By Christopher Hunt
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Anyone who has ever seen Edward Cheserek knows that he doesn’t waste any time. The St. Benedict’s star sophomore doesn’t like being behind and regardless of the size of a deficit, he will try to erase it in one towering, intimidating move.
Not this time though. Cheserek started the way he always does on the anchor leg of the distance medley relay, sweeping past three runners before anyone even knew he was coming. But instead of charging to the front, Cheserek tacked on to Joe Rosa of New Jersey’s Plainsboro TC.
The sophomore thought about taking the lead but heard his coaches screaming for him to slow down, to wait.
“I wanted to run smart,” Cheserek said. “I’m trying to run smarter races.”
He’s already proved he has the wheels. This time he just didn’t burn out his engine. Cheserek led St. Benedict’s to the national title in the distance medley relay in 9:51.97, the third-best time in nation history. He dropped Rosa at the bell with 4:02.30 anchor. Plainsboro TC (West Windsor-Plainsboro North) 9:54.78, US #5 all-time.
As spectacular as Cheserek’s anchor was, St. Benedict’s coach Marty Hannon tipped his cap to rest of the team for putting their big-time anchor in position.
“These three guys kept him in the race,” Hannon said. “Honestly, I’m really impressed with how they ran.”
It started with Tahlief Jackson. The senior transferred from Paterson before the start of the year and, by rule, couldn’t compete in championship competition. That meant that Jackson hadn’t race with the team in nearly two months. But he didn’t give up much against Jim Rosa on the leadoff, 1200-meter leg. He clocked 3:03.92, two seconds off Rosa.
“I really just wanted to come out here and prove that I could run with the top guys,” he said. “It was a long wait.”
Indiana’s Austin Mudd, felt like it had been just as long since he faced major competition in the 800. The Wisconsin-bound senior had plenty of company when the field zipped through the first lap in 52.5, but Mudd expected more and took off with 300 left. Liverpool (N.Y.) junior Zavon Watkins tried to chase down Mudd in the last 200 but Mudd had already taken control.
“I ran as fast as I could,” Mudd said. “I heard his footsteps behind me but at that point I knew I had it.”
Mudd set a personal best 1:48.09, while Watkins became just the seventh runner in New York State history to break 1:50. He finished in 1:49.70.
“It’s awesome to finally get that national championship,” Mudd said. “I could feel the pace easing up a little so I knew I could go. … It’s a PR, so I can’t complain. I just wish I ran a little faster.”
Arman Hall of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) put his stamp on a dream season for the junior rising star. He fended off a hard charge by New Jersey’s Najee Glass to win the 400 in 46.23. Glass was second in 46.55.
“I knew it was going to be fast,” said Hall, who holds the nation leading mark at 46.22. “I heard a lot about Najee Glass but I never raced him. This just feels great. I never ran here before. This whole season has just been a big surprise to me. I didn’t think I would run this fast.”
Sean McLean (Raleigh, N.C.) became a double winner. The Word of God Christian Academy senior posted a personal best of 20.62 after winning the 100 meters Friday.
Middletown, on the heels of anchor Mel Mosley, won the 4x400 in 3:13.71. Mosley tanked in the 400 final, finishing seventh. He took his frustration out on the relay.
But first, the race caused as much commotion as the two-hour weather delay that sent spectators under the bleacher during the opening ceremony. Hall and St. Thomas Aquinas inexplicably never made it to the starting line, which left an open lane. Junior Striders (Wakefield, N.C.), which was scheduled to be in the unseeded section earlier in the day, missed their race and attempted to fill the lane in the championship section.
When official refused them a chance to race, the crowd, unknowingly, booed and chanted for officials to allow the hometown team to race. Once things were settled, the race went off and Middletown found itself in fifth when Mosley took the baton on the anchor.
“I had to make up for that open 400,” Mosley said. “Then I was even more mad because Web (Pierre) is short and he couldn’t find me when he was coming in. Once I got the stick I just blacked out.”
He squeezed between two runners in the first 25-meters, then blew by the other three off the last turn for a 46.22 anchor leg that earned his team the win.
“I just couldn’t believe I did it,” Mosley said. “I was thinking to myself that I actually help my team get (a national title). That’s what we came here for and we got it.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHuntArmory