The Decade’s Top 10 Collegiate Men

Top performer Edward Cheserek made quite a habit of celebratory victory O’s at national championship meets. (MIKE SCOTT)

OUR SELECTION PANEL was torn on who was the best collegiate man of the ’10s, succeeding Florida State’s Walter Dix. In the final analysis, Edward Cheserek got a bit more high-end support than Grant Holloway to narrowly earn top honors. Note that this is an individual honor, so being on a winning relay or being a member of a team champion had no bearing on the choosing. Note also that competition outside the end of the actual collegiate season—which terminates with the NCAA Championships—was not considered. Here’s our top 10:

1. Edward Cheserek (Oregon)

You wanna talk NCAA titles? Oregon’s Kenyan import had them in spades. How about 12 individual track wins? Outdoors, the 5000s of ’15 & ’16 and the 10,000s of ’14, ’15 & ’16; indoors the ’15 mile plus 3000/5000 doubles in ’14, ’16 & ’17. But the top-of-the-podium finishes didn’t stop there, as he also had a trifecta of XC titles, winning in ’13, ’14 & ’15. (It’s not relevant to the Top 10 here, but note that he additionally ran on a pair of NCAA Indoor-winning distance medleys.) His gold-medal tally may well have been one or two higher had he not injured his back in the middle of his senior outdoor season and been unable to run at the Nationals. Content to sit and kick for wins in the Nationals, Cheserek never did crank out a time that made the all-time list in the 5000 or 10,000, but he did let it all out in an indoor mile as a senior, his 3:52.01 rating as the Absolute Collegiate Record (and his en route 3:37.01 rating as the Indoor CR).

2. Grant Holloway (Florida)

Hurdles were no obstacle for the versatile Gator star, who won both the Indoor 60H and Outdoor 110H titles as a frosh, soph & junior. Indoors, he lowered the Collegiate Record to 7.42 as a soph, then to 7.35 (also an American Record) as a junior. Outdoors he became the first collegian to break the 13-second barrier, running 12.98 as a junior to finally take down Renaldo Nehemiah’s legendary 13.00. He was fast enough without hurdles to make the all-time collegiate indoor Top 10 in both the 60 and 300. One of the best collegiate relayers ever, he produced splits of 43.74 and 43.88 at the Nationals. He turned pro after his junior season, so won’t be a collegian this year.

3. Lawi Lalang (Arizona)

Before Cheserek came along, Lalang ran up a most impressive collection of NCAA titles, scoring a 5/10 double in ’13 and adding another 5000 title in ’14. Indoors, he won a 3/5 double in ’12 and a mile/3000 pairing in ’13. And in addition he won the ’11 XC title. He and Cheserek overlapped in one outdoor NCAA race, Lalang winning the ’14 10K. Outdoors, Lalang also had 2nds in the 1500 and 5000 and a 3rd in the 5000. He also claimed the CR in the 5000 with his 13:00.95 as a junior and missed the CR in the mile by just 0.44 with his 3:52.88 as a senior.

4. Jarrion Lawson (Arkansas)

Having your name linked with Jesse Owens can definitely earn you a Top 10 spot, and the versatile Razorback senior did his part at the ’16 Nationals, winning a 100/200/LJ triple that only the Buckeye legend had previously accomplished. He was also the Indoor long jump winner as both a soph and a senior.

5. Rai Benjamin (UCLA & USC)

Showing great promise from the get-go, Benjamin ran the 400H for the Bruins as a frosh and soph, claiming 7th and 2nd at the Nationals. He then moved cross-town and became the best collegiate performer ever, winning the national title at 47.02, moving to =No. 2 on the all-time world list in the process. He finished off with the meet’s fastest second leg ever, 43.6. And that was the end of his collegiate career, as he turned pro early.

6. Michael Norman (USC)

The Trojan quartermile ace had a spectacular sophomore season. It began indoors where he won the Nationals title in a World Record 44.52 (and added a 44.52 relay leg). Moving outdoors, it was another Nationals title, this one with a Collegiate Record 43.61. And he added the No. 4 split in meet history, 43.62. Like teammate Benjamin, he then turned pro.

7. Fred Kerley (Texas A&M)

Kerley’s reign as the fastest collegiate quartermiler ever lasted only a year with the emergence of Norman. But what a senior season the Aggie had lowering the Collegiate Record to 43.70 and also producing the Nos. 3 (44.09) and =4 (44.10) times ever, the latter winning the national title. He also won the undercover crown, his 44.85 moving him to No. 3 on the all-time collegiate list.

8. Christian Coleman (Tennessee)

The Vol speed merchant had a pair of notable campaigns before turning pro early. As a frosh he claimed the NCAA Indoor 200 title and finished 2nd behind Lawson in the Outdoor 100. He exploded as a soph, equaling the Indoor CR in the 60 (6.45) and scoring a 60/200 double at Nationals. Outdoors, it was another double, 100/200, with a Collegiate Record 9.82 in the century’s semis.

9. Derek Drouin (Indiana)

Indiana’s Canadian import was the decade’s dominant force in the high jump, claiming no fewer than 5 national titles: the Outdoor in ’10 & ’13 and the indoor in ’10, ’11 & ’13. His 7-7¾ to win the ’11 Indoor moved him to =No. 3 on the all-time collegiate indoor list, and his 7-8½ the next year raised him to No. 2. His outdoor PR of 7-8¾ made him =No. 2 ever.

10. Lindon Victor (Texas A&M)

When the decade began the top 3 collegiate decathlon scorers ever were big-namers who all went on to win international titles: Trey Hardee, Tom Pappas & Ashton Eaton. Victor went on to twice raise the CR as a senior, scoring 8472 and then 8539. He won the NCAA 10-eventer in both ’16 & ’17 and ended up with 5 of the 8 highest scores ever. ◻︎