EUGENE, Ore.—Three former University of Colorado student-athletes advanced to the semifinals of the 1,500-meter run on Thursday evening in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field. Jenny (Barringer) Simpson, a 2008 Olympian, and Sara Vaughn qualified in the women’s event while Stephen Pifer made it through in the men’s preliminary round.
Simpson and Vaughn both were in the first heat of the 1,500 race, with Vaughn getting out to a great start and leading through the first 300 meters. Simpson, who was in fourth after the first lap, made her way to second after 700 meters and was leading the race with one lap remaining. However, Shannon Rowbury was quickly coming up behind Simpson and passed the Colorado alum to win the heat in 4:16.17. Simpson wasn’t too far behind though, finishing second in 4:16.70 and still earning an automatic berth to the semifinals.
“There is so much jockeying around and you know it’s going to be slow,” Simpson said of the race. “You just have to be fast the last 400 meters.”
Vaughn finished fifth with a time of 4:17.08, also earning an automatic berth. Overall, Simpson finished 19th while Vaughn finished in 22nd.
Like Vaughn in the women’s event, Pifer got off to a quick start in the men’s 1,500-meter run, with him leading the race through the first two laps. However Pifer wasn’t able to sustain his position with 800 meters to go and finished eighth with a time of 3:41.47 in the second heat, two spots outside of the automatic qualifying positions.
Luckily for Pifer, his heat featured a very fast pace and he was able to earn one of the six additional qualifying spots based on time. He finished 14th overall.
The men’s 1,500 meters semifinals will being on Friday at 5:25 p.m. mountain time. The women’s 1,500 meters semifinals will be prior to the men’s events at 4:45 p.m. mountain time.
Also on Thursday, two Colorado assistant coaches were in the finals in their respective events, as throwing coach Casey Malone was in the men’s discus throw final while assistant running coach (and alum) Billy Nelson was in the men’s 3,000 meters steeplechase final.
Malone, a member of the U.S. team during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, had his longest throw of 61.11 meters (200 feet and six inches) in the sixth and last round of the final, but the toss was not long enough to get him into the top three and qualify for his third straight Olympics.
Nelson, who competed in the 2008 Olympics, was in the middle of the pack throughout his race, but he wasn’t able to break to the front and finished eighth overall with a time of 8:32.21.
One more athlete with CU roots competed in day five of the U.S. Olympic Trials, Brent Vaughn in the 5,000-meter run final. Like Nelson, Vaughn was never able to get out of the middle of the pack and finished 13th in the event with a time of 13:51.49.
In addition to Pifer, Simpson and Vaughn, CU athletes will be well represented on Friday at the trials, as senior Joe Morris and Buff alum Jeremy Dodson will compete in the men’s 200-meter run at 2:45 p.m. MT, and seniors Emma Coburn and Shalaya Kipp will look to qualify for their first Olympics in the women’s 3,000 meters steeplechase final. Coburn was the 2011 U.S Track & Field and NCAA Champion in the steeplechase while Kipp is the reigning 2012 NCAA and Pac-12 Conference champion in the event. The steeplechase final is set to begin at 5:45 p.m. mountain time.
Also on Friday, Colorado volunteer assistant coach Emily Pearson will begin the Heptathlon.