The Syracuse Orange sent their final two competitors to the Hayward Field track on Friday evening as Justyn Knight and Colin Bennie took on 22 other runners in the 5,000m. Most of the pre-race discussion centered on the Oregon Ducks duo of Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins. The heavy favorites had already gone 1-2 in the 10,000m and most of the track community speculated that Cheserek passing Jenkins in the final stretch would lead to an increased competition in the 5,000.
My Pre-Race Prediction: Jenkins from Oregon wins. Knight finishes 7th and earns 1st-Team All-America honors while Bennie finishes 17th and earns Honorable Mention All-America honors.
Knight entered the race with the 8th-fastest time in the country this year while Bennie had the 15th-fastest entry. Virginia Tech Hokies runner Thomas Curtin took the lead from the gun and kept the early pace respectable and Knight settled into 6th place right with Cheserek. During the race you could see that Knight was keeping a close eye on Cheserek and he was in a good position to stay in contact.
At the 2k mark, Cheserek and Kemoy Campbell from the Arkansas Razorbacks pushed up towards the lead and Knight made sure to maintain contact. With a mile to go, Villanova Wildcats Sophomore Pat Tiernan took the lead with a mile to go as Knight stayed right in the thick of the action in the lead pack with 2 laps to go. After a 60 second 400, the final lap came down to 7 runners and once again Cheserek took over and held on for his 8th NCAA title. Knight finished strong in 6th place (56 second final lap) with a time of 13:50, earning 1st Team All-America honors as a Freshman.
Bennie ended up running 14:12 for 14th place and 2nd Team All-America honors. While it was tough to tell from the ESPN broadcast (which again cut away from coverage late in the race), he also ran a smart tactical race staying within a reasonable distance from the leaders, but was just unable to close as quickly as some of the other runners last night. Bennie certainly opened the eyes of his teammates and others in his first track season, and will be someone to watch moving forward.
After the race, Knight spoke with FloTrack about the tactics and how it felt to be competing against the best in the country as a Freshman.
Syracuse finishes the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with:
Two 1st Team All-Americans
Five 2nd Team All-Americans
One Honorable Mention All-American
Syracuse closed out one the most successful XC/Track years in program history. The Orange had 1st team All-America honorees in each of the three seasons. Of the eight athletes who competed in Eugene, six will return in 2015-16 (Martin Hehir has one season of cross-country eligibility left), and with a new outdoor track facility nearing completion, the future of the program looks strong.
Orangemen. Young bucks. Studs. pic.twitter.com/acFUrtQvMK— Brien Bell (@suxc) June 13, 2015