Heading into Thursday night’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials, former Colorado all-star Emma Coburn was the heavy favorite.
She didn’t disappoint.
The American record holder cruised to her second straight U.S. Olympic Trials Championship, her fifth overall U.S. Championship, to earn her second trip to the Olympic Games. Coburn’s time of 9:17.48 was 3.44 seconds faster than the runner-up, Courtney Frerichs (9:20.92), which is the largest margin of victory in trials history. Colleen Quigley was third in 9:21.29. Frerichs and Quigley will join Coburn on the U.S. team in Rio.
Coburn, who also made the Olympic team in 2012, ran a different style of race than what she has in the past. She didn’t take the lead at the beginning, but stayed behind Ashley Higginson until there were two and a half laps remaining. Once Coburn moved to the lead, she was off and everyone knew it was a race for second and third.
Another former Buff, Shalaya Kipp, just missed her second trip to an Olympic Games in the steeplechase, finishing fourth overall.
The 2012 Olympian from Salt Lake City ran a very smart race, staying in the middle of the very close pack. Entering the bell lap, she was back around seventh, but was able to work herself into fourth place at the finish, crossing with a personal best of 9:28.72.
There were also some preliminary rounds being held on Thursday with CU ties. The first round of the women’s 1,500 was contested and saw all three former Buffs, Jenny Simpson, Sara Vaughn and Sara Sutherland, advance to the semi-final round on Friday night.
Simpson won the third section, which they all raced in, in 4:17.31. She immediately went to the front and never let go of the lead. Simpson ran a very steady pace, pulling the field along, and had her training partner, Sutherland, right behind her. The third Buff, Vaughn, was also right up front in third for a good portion of the race.
The field accelerated after the bell lap. Vaughn and Sutherland both fell back, but maintained composure to advance. Vaughn earned the final automatic qualifying spot in the heat at sixth (4:18.01), while Sutherland placed 10th in the heat and was able to earn one of the six time qualifier positions after finishing in 4:19.77.
On the men’s side, current Buff Ben Saarel ran in the first section of the 1,500. He led the entire race until the last 50 meters when he was clipped from behind and fell. Saarel got up and finished eighth in 3:43.68 to earn one of the six time qualifiers.
There were also two former Buffs racing in the first heat of the women’s 5,000-meter run, Jessica Tebo and Laura Thweatt. Tebo ended up sixth overall (15:43.64), earning one of the six automatic spots in the finals on Sunday, while Thweatt ended up eighth (15:50.60).
Tebo took to the lead at the beginning of the race with Thweatt right behind her. They were running 1-2 until Kim Conley overtook them with 800 meters remaining. Tebo was able to hang on and qualify for the finals, but Thweatt seemed to run out of gas after a great fifth place finish in the 10,000-meter run on Saturday. Conley won the section in 15:40.04, while Molly Huddle, the winner in the 10k, had the fastest overall time of 15:26.33.
Colorado assistant coach Casey Malone, a two-time Olympian and two-time U.S. Champion, competed in his 21st straight U.S Championship in the discus. He recorded a mark of 190-2 on his second throw of the qualifying round, placing sixth in the flight. Overall, his mark was 13th overall, just missing the final spot to advance to the finals by 12 inches.