There Are Only Two Questions Left About King Ches

Last June, a somewhat banged-up Edward Cheserek swept the 10K and 5K national titles at the outdoor NCAA meet. Everyone else's last best chance to beat Ches for a meaningful in an Oregon uniform had clearly passed by, as Cheserek admitted after the 5K that he was feeling at best 90 percent. And so as his final collegiate cross country season rounds the bend--next Saturday is his final Pre-Nationals--it feels more like a valedictory last lap than any kind of dramatic conclusion.

King Ches is the most dominant college runner of his era, and maybe any era. He might be the single most dominant and successful college athlete in any sport in his graduating class, though I'm not knowledgeable enough in other sports to make that proclamation. He's not going to lose a championship race this year, barring a really serious injury. 

There are only two questions left before Ches leaves the college scene.

1. Why does he wear his uniform like that?


Even if you can't see it in these race videos--though you can if you're looking for it--I promise you the following is true. Edward Cheserek grabs at his shorts and adjusts them, usually in the waistband, even while kicking at extremely high speeds late in a championship race. I have stood next to the track in Eugene, OR during the last three NCAA outdoor 5K finals and either I am three years into a massive psychotic break, or this is actually the case.

And this fall, Ches has taken the uniform oddities to a new level. He wore a top at Washington on Saturday that completely covered his shorts. The fact that I'm going this in-depth into Cheserek's sartorial choices shows how little there is to say about Ches competitively. He always wins when it counts; that's it.

null
​GoDucks.com

I've never seen an athlete of this caliber adjust his shorts while kicking or wear a singlet that long. Cheserek does both. Oregon spokesman Greg Walker said  there's nothing remarkable about this, explaining, "That's just how he likes them. It's just standard-issue stuff."

2. Why is he still in college?


It's not normal for an NCAA athlete to stay in the NCAA system for four years when they're 1) much better than every other athlete in the NCAA and 2) in a sport where there is actual money available. (That money is limited in track, but it's there.) Assuredly, Cheserek loves the University of Oregon. There, he went from a shy teen to a confident man, became legendary, and had his talent almost perfectly incubated and managed. But that isn't why he still goes to class in Eugene. 

The reason why is buried in the subtext of a fine but classically New York Times​-ian piece that contains lots of interesting and well-reported information, but either accidentally or willfully misses the actual point. The premise of Noah Gallagher Shannon's story is that one of the most successful runners in the United States couldn't compete in the Olympics because his application to become American is moving slowly, which is true enough. 

But that ignores a much more interesting question--why the hell should Cheserek's immigration status matter? Cheserek, who was born in Kenya and ran 12 hours to test into American high school, could have competed at the Kenyan trials this summer if he wanted to.

 
Not a single Kenyan man made the Olympic 5K final this summer. With Cheserek's lethal kick, it's easy to say that he would have made the final in Rio this summer. But marketability is why Cheserek has decided to wait out the naturalization process while in college.

Kenyans can typically only get rich in distance running two ways. The first is by being a true world-beater--which, as good as Ches is, he isn't yet. The second is what I'll call the Stephen Sambu route, racking up prize money on the roads and depending on winnings instead of a salary. The risks there are obvious.

Even though Cheserek could probably beat Clayton Murphy in a mile right now, Murphy can command a much more lucrative salary as a professional because he can compete for American titles in front of rich American shoe-buying audiences. Cheserek can't yet, because he's not American yet. And therefore leaving college isn't worth it yet for Ches. Enjoy his final year as a Duck.

Holloway Debuts, Kenny B's Back, Another ASU Star Thrower Emerges

It’s still the early days of the outdoor season, with athletes regrouping from the indoors and slowly trickling into the spring season. This weekend’s action was light, especially compared to next weekend’s trifecta of big meets at Stanford, Florida and Texas, but there were some notable results.

Talented ADP Squad Likes World XC Medal Chances On Tough Aarhus Course

null

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloTrack!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

When Shadrack Kipchirchir lines up for the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships on March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark, the 30-year-old American is hoping for the nastiest weather that the Danish city can provide.

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloTrack!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Here's Why USATF Honoring World Rankings Would Be A Disaster

Earlier this week we published an opinion stating why it is a good thing for USATF to use time standards as the only means to guarantee a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. Our main reason was based on the fact that the new world rankings are unfair, but more importantly, the world rankings make the selection process even worse.

CAS Delays Semenya Decision Until Late April

The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced on Thursday that they will push back a ruling in the case involving Caster Semenya until late April. 

House Of Run: Everything To Be Excited About In The Outdoor Season

Jason and Kevin discuss the 42 most interesting storylines heading into the outdoor season. How healthy is Wayde Van Niekerk? Who will be the top women's 1500m runner? Can the Jamaican men win a sprint medal? What will Eliud Kipchoge do for an encore? Will this be the year of the 400m hurdles?

The Best Track And Field Athlete From Every NCAA Tournament School

The 2019 NCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament begins this week, and in honor of March Madness we’ve selected the best track and field athlete— past or present— from each of the tournament’s 68 schools (minus Old Dominion, who does not have a track team; get a track team Old Dominion). Some of the names below are NCAA track and field legends from major programs. Others on this list never even qualified for the NCAA Championships. The 68 here ran the gamut, from Olympic heroes to mere school record holders.

Why LetsRun Is Wrong & USATF Is Right About Olympic Qualifying

Last week, the IAAF announced its new qualification process for the 2020 Olympic Games, which included tougher entry standards and new computerized world rankings. The reaction was intense as some media outlets painted an apocalyptic worldview for U.S. athletics. In reality, it’s not that dramatic.

Cal Coach Tony Sandoval To Retire

Tony Sandoval, the director of track and field and cross country at Cal, will retire at the conclusion of the outdoor season. Sandoval spent 37 years at the university, beginning as the head women’s coach in 1982. 

Six Reasons We're Looking Forward To The NCAA Outdoor Track Season

As exciting as 200-meter ovals and banked curves are, we’re ready for the unpredictable weather, sprint relays and 10K races of spring track season. Here’s a few reasons to get excited for NCAA outdoor track and field.

FloTrack To Stream 2019 Boston Marathon In Europe

AUSTIN, Texas — March 18, 2019 — Today, FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, and the Boston Athletic Association, announced a partnership to provide live and on-demand coverage of the 2019 Boston Marathon on FloTrack.com exclusively in over 40 European countries.