Alamedan Wins NCAA 5,000 Meter

Photos courtesy National Collegiate Athletic Association Cooper Teare, far right, leads the way in last Friday’s 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) race at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. He finished the race in 13:12

Alamedan Wins NCAA 5,000 Meter

Last Friday, June 11, in Eugene, Ore. at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, Alamedan and University of Oregon runner Cooper Teare won the 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) with the second fastest time ever at that distance by a collegiate runner and a personal best time by five seconds.

Teare also made the Olympic Games qualifying standard by one second with his time of 13 minutes and 12 seconds (13:12), a pace of 4:15 per mile.

It was Teare’s final track race as an Oregon Duck at the renovated and historic Hayward Field in Eugene, where his idol, Steve Prefontaine, and many other University of Oregon legends ran some of their greatest races. Teare has now joined that elite club.

After the race, Teare was asked by ESPN TV reporter John Anderson about the Prefontaine legacy at the University of Oregon and what it meant to win the national collegiate 5,000-meter title — the race that Prefontaine was known for.

“Everything, really, Teare replied. “He’s been my idol since I started running. Every kid kind of idolizes him. And it’s not often you get to follow in your idol’s footsteps. I feel like I’m right where he was, doing the same thing, running with heart, and going after every opportunity. All season, that’s been my thing. Just go for it.

‘‘Slow races are fun, but, for me, I’m chasing times, I wanted to make the Olympic team. And tonight, we got under that Olympic standard, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but I knew it was in the cards. Seeing with 800 (meters) to go, we were within two minutes of it, I said, ‘It’s time to go.’”

And go he did. He ran the final half mile in one minute and 58 seconds. Teare’s time is 10 seconds faster than Prefontaine’s personal record of 13:22 and makes him the fastest Duck ever at 5,000 meters.

Teare, who has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meters, will return to the same Hayward Field Track in 10 days to compete for one of the three spots on the U.S. Olympic Team for 5,000 meters.

And maybe he’ll carry a little home field advantage with him as he chases another Prefontaine achievement: making an Olympic team at the ripe age of 21. Prefontaine finished fourth in 5,000 meters in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a college junior.

Teare, a 2017 Saint Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) High School graduate, has had a record-setting track season in 2021 for the Oregon Ducks in which he’s set four personal records.

In February at two indoor meets in Arkansas, he set the collegiate indoor mile record of 3:50.39 and ran a 3:54 mile to anchor the Ducks’ Distance Medley Team to a World Record of 9:19.49.

In May, at a meet at USC, he won the outdoor Pac-12 title in the 1,500 meters and finished second in the 5,000 meters. Besides the mile and last week’s 5,000 meters, he’s also set personal bests in the 1,500 meters (3:35.97) and 3,000 meters (7:46.10). The most successful runner in the history of Saint Joseph’s, Teare won a California State Title in the 3200 meters (two-mile), a Division 5 California Cross Country title, and ran a four-minute mile as a high schooler. Teare was named 2016 East Bay Times Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. His running accomplishments as a SJND’s Pilot earned Teare a full scholarship to the University of Oregon.

NCAA    Teare’s reaction to learning his time. His time was one second faster than Olympic qualifying standards.

Keith Gleason is a freelance writer.