Arizona's Lawi Lalang runs fastest collegiate 1500-meter, edges out Edward Cheserek
PULLMAN, Wash. - Arizona's Lawi Lalang is making the most of his last moments as a college athlete.
The highly-decorated Wildcats senior brought the crowd to its feet Sunday at the Pac-12 Track and Field Championships, edging out Oregon’s Edward Cheserek for his third 1500-meter title and in a teim that broke the Pac-12 meet record. His time of 3:36.34 is two seconds faster than any collegian has run this season.
“It’s good to run here and run 3:36 at Pac-12s, especially because it’s a really tough conference,” Lalang said.
Lalang is heading into the NCAA championshpis with a legacy of excellence. Six Pac-12 titles, 12 All-America honors, and seven NCAA championships are just a few of the lines on his resume as a Wildcat.
The performance was an awaited return for Lalang, who suffered from an injury last fall that prevented him from competing for the majority of the cross country season. He returned for the indoor season, but was stunned by Cheserek at NCAAs when the freshman outkicked him in the 5,000 final. Lalang was up to the challenge on Sunday.
“I haven’t raced a 1500 wire-to-wire with someone in a while so it really is the best,” Lalang said.
The two competitors made it their own race from the gun as Lalang took the pace out hard with a 56-second first lap. Cheserek attached himself and remained just over his shoulder for the entire race. Meanwhile, the rest of the pack followed 30 meters behind, separated from the top-two showdown.
The final 100 meters came down to the last step as Lalang and Cheserek battled for every inch of the track. Lalang’s final push into the finish line had the entire crowd on the edge of their seats as he secured the win in 3:36.34, smashing his own Pac-12 meet record of 3:38.53. Cheserek followed in 3:36.50.
“I just thought if he can kick, I can kick so why not try?” Lalang said.
Later in the meet, Lalang won the 5,000-meter final in 13:41. It was the first 5k of the season for the reigning NCAA champion in the event, and he made the most of it; his time was the 13th best on the NCAA outdoor list this season.
The NCAA West Regionals (May 29-31) and NCAA Outdoor Championships (June 11-14) will be Lalang’s last chance to contend for an NCAA title, and his final push into the finish line as an Arizona Wildcat.