Cheserek, Rowbury, Osagie wow TrackTown Tuesday crowd
By Romaine Soh / TrackTown USA
EUGENE, Ore. – At Tracktown Tuesday’s final appearance of the season at the Downtown Athletic Club, there were familiar faces like Prefontaine Classic meet director Tom Jordan, 1,500-meter Olympian and U.S. record-holder Shannon Rowbury, Oregon senior distance star Edward Cheserek and his coach, Andy Powell.
The newest face on stage was Oregon Track Club Elite’s Andrew Osagie, a native of Great Britain, who was part of the “greatest 800-meter race in history” at the 2012 London Olympics when Kenyan David Rudisha set the world record. Osagie, who clocked a PR of 1 minute, 43.77 seconds, finished eighth in the final. His time would have won him gold at the previous three Olympics.
After going through multiple injury cycles, where he rushed back into racing only to get injured again, Osagie tracked down OTC Elite head coach Mark Rowland for help.
Since then, Osagie has gelled well with his OTC Elite teammates, jokingly referring to Harun Abda as his all-time “favorite athlete.” Osagie is also a staple to the team because he can “translate” Rowland’s deep British accent, which he likened to providing subtitles on television.
“If I run quicker than them or if they lose to me, they’re in trouble.”
– Andrew Osagie
Osagie, who just completed an altitude stint in Albuquerque, NM, will attempt the 1,500 meters at the Oregon Twilight Meet at Hayward Field on Friday. The last time he raced that distance was eight years ago, but he is looking forward to it.
“It’s an excuse to give the guys some stick,” said Osagie, a two-time World Indoor bronze medalist. “If I run quicker than them or if they lose to me, they’re in trouble.”
Osagie will have the opportunity to compete on home soil once again if he qualifies for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London this August. He said the home crowd’s cheering was so loud at the 2012 Olympics that it was “complete white noise.”
Cheserek will make his 2017 outdoor season debut in the 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford on Friday against a host of elite athletes such as UO alum Matthew Centrowitz.
Cheserek has been a staple of the Oregon track and field team ever since his freshman year. He has garnered a total of 17 NCAA titles in his career, which makes him the winningest NCAA track and field athlete of all-time. After watching a video which showcased each of his dominant NCAA victories, the crowd of 250 gave him a long and loud standing ovation.
Cheserek is widely known for prioritizing the team above himself. He exemplified that sentiment when he was asked which of his NCAA titles stood out to him, and he deflected the question to thank all of his supporters.
“This is my hometown…”
“Of course, my teammates, my coaches and all the people around TrackTown USA,” Cheserek said. “This is my hometown and I hope to come back and enjoy the Bowerman lap.”
Jordan, the longtime Pre Classic meet director, may not promise the “best Pre ever,” but he always delivers on his promise of putting together the best fields ever. Half of the women in the 1,500 meters have run under 4 minutes, including Rowbury, who will face off against long-time U.S. rival Jenny Simpson and Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon.
This year, the traditional free distance night on Friday is dedicated to women’s track and field. It will be dubbed “Joan Benoit Samuelson Night,” in honor of the first women’s marathon Olympic champion. It will feature middle to long-distance events, two field events and a high school 200m to celebrate women’s sports.
“We are very pleased that one of the icons in American distance running has agreed to lend her name to Friday night,” Jordan said, which drew applause from the crowd. Benoit Samuelson will attend the weekend meet.
Though Rowbury said she has not always been at peak form at the Pre Classic, she will never pass up the opportunity to run on home soil. Last year, she won a bronze in the 3,000 meters at the IAAF World Indoor championships held in Portland, her training base, which she described as an incredible experience. In her view, TrackTown USA’s knowledgeable fan base is what makes the Hayward Field magic.
“To have that opportunity to get out there and race against talented women in front of a (crowd) that really appreciates the sport, I always cherish it,” said Rowbury, who holds American records in the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 2-mile.
Rowbury, who competes for the Nike Oregon Project, has not yet decided which event she will focus on this year. She will let her racing form in the next month determine her course.
The 1,500 meters is a familiar distance to her – she has raced it since high school – but the 5,000 meters presents a new and exciting challenge for her, which she says helps her improve.
“After the Olympics, the idea of new challenges really excites and motivates me,” said Rowbury, who has World Championship qualifying marks for both events. “I’m not sure what this particular outdoor season holds for me, but I know there are more 5Ks in my future.”
Rowbury also affirmed that she has no plans to retire anytime soon, at least not before the World Championships come to Eugene in 2021. But after 2021, what will Rowbury do?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” she said with a laugh.
The 32-year-old, who has a master’s degree in film and women’s studies, plans to narrow her choices down to “a wedge” by the next Olympic cycle. Her passion for film and style was reflected in her bright-colored, eye-catching outfit choice of a rainbow-hued Nike jacket, navy blue tights and silver-sequined Converse tennis shoes. Rowbury’s bright red lipstick, which she applies in memory of her grandmother, is a key part of her pre-race routine and is impossible to miss on the track.
She will also be impossible to miss at the Pre Classic as she toes the line for a rematch in the 1500m with the Olympic medalists and the roar of the Hayward Field crowd as her name is announced over the speakers.
The final Tracktown Tuesday of the year will be held at Hayward Field on June 6.