File photo. Justyn Knight. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

Canadian athletes continue to perform well in the first division of the NCAA, specifically in middle and long-distance running.

It wasn’t long ago that Regina’s Simon Bairu, while running for the Wisconsin Badgers, won two NCAA cross-country titles. Likewise Toronto’s Sheila Reid won the 2010 and 2011 championships. Black Creek’s Cameron Levins also won two NCAA championships in 2012 over the 10,000-metre and 5,000-metre distances on the track. Most recently, Mo Ahmed, while running for the Wisconsin Badgers earned 11 All-American honours.

On Friday, in Terre Haute, Indiana, Toronto’s Justyn Knight, while representing Syracuse University Orange, finished second in the national championships. In the race he bested some very strong names in collegiate running including the University of Oregon’s Edward Cheserek. Cheserek is a three-time champion and was fully expected to defend his title.

“The race played out well. I was prepared for any sort of situation. Tiernan was the better guy that day and he truly deserved that win,” shared Knight.

Patrick Tiernen had said that he wanted to leave it all out there and go for the win.

The Australian, who attends Villanova finished first in the time of 29:22. Knight’s performance helped the ‘Cuse finish third as a team. Northern Arizona won the team event, while Stanford finished second.

Cheserek is so prolific that his nickname is “King Ches”. He finished in the time of 29:48, while Knight crossed the line in 29:27. With two years left in his eligibility, perhaps it will be Knight’s turn at running royalty.

Knight told Athletics Illustrated, “It was great that our team finished where we did after starting the season a bit rough, but for now we’re going to enjoy our time off and get ready for indoors soon.”

According to Knight the men’s 10K race went out slow. Knight, known for his smooth running style and strong kick had the race play right into his hands.

Knight has two more years remaining at Syracuse and it is likely that he will follow in the footsteps of some great Canadian athletes that ran before him like Reid, Levins, Ahmed and Bairu and win a national title.

Meanwhile, he will be getting ready for the 2017 indoor season.

Asked about his focus for indoors he replied, “I’m not sure yet but I will be competing in both the mile and the 3,000-metres.”

The 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships are on his radar. “The 5,000-metres is definitely in my mind for worlds. But coach and I will talk about it closer to the end of the season.”

In June of 2016 he ran the 5,000-metres in 13:26.36, nearly the Canadian Olympic standard.

The Canadian record is currently held by Ahmed with his 13:01.74 from May of 2016.

At this time there are just five active Canadians who have run faster than Knight, Ahmed as well as 3,000-metre steeplechase specialist Matthew Hughes of Toronto with his 13:19.56, Levins with his best of 13:20.68 and Vancouver’s Luc Bruchet  who has run as fast as 13:24.11, all of whom are Olympians.

The Rio Olympic standard for the event was 13:25.00.