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May 22, 2017

Meet the other contenders for the NCAA 5,000m crown

A healthy Edward Cheserek advances past the NCAA West Regional with ease and then possibly adds another NCAA title to his resume. Unfortunately that is not the case and the 17-time NCAA champion out of Oregon has finished his collegiate career early due to a back injury.

With Cheserek out for the 5,000m, let’s take a look at who could be the most likely to take the crown in Eugene?

We’ll run through some of our contenders. As for the 10,000 meters, we can focus on that race as it gets closer but it’s worth noting that 25 men have run under 29-minutes for it, which is up from just the 12 in 2016 and 22 in 2015. That’s a wide-open race at the moment and maybe the picture gets clearer after Regionals.

The favorites

Justyn Knight, Senior, Syracuse

Knight has the fastest time of the year with his 13:17.51 from his win at the Payton Jordan Invitational earlier in the month. He could also be looking to making up for last year’s 10th place finish in 13:40.40 at NCAAs.

He had a strong indoor season with the runner-up finish to Cheserek in the 3,000m. He opened his outdoor campaign with a 3:42.11 win at 1,500m at the Virginia Challenge and then headed west for the quick 5,000m at Stanford. His most recent race before Regionals is an easy 13:52.38, where he scored 10 points for Syracuse at the ACC Championship.

Something in the sub-13:20 probably isn’t likely to happen since you need multiple guys to push the pace from the gun like they did in 2014 and then hold on. Cheserek’s two wins at the distance were clocked at 13:25.59 in 2016 and 13:48.67 in 2015. Knight may be the only guy who could handle a hot race from the gun at the moment. So if it’s a fast one, Knight has the edge and the chip on his shoulder from 2016.

Grant Fisher, Sophomore, Stanford

The Stanford star out of Michigan really put himself in the conversation by flashing that closing speed that we were used to seeing from him as a high school senior. He closed the Pac-12 1,500m final in 51.81 before crossing the finish line in 3:54.67. He’s run 13:30 for 5,000m and could be a big factor against Knight if it comes down to a kick.

Fisher’s fastest 5,000m time of the year is his 13:37.77 from the Stanford Cardinal Classic back in late April but the time stands as the sixth fastest of the year heading into the regionals. His personal best is still 13:30.13 from last year’s NCAA Championship, where he took sixth.

We have a small sample size from Fisher but what we’ve seen so far is very good. Be weary of him if it’s a slow race and he can go kick-to-kick against Knight.

Dark horses

Joe Klecker – Sophomore, Colorado

Joe Klecker is a rising star for the Buffaloes and his 13:42.64 is a quiet one that came just behind Fisher at the Cardinal Invitational. He was second to teammate Zach Perrin at the Pac-12 Championship 5K, where he ran 14:01.17. He’s got some 1,500 meter speed with a 3:41.69 personal best on the year for 1,500 meters. We may be getting ahead of ourselves by tossing him into the “win” category but it’s not totally out of the question.

Marc Scott, Senior, Tulsa

The Tulsa senior maybe hasn’t beaten Cheserek but he’s faced off against Knight before and come out victorious – most recently at the Iowa State Classic indoors at 3,000m. He ran 13:37.45 to win the 5,000m at the Mt. SAC Relays in April. He could be more of a factor in the 10,000, where his 28:07.97 is the second-fastest time of the year.

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