NCAA Champion Cooper Teare marks return to Oregon with victory
SPRINGFIELD – With two courses to complete before graduation and the opportunity to be part of a cross country team with national championship aspirations, Cooper Teare said returning to Oregon this fall for a fifth year was an easy choice.
“Kind of obvious,” he said.
Teare, an individual NCAA outdoor track champion, collegiate indoor and all-American cross-country record holder, validated his decision Thursday night with the first cross-country victory of his decorated career.
Teare crossed the milestone in 23 minutes and 5.1 seconds to win the men’s 8,000-meter race at the Bill Dellinger Invitational at Pine Ridge Golf Club.
“It only took 4.5 years,” Teare joked after the race. “It was definitely a bit of motivation coming up. “
It was a brace for the No.7 Ducks, as newcomer Aaron Bienenfeld finished second in 23: 06.6 to help Oregon win the tag team title with 57 points.
No.25 Gonzaga was second with 63 points, Air Force third with 89, and No.19 Portland fourth with 100. Washington State and UCLA were also seventh and eighth, respectively.
The Ducks entered the competition just after their annual weeklong training camp at Sunriver as well as some hard training on Tuesday. Despite the performances of Teare and Bienenfeld, coach Ben Thomas said he thought his team looked tired.
Abdinasir Hussein, 11th (23: 33.8), Reed Brown, 17th (23: 36.1) and Jack Yearian, 26th (23: 43.0), also scored for Oregon.
Jackson Mestler, an NCAA championship-qualifier, was 31st in 23: 52.7 and Caleb Brown, a much-loved freshman transfer from Wisconsin, was 34th in 23: 55.4.
“Caleb looks great,” Thomas said. “I think he just trained a little too close to the race this week. We have a good group dynamic at the moment.
And high expectations, which is one of the things that brought Teare back to school instead of turning pro after a 2021 outdoor track season that included an NCAA title and a school record in the 5,000, as well as a fourth place in the US Olympics. Athletics trials.
“I felt like I accomplished a lot, but I have a lot of confidence in this team and couldn’t be happier in Oregon,” said Teare.
There is no doubt that the Ducks looked more formidable two weeks ago when Olympian Cole Hocker was still on the roster. But Hocker, who finished sixth in the 1500 in Tokyo, announced on September 13 that he had signed with Nike and was leaving the Oregon program.
Hocker was in the meeting on Thursday watching his former teammates.
“I’m super happy for him,” Teare said. “We went through a lot of the process together starting in mid-spring. We had two different patches but we were working together to try to figure it out with each other. … After the Olympics he wanted to come back for cross country, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you. I totally respect him and super excited for him and excited to see what he’s going to do.
A year after Teare and Hocker turned out to be the perfect training partners, the Ducks might have found another runner to challenge their elite senior.
Bienenfeld is a senior red-shirt transfer from Cincinnati where he was a 2021 All-American indoors in the 5,000 and XC. He finished fifth in the NCAA indoor competition and three days later placed 16th at the National Cross Country Championships.
“He has impeccable accomplishments under his belt and I think this is his first time on a team,” said Teare. “It’s really good to have another person there to push me in the practices, to push me in the races and to help me improve every day.”
That was certainly the case on Thursday as Teare took a comfortable lead before looking back and seeing Bienenfeld regain some ground.
“I saw Aaron right behind me and that added some fuel to the fire,” Teare said with a smile.
It was Teare’s first cross-country race since placing sixth at the 2019 NCAA Championships, as last season, the postponed 2020 cross-country season and the 2021 indoor track season took place in same time.
“Back for my senior year and doing it with a team that I really believe in,” he said. “It was a great first race, a good step in the right direction.”
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