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Ducks' Cheserek first to win three straight crowns

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Edward Cheserek pulled away from his last challenger with 1,500 meters to go and became the first man in NCAA history to win three consecutive individual cross country titles Saturday at E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park.

Cheserek’s historical effort highlighted a day that saw both Duck teams finish on the podium at the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the first time in seven years.

The women, led by all-America performances by Waverly Neer, Alli Cash and Molly Grabill, had their best race of the season to finish third and win their first trophy in three years. Top-ranked New Mexico won the women’s race with 49 points, followed by Colorado at 129 and Oregon at 214.

The men fought their way to a fourth-place finish. Syracuse scored 82 points to upset heavy favorite Colorado. The Buffaloes scored 91 points, followed by Stanford at 151 and Oregon with 183.

The contenders for the men’s individual crown pushed the pace early as Cheserek, Patrick Tiernan of Villanova, Anthony Rotich of Texas-El Paso and Justyn Knight of Syracuse gapped the pack at the 2,000-meter mark.

Tiernan made his move at the midway point of the 10,000-meter race and Cheserek followed, leaving Rotich and Knight behind. The two ran shoulder-to-shoulder over the next 3,500 meters.

Cheserek shifted into overdrive with 1,500 meters remaining and won in 28:45.8. Tiernan was second in 29:11.1.

On the women's side, Oregon’s top five runners were able to stay near the lead pack through the first 2,000 meters, and then Neer and Cash maintained touch with the leaders over the final 4,000 meters. Grabill made a big push late in the race to bump the Ducks into the third spot.

Neer, a senior from Russiaville, Ind., finished 27th in 20:19.8.