St. Benedict’s Preparatory School (Newark, N.J.) senior distance runner Edward Cheserek was named the 2012-13 Gatorade National Runner Player of the Year on Wednesday.
The 5-foot-8, 125-pound native of Kenya, who remains undecided on a collegiate destination, won the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships for a second straight year this past fall, becoming just the fourth repeat champion in the event’s 34-year history. Cheserek won the last 13 high school cross country races of his career after a loss as a sophomore in 2010, and he established course records in nine of those victories.
We sat down with Cheserek to better understand how he outshined more than a quarter-million boys high school distance runners nationwide to win the award.
Q: You played soccer at Kapcherop High. Do you ever wonder if you chose the right sport?
A: If I had time to do both, I would. In Kenya, soccer is a separate season from cross country. Those are my favorite sports. I miss soccer, but when I go home, I have a chance to play for my church team, so it’s still with me.
Q: You grew up in Kenya’s rural Rift Valley in a family of sheep, cattle and crop farmers. What’s a livestock tip that most readers likely wouldn’t know?
A: If you have a choice, always raise cows. They’re the most valuable because of the milk they generate. I’m a big milk guy. I drink a lot of milk, and I drink a lot of tea with milk in it.
Q: What was the hardest farm chore you did?
A: Cultivating crops. It’s an all-day thing. It’s hard, man. You get done with a day of that from sunrise to sunset with only a 30-minute lunch, well, you don’t want to do anything but lie down.
Q: Your adjustment to U.S. education at a challenging school like St. Benedict’s has required a lot of work. What satisfaction do you get from good grades?
A: I get a lot of satisfaction from the adjustment I’ve made academically. I really can’t thank St. Benedict’s enough for the opportunity. It’s been so big for me. I’m so grateful.
Q: How much inspiration do you get from Kenya’s best talents, and have any of them encouraged you?
A: I’ve been fortunate to meet many of the great runners from my country. They tell me to maintain my studies for success in the future. They give me advice and encouragement, and I’m lucky.
Q: You lost your father in the summer of 2011. How does the example he set motivate your goals?
A: It’s been really sad for me not to have one of my parents. My father was the one I turned to for everything. He was my rock. Since he’s gone, my life is different. But I’m lucky to have my coach and my headmaster Father Edwin Leahy and my teammates, who help me.
Q: You’ve quickly erased long-standing high school boys running records. Do you fear you’ll soon reach your peak?
A: Sometimes when I’m training I do feel slow. It’s so hard to balance all the time you need to train for distance and schoolwork. When my balance leans toward schoolwork a lot, I wonder if I’ll ever get my speed back. But I guess I’m still pretty fast. I hope.