s adventures lead prep boys Track and Field and XC storylines

Published by DyeStat
Jan 2nd 2013, 4:57pm | 65995 views
John Nepolitan/Dyestat

Cheserek’s adventures lead prep boys T&F and XC storylines

By SteveU

Photo by John Nepolitan/Dyestat.comWhether it was his record and near-record performances indoors, his up-and-down outdoor season, or his successful late-starting XC season that culminated in a Foot Locker title defense, Edward Cheserek was a headline maker and the unquestioned leader in creating the year’s top storylines in prep boys’ track and cross country.  In February, it was a 13:57.04 5,000 national record.  In March, it was a near-quadruple at New Balance Nationals Indoor.  In June, it was a shocking 12th-place finish in the adidas Dream Mile while those ahead of him compiled the deepest finish ever for such a race.  Then in October it was a successful return to the cross-country wars at the Eastern States Champs, setting the course for December’s triumph in San Diego.  Regardless of whether or not you were a fan of the St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) star, now a senior, he was fascinating to follow.

Beyond the other distance notables – which included Bernie Montoya, Sam Wharton, and the harrier crew from Arcadia (Calif.) – sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers added to the thrills, spills, and intrigue of 2012.  While Floridan über-talent Marvin Bracy flamed out with injury before his potential outdoors could truly be realized, Georgia phenom Tyreek Hill seemed to come out of nowhere to scare the 200 US record, sweep the dashes at the USATF Juniors, then turn in a solid World Junior performance to cap off an astonishing few months.  And while he suffered a few narrow defeats, there was Texas long standout Aldrich Bailey compiling one of the deepest slates of fast long sprint times from January until July, breaking 46 in the 400 ten times.

Pennsylvania hurdler Eric Futch nearly missed his state meet before a suspension was overturned, then kept winning all the way to a WJ 400H title in Barcelona.  On the field, a vaulter with dual Canadian/American citizenship – Kingwood (Texas) senior Shawn Barber – won WJ bronze for his home country with 18-2.5, then eclipsed Tommy Skipper’s 2003 USR with an 18-3.5 vault at the AAU JOs.  Three years after Sam Crouser set the javelin national record, another Northwest thrower, Sean Keller of Vancouver, Wash., nearly topped it with 253-0 while netting the best finish by a male prep at the US Olympic Trials.  It all added up to a great 2012 – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So here we go with the Top 15 Storylines of 2012 for boys’ track and cross-country, following yesterday’s girls’ list.  As we said then, it is fun to put these together, because of the subjectivity and “apples and oranges” factor involved, as well as assessing what generated the most buzz in the DyeStat community.  Feel free to let us know if you agree or disagree!

1. Ed Cheserek overcomes late start to defend Foot Locker title

On the surface, Ed Cheserek’s repeat victory in San Diego might not seem like a big deal.  He was the clear favorite and paced himself to allow for a kick that no one else could match.  But consider that in August, no one knew if the St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) senior, by way of Kenya, would even race XC in 2012.  It all depended on his academic success in getting his grades up and successfully preparing for and taking his SATs.  So for two months, Ches studied and trained moderately.  After getting through the SATs Oct. 6, his next “test” was the Eastern States champs at Manhattan against another season-debuting star, Nick Ryan.  Ches won another smart race, just missing his CR, and the road to another title had begun.  After picking Foot Locker again over Nike Cross Nationals, and winning the Northeast regional, he had to again “run smart” to minimize the upset hopes of Sean McGorty and a stellar field.  With a 14:59 – becoming the fourth to win two titles and the only one besides Dathan Ritzenhein to break 15:00 in each victory – he did just that.

2. Bernie Montoya fastest in deepest prep mile ever

The adidas Dream Mile has arguably become the biggest single track race for prep distance runners on the calendar and the 2012 edition more than lived up to the hype on the boys’ side – even with the above-mentioned Cheserek having a disastrous outing in 12th.  This amazing race was notable for both the blazing triumph of Bernie Montoya and the incredible depth of the field behind him.  Montoya’s kick off the hard, steady pace earned him a 4:01.32, good for #9 all-time.  The Cibola (Yuma, Ariz.) junior had an amazing spring – including an 8:48.25 3,200 – even given the considerable talent he’d shown before the year dawned.  Jacob Burcham – another stellar junior from Cabell Midland (Ona, W.V.) who’d run a 3:46 1,500 as a soph – was second in 4:02.73 and the fast times just kept rolling in behind him.  Nine boys ran faster than 4:05 and all-time marks-for-place were set for fourth through 13th place.  Imagine having been Utah’s Brad Nye: a big PR 4:04.46 and he’s “just” ninth!

3. Ed Cheserek takes down Lukas Verzbicas’ indoor 5,000 mark

Coming off his 2011 Foot Locker triumph, Edward Cheserek was not long for a break before jumping back into competition with records on his mind.  Opportunities aplenty loomed at The Armory for the undercover campaign and, after a 4:02.21 mile at the New Balance Games on Jan. 21, he was primed for a shot over 25 laps at the February 11 Millrose Games.  Racing an elite field headed by American record-setting Bernard Lagat, Ches survived inconsistent pacing (4:16 1,600 and 8:48 3,200) and took more than nine seconds off of Verzbicas’ 11-month-old standard with his 13:57.04.  It was perhaps the finest moment of 2012 for Dr. Marty Hannon’s star pupil as he claimed his first USR and joined countrymen Lagat (13:07.15 American Record) and Lawi Lalang of U. of Arizona (13:08.28 Collegiate Record) in setting new standards in the same race.  “To break the record by nine seconds, and to do it with the guys he looks up to, was awesome,” said Hannon.

4. Tyreek Hill breaks out with 200 shocker en route to World Juniors

Prior to May 26, Coffee County (Douglas, Ga.) senior Tyreek Hill had established himself as the Peach State’s best sprinter, with 10.44 and 20.94 PRs, but was completely unknown beyond those borders.  But at the 36th Golden South Classic in Orlando that day, Hill had the single most astonishing performance of the season.  The 10.19 (+1.7w) he ran in the 100 prelims was amazing enough, even though he lost the final to Lavonte Whitfield while running 10.45.  His 200 prelim was another PR (20.49), but no one was prepared for the 20.14 (+1.8w) he ripped in the final – just .01 off Roy Martin’s 1985 USR.  The whirlwind that followed saw Hill false start in the Dream 100 in New York, but rally to sweep the 100 and 200 at the USATF Juniors.  At the Worlds a few weeks later, he was fourth in the 100, third in the 200, then led off Team USA’s winning 4x100.  This fall, Hill was an NJCAA All-American as a return specialist for Garden City Community College in Kansas.

5. Calif. power Arcadia becomes first to win two NXN boys’ titles

Few thought the script would turn out this way.  This was supposed to be the year Nike Cross Nationals would finally have a two-time boys’ champion, but all fall long it looked like that champion would be the Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) powerhouse that had prevailed in 2011.  Or if not CBA – which was unbeaten with team CR performances at Holmdel Park and Van Cortlandt (Eastern States at Manhattan) – then Southlake Carroll (Texas), which had dominated again with a great group as well after taking second by four points last fall.  But no, it would be Coach Jim O’Brien’s crew from Arcadia – not quite as overpowering as the 2010 champs paced by Ammar Moussa, but certainly formidable and peaked at the right time.  As the dismayed harriers from CBA (4th) and Carroll (8th) looked on, the Apaches celebrated with Coach O’Brien aising their mascot squirrel on the podium and doing a few body slides in the mud later. 

6. Can-Am vaulter Shawn Barber breaks Tommy Skipper’s 2003 standard

It wasn’t yet March, yet three prep vaulters had already cleared 17-6 or better indoors, newly filling three of the top five spots on the all-time list, and fans of the event shuddered with anticipation for the assaults on 18 feet and beyond that might follow.  Of course, we all know that big breakthroughs early don’t necessarily foreshadow continued success.  Two of the above-mentioned three – Jacob Blankenship and Reese Watson – had ups and downs the rest of the year, including injuries and illness, and could soar no higher.  But while Kingwood Park (Texas) senior Shawn Barber’s progression was also inconsistent, he extended his season long enough to reach the next level.  After Texas Relays, Great Southwest, and New Balance Outdoor victories, Barber tried for the Canadian Olympic team.  While he missed that, he returned to peak form at the World Juniors and earned bronze with 18-2.5, becoming the #2 prep ever.  At the early August AAU JOs in Texas, the U. of Akron recruit finished off his campaign with his amazing 18-3.5, topping the 18-3 mark from 2003 by Tommy Skipper.

7. Sam Wharton surprises as favorites falter in NXN individual battle

Unprecedented rain and mud can make the best-laid plans of elite harriers go awry and nowhere was that more evident than at the two-mile mark of the NXN Final in the swamp of Portland Meadows.  Wayzata (Minn.) soph Connor Olson – the #5 individual qualifier out of the Heartland – had surged into the lead while regional champs and pre-race faves Nick Ryan, Jake Leingang, Bernie Montoya and Jacob Burcham were not to be found among the immediate pursuers.  But Tippencanoe (Tipp City, Ohio) senior Sam Wharton – the runner-up at both the NXN and Foot Locker Midwest races – would track Olson and, when the time was right, dug down deep to take control.  The 9:01 3,200 performer and D1 state champ would take top honors, despite a time of 17:06, while Ryan (15th), Montoya (22nd), Leingang (59th), and Burcham (84th) struggled home.  Wharton, a Stanford commit, completed a fine post-season with a sixth-place finish the next weekend at Foot Locker Finals.

8. Ed Cheserek triples, nearly gets quadruple at NBNI

The feat didn’t get nearly the love that Lukas Verzbicas’ distance triple had gotten a year earlier in the same meet.  But was Ed Cheserek’s triple and near-quadruple at NBNI this past March just as or even more impressive?  You be the judge.  On Friday, Ches anchored St. Benedict’s winning 10:10.08 DMR with a 4:07 1,600.  In Saturday’s SMR, it was a 1:51.2 finish that did the job during a 3:25.88 effort (#4 all-time).  Sunday, he captured his first individual title with an unpressed 8:50.53 2-mile.  Finally, later that day, he went for the quadruple in the mile, but finally ran out of gas in the final stretch and lost to Utah standout Brad Nye, 4:08.67 to 4:09.07. 

9. After overcoming state meet drama, Eric Futch goes on to win WJR 400H title

Things looked bleak for Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.) senior and star sprinter/hurdler Eric Futch, ranked US#1 in the 400H after his Penn Relays victory, after an unusual DQ at his district meet.  An argument with officials and alleged unsportsmanlike conduct prompted the DQ, which would have kept Futch out of his state meet, but a review of the situation and an appeal got him back in the game and he won three golds.  He carried the momentum to the USATF Juniors in Bloomington a few weeks later, where he took the 400H in a new US#1 50.73 to become a medal contender at Barcelona.  There, with a fantastic last 50, the U. of Houston recruit improved to a gold-medal-worthy 50.24, #13 all-time US.

10. Strymar Livingston rules long, long sprints

In his career at Christopher Columbus HS in New York, it can be accurately said that talented Strymar Livingston never found his niche in the 400 or 800 – or any other event outdoors, for that matter.  His 47.44 and 1:51.90 bests aren’t bad, but they were hardly going to contend for a national outdoor title.  But in a 500 or 600?  Those odd events only seen indoors in certain meets?  There, Livingston reigns supreme.  During the 2012 undercover campaign, he was the country’s hottest runner over a mid-season stretch, first taking down the 500 USR with a 1:01.68, then two weeks later lowering his own 2011 standard in the 600 with 1:17.58.  The 500 was extra sweet as he avenged a loss to Najee Glass in the same race the previous year.  Livingston is now attending Mississippi State.

11. Aldrich Bailey, the king of the sub-46s

A man with high standards, Aldrich Bailey probably looks back on his 2012 senior year at Mansfield Timberview (Texas) with some regret.  He didn’t clock a sub-45 400 (let alone a USR), or capture a World Junior title, and he suffered narrow losses to rivals like Najee Glass and Arman Hall in major meets.  But Bailey also accomplished something that neither Glass, Hall or any other sprinter did this past year: Nearly eight months of sustained excellence.  Paced by his US#1 45.19 (#6 all-time), he ran under 46 seconds for 400 an astounding 10 times.  He won the 5A state, Golden South, Golden West, and USATF Junior 1-lappers before taking third in Barcelona.  While he dropped razor-thin decisions to Glass at the Brooks PR and NBNI meets indoors, he also notched 20.99 for 200 in another meet, good for #2 all-time.

12. Injury ends speedster Marvin Bracy’s Olympic hopes

Four years earlier, fans at Hayward Field and around the prep track universe had been stunned by the sprinting of Florida prep Jeff Demps, who blazed a 10.01 USR in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Trials 100.  In 2012, it seemed another Sunshine State star, Boone (Orlando, Fla.) senior Marvin Bracy, was primed for the same type of glory.  As a soph, he had run 10.19w for 100.  As a junior, he had wind-aided times of 10.05 and 10.08 to his credit during USATF Junior and Pan-Am Junior victories.  And in the lone indoor meet of his senior year, he cracked a USR 6.08 over 55 meters.  In late March, another highlight was produced in the form of a 10.06w triumph at the Texas Relays.  But after ruling his state meet, a worsening hamstring injury kept Bracy out of Golden South and would never heal up well enough, forcing him to miss the Dream 100 in New York, as well as the USATF Juniors and the Trials.  A Florida State signee for football and track, Bracy’s dreams would have to wait another season.

13. Sean Keller makes Trials final, scares Crouser’s USR

The shining moments for preps at the 2012 Olympic Trials tended to belong to girls, with high jumper Gabby Williams, discus thrower Shelbi Vaughan and javelinist Haley Crouser making the biggest impact.  But one boy who really broke through was Heritage (Vancouver, Wash.) senior Sean Keller.  A 232-1 javelin thrower coming into the year, Keller made a big jump up to 244-1 in late April, good for #2 all-time.  He was ensured entry into the Trials and obviously hoped to live up to his seeding.  He did much more in the prelims when he fired the spear 253-0, ranking fifth going into the final and coming within two feet, four inches of Sam Crouser’s USR.  He couldn’t quite match that in the final, but acquitted himself well with 246-5 for eighth.  Keller is now with the World Class Athlete program in the U.S. Army.

14. Ups and downs for distance power CBA in 2012

The harriers of Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) enjoyed a seminal moment in their program’s storied history in 2011 when they took the NXN Finals.  With lots of major championship track relay opportunities awaiting them in 2012, plus manageable graduation losses to contend with in hopes of achieving the first NXN title defense this past fall, the road ahead was full of adventure.  However, it was more of a roller coaster than they would have hoped.  After finishing fourth in the NBNI 4x1 mile relay, they didn’t even run the 4x800 later that day.  At Penn, they were leading the DMR, but were caught by Ed Cheserek and St. Benedict’s.  At NBNO, however, they were back on top with a 7:34.67 triumph.  In XC, they were ranked #1 all fall, dominating with course record efforts at meets ranging from Great American to the Eastern States, and even winning the NJ Meet of Champs with what was nearly a JV team.  But a shaky NXN NE win followed and then a very disheartening fourth in Portland.  What will 2013 hold for this program?

15. Sean McGorty emerges as top 2012 XC challenger to the throne

Whether or not you considered Ed Cheserek as the favorite to be the nation’s top harrier in 2012, given his questionable status entering the fall, there was space for any of more than a dozen boys to emerge either as the top challenger – or simply the best, period – to win top national honors.  So much talent was coming back from 2011 with no one clearly above anyone else.  As the smoke has cleared from this fall, it can be argued that Chantilly (Va.) senior Sean McGorty has been the top emerging force from those challengers.  McGorty made his biggest statement with his course record victory over Jacob Thomson at Great American, then backed it up with several other fast times in Virginia the rest of the fall.  At Foot Locker South, he eclipsed the McAlpine CR with a stellar 14:28, decimating a great field by more than 20 seconds.  And sure enough, no one challenged Cheserek harder in San Diego, with McGorty coming up just five seconds short of the Kenyan champ.

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1 comment(s)
Good Stuff as always from SteveU ! Hard to look behind without looking ahead. How many close to the 4 minute mark or below? Will Cheserek get an opportunity for the 40 year plus record of Lindgren's in the indoor deuce??
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