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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Running with Robert

    Lance Maddenstaff writer
    Lance Madden
    staff writer

    When I arrived at the Dell Urich Golf Course at Reid Park last Friday for Arizona’s sole cross country home meet of the season, I had no idea what I was in for.

    I walked up the first hill on the golf course, and when I got to the top, I looked down on a sea of red. The entire track team had come out to support their fellow runners.

    Wearing a red shirt as well, I was absorbed in this blur as I walked down the hill and past three massage tables that would look so appealing to me an hour later.

    It was 5:10 p.m., and the men’s race was five minutes from starting. Standing out wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt and blue warm-up pants in this red blur was senior Robert Cheseret. He would be a spectator at this event just as I was, saving himself for his debut in the Roy Griak Invitational Saturday in Minnesota.

    I shook his hand and asked how he was doing.

    “”I’m excited,”” he said.

    He walked me over a few more hills to the starting line, where all of the teams were ready to begin the race, explaining the course to me as we walked.

    When the race started, the mob of red and blue spikes took off in unison from the starting line along with various other colored ones from other schools.

    Cheseret never lost sight of those spikes.

    “”Let’s go,”” he said, taking off to the north as the racers ran toward the east.

    I looked around me; several hundred other spectators were running north too. I had forgotten that in order to watch a moving sport, you haveto move with it. This sport has no 50-yard line or floor seats.

    So I took off after Cheseret, sprinting to keep up with his jogging pace. If you’ll remember, this is the defending two-time Pacific 10 Conference cross country Athlete of the Year we’re talking about here.

    We ran over a few hills and stopped about 10 feet from the course line painted on the grass. After a minute of waiting, we saw the mob of runners come around the corner and fly by us, Arizona senior Obed Mutanya and Central Arizona freshman Tyson David at the head of the herd.

    “”Come on Obed, keep it up,”” Cheseret yelled, blending in with the other spectators’ shouts of encouragement.

    After the runners had passed, Cheseret looked at me and smiled briefly and then took off for the next spot to meet the runners.

    I sprinted after him, the other fans straggling behind. My calves were hurting by this time, as we went up and down the hills.

    I got to where he was standing, calmly waiting for the racers to come around the corner again. I placed my hands on my knees, breathing deeply. I found enough air in my lungs to tell him, “”You’re nuts, Robert.””

    He looked at me and laughed and simply said, “”Yes.””

    We watched as bib number 320, worn by Mutanya, flew by us. Again, Cheseret shouted encouraging words at each of Arizona’s runners who went by.

    Then, just as before, he’d take off to the next “”checkpoint.””

    We did this the entire race, cutting the course, running over hills and meeting the runners on the other side, until the last checkpoint at the finish line.

    “”Good job,”” he said to me with one bead of sweat running down the side of his face. I, on the other hand, was saturated with sweat.

    And this was just the first of the two races.

    I limped over to Mutanya, the winner of the race. He was lying in the grass breathing very heavily. Cheseret walked up to him and said, “”Obed, are you dead?””

    Mutanya laughed and said no, but for me, the answer felt more like “”yes.””

    I had a 15-minute rest before the women’s race started. I stretched my legs out and tightened up my Mizuno running shoes for the next race, a 4-kilometer race compared to the men’s 6K.

    The gun shot was fired, and the race was on.

    The runners ran to the east, and the spectators ran to the north, just as before. This time I decided to follow Arizona assistant coach Amy Skieresz-Wilson.

    I did not take into account the seven NCAA championship wins Skieresz-Wilson collected as an Arizona runner or her three Honda Awards, the track and field equivalent of a Heisman Trophy.

    Being pregnant did not slow her down, either.

    Up and down the hills we went, meeting the runners at each checkpoint, where she would yell encouraging phrases at the runners just as Cheseret had done in the last race.

    Toward the end of the race, she heard me breathing hard as I followed her. She stopped her jog as I stopped my sprint and asked me, “”Are you going to be OK?””

    As long as I never have to do this again, I should be just fine.

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