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Decision for one last year with CU Buffs comes down to one last race for John Dressel

Senior distance specialist kicks off NCAA championships for CU in 10K

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When the unfortunate reality became clear there would be no 2020 outdoor track and field season last year, John Dressel faced a decision not unlike some of his Colorado distance-running teammates.

Daily Camera file
Colorado’s John Dressel

Dressel could move on, setting aside a chance at a farewell run with the Buffaloes to instead begin a pro career once the COVID-19 pandemic allowed. Some of those teammates — like Dani Jones, Makena Morley, and Joe Klecker — did just that. Dressel, however, felt he wasn’t in peak form training-wise. Ultimately he opted to return, and his final race with the Buffs is on deck.

On Wednesday, Dressel kicks off CU’s portion of the 2021 NCAA outdoor track and field championships by competing in the 10,000 meter final at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The Buffs will have eight athletes overall, including seven women, competing in six events during the four-day meet, with Dressel seeking the third top-10 finish at the outdoor championships in the final race of his collegiate career.

“I want to give it the best effort I can and make my coaches really proud,” Dressel said. “Last spring me, Joe, Makena and Dani, all seniors, we could’ve either stayed here at CU or graduated and be gone. I was the only one who came back. I was in a different situation than the others just abased on my health, and having to come back and utilize some more eligibility to get back on track with the running. Whereas those other three had some post-collegiate running opportunities on the table for them, so it made sense for them to leave and do what they wanted to do.

“I gave it a shot and wanted to come back and end my time here at CU on a high after all the years that I’ve been here, instead of just being cut short with the COVID season.”

Dressel twice has finished in the national top 10 in the 10,000, placing eighth in 2017 and 10th in 2019, when he also finished 14th in the 5K.

“It’s like everything I’ve worked for here with the program, it’s all come together for this final year,” Dressel said. “I don’t think it will hit me until once I’m done here at CU. Because it’s what I’ve been used to the last five or six years. I think I’m just proud. Proud of what I’ve been able to do at CU, what I’ve been able to overcome with injuries, all the hard work I’ve put in to get myself to where I’m at. It’s a whole team effort with the whole athletic department, what they do for us athletes.”

Dressel had no more eligibility in cross country remaining (he also has two career top-10 finishes at the NCAA cross country championships) when he returned for his extra season, and a slight injury kept Dressel out of competition during the indoor season. Yet he heads to Eugene his best condition since the start of the pandemic and is coming off a seventh-place finish at the NCAA West Preliminaries (29:12.07).

“John did not have a cross country season left with us, and he had a little injury indoors that stopped him from doing that,” CU head coach Mark Wetmore said. “So he arrived April first, the beginning of outdoor season, very fresh and yet with a good bank account of training behind him. Right now, we have to see how he gets over 30 kilometers of racing in 14 days.”

NCAA outdoor track and field championships

WHEN: Wednesday through Saturday, Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPN2 or ESPNU on Wednesday; ESPN2 on Thursday; ESPNU on Saturday.

CU BUFFS ENTRANTS: Women — Madie Boreman, Gr.-Sr., 3,000 steeplechase; Micaela Degenero, Gr.-Sr., 1,500; Abbey Glynn, So., 400 hurdles; Eriana Henderson, Gr.-Sr., 400 hurdles; Sage Hurta, Gr.-Sr., 1,500; Rachel McArthur, Sr., 1,500; Abby Nichols, Gr.-Sr., 5,000 and 10,000. Men — John Dressel, Gr.-Sr., 10,000.

CU BUFFS SCHEDULE (Times MT): Wednesday — Men’s 10,000 final (Dressel), 8:38 p.m. Thursday — Women’s 1,500 semifinal (Hurta, Degenero, McArthur), 4:46 p.m.; Women’s 3,000 steeplechase semifinal (Boreman), 5:02 p.m.; Women’s 400 hurdles semifinal (Henderson, Glynn), 6:30 p.m.; Women’s 10,00 final (Nichols), 7:08 p.m. Friday — No CU events. Saturday — Women’s 1,500 final, 4:11 p.m.; 3,000 steeplechase final, 4:24 p.m.; Women’s 400 hurdles final, 5:27 p.m.; Women’s 5,000 final, 5:55 p.m.

NOTES: Nichols, a transfer from Ohio State, has been on a hot streak for the Buffs and is the only CU athlete entered in two events. She placed ninth in the 10K and second in the 5K at the NCAA West prelims. “Abby has been wonderful all season,” Wetmore said. “The kids call it the triple-double, where you do the 10 and the 5 at conference and the regionals and nationals.”…Wetmore expressed some personal dissatisfaction at being unable to get Eduardo Herrera through to nationals in the 5K but hopes for redemption at the upcoming Olympic Trials. ”I blamed myself for (Herrera) not feeling well great down there in College Station,” Wetmore said. “He’s been pushing really hard for over a year. I didn’t get him enough rest along the way. And he started to look a little bit tired about three weeks ago. He’s in the Trials, so hopefully we can solve it by the Trials.”