2 New Yorkers Take Very Different Paths To First NCAA Title

Edward Cheatham

Fayetteville-Manlius -> University of Notre Dame

The Journey

Edward Cheatham's (right) journey to an NCAA Title was decidedly different than Rayvon Grey. Cheatham ran for Fayetteville-Manlius, more regularly known for their XC exploits.  Cheatham was a sprinter on the team, contributing to four straight Sectional Titles in Section 3.  Both a Hurdler and a Sprinter, his one State Medal came from a late addition to the Indoor 4x800m Relay team, after a teammate became ill the day before the race.  Such is the life of an alternate, as Cheatham went on to splitting 2:07.97 in his first ever attempt at the distance (a first attempt that came at States, with less than 24hrs notice.)

Outdoors his senior year, the focus turned to the relays.  Both on the 4x100m and the 4x400m, the latter became more clear the better relay.  Cheatham was providing 51-second splits, alongside two 50-second legs, and a 47-second anchor.  It brought them to the State Meet that Spring, and a School Record to boot, not a bad way to end his High School career.  In fact, it may have even been the end of his running career.

Cheatham was headed to Notre Dame in the fall, mostly for the pursuit of Academics, while his twin sister Shauna would run for St. John's.  That Fall, as Cheatham reached Indiana, the longing for the team atmosphere he had at FM returned. That winter, as a freshman, he tried out for the team, hoping to be a part of the storied tradition of running at Notre Dame, admittedly once again, more known for their Distance Running.  Ed had his sights on the 400m, but he did not make the team.  However, there was availability for a team manager.  Cheatham jumped at the opportunity, and helped the team out in any way he could.

The allure of competing couldn't be shook, though.  Working as team manager, Cheatham was training on his own, trying to get back in shape.  Adding in long runs, working on speed work, and hitting the weight room all supplemented his work as Team Manager.  As a Sophomore, he was ready to try out again.  He would make the team.

Not only that, but the new training was starting to click.  His PR from High School was dropping every weekend, and eventually, a new spot opened up: DMR 400m leg.  For a College Team with prized Distance Recruits, it was a dream position.  Cheatham would run 49.00 in late February that year, proving he was ready for the big show, NCAA's.  The Boys of Notre Dame would go on to take second at NCAA's that year, with Cheatham splitting 48.30, but only him and their anchor, Yared Nuguse, returning next year.  It was back to work.

After a strong Spring Season, it was now Cheatham's Junior year.  Notre Dame had added Foot Locker National Champ Dylan Jacob's in as their 1200m leg, and walk-on Sam Voelz as the 800m leg, and their DMR was back-in-business.  The fast times didn't have to wait until the NCAA Champs, either.  With Nuguse better than ever on anchor, Notre Dame ran to a NCAA #2 All-Time in mid-February, clocking 9:26.10.  They would enter NCAA's with the Favorite status, but nothing guaranteed.  Many people put Stanford near the top, and for good reason.  Grant Fisher was on anchor, and ready to answer Nuguse. Into the final laps at NCAA's, it played out just like that.  With 100m to go, Fisher made the move past Nuguse, but the Notre Dame miler fought back.  A sprint to the finish, and Nuguse regained the lead in just enough time, and there it was; Notre Dame was the NCAA Champions.  For Cheatham, who split 48.17, it was from Team Manager to Champion, in three years time.

Quick Q&A

MSplit: What was it like to win an NCAA Championship?

Cheatham: For me, walking on to a division 1 track team as a sophomore meant constantly working on and off the track to be able to, hopefully, have the ability to contribute to the teams success. I remember when I first got on the team, having the goal of getting fast enough to maybe be the slow leg of a 4x4 by senior year. Being on the DMR, which had won a title only a few years before, was a lofty and seemingly unobtainable dream. The past two years, having been able to run on Notre Dame's DMRs has been an honor I'd never thought I'd have. With that in mind, you can imagine how incredibly shocking and humbling it was for me to have been an All-American, let alone National Runner-Up. To have carried the baton for the University of Notre Dame at a National Meet! I had certainly reached what I thought would be the apex of my career. Surely, I had achieved all there was for a walk-in to achieve.

MSPlit: How did your journey to becoming a member of the team influence that victory?
Cheatham: I tell you this so that when you ask me what does it feel like to be a part of the greatest DMR in the country and the second fastest DMR in collegiate history, you'll understand why I am completely unable to find the words to describe it. I will say this though: winning a title less than four years after being a team manager has made it very clear that there are things I have yet to achieve in this sport. As soon as I get to practice next week, it's business as usual.

Performance Highlight