EUGENE, Ore.—For the second straight time, the University of Colorado will have a student-athlete representing the United States at the Summer Olympics. However this time, there will be two Buffs going to the games.
Seniors Emma Coburn and Shalaya Kipp punched their tickets to London on Friday night with a first and third place finish in the women’s 3,000 meters steeplechase final at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials.
Like she had done many times before, Coburn worked her way to the front position, this time by the third turn of the first lap, and never relinquished the lead. In fact, Coburn finished all alone when she crossed the finish line in nine minutes and 32.78 seconds – over three full seconds ahead of second place Bridget Franek – and had enough time to turn around and give a giant hug to Kipp as she finished the track at Hayward Field moments later.
“Honestly, it went the way we hoped,” said Colorado track and field head coach Mark Wetmore of the race.
“They each can now have a roommate that they can get along with over in London.”
Kipp needed to finish in the top three and pick up the Olympic “A” standard time of 9:43 in order to qualify, and she easily did so, running the 3,000 in 9:35.73.
“When I saw Emma cross at 9:32, I thought, ‘I am going to get it’ (the “A” standard),” said Kipp.
After the starting gun, Kipp found a good position behind Coburn and stayed with the front pack for the entire race, never dropping past seventh place. She turned it on in the last two laps, and it was her and Franek that were the only runners trying to chase down Coburn on the home stretch.
“I just went out and followed ... two spectacular athletes (Coburn and Franek),” Kipp said of her race. “Luckily it worked out for me.”
It has been a whirlwind few months for Kipp, who won the NCAA Championship and Pac-12 Conference Championship in the steeplechase earlier this spring. Now, she can add ‘Olympian’ to her resume.
“I can’t believe that,” said Kipp when she was told that she was going to the Olympics.
Coburn redshirted the 2012 NCAA season after winning the steeplechase events at the 2011 NCAA Championships and the 2010 and 2011 Big 12 Conference Championships. She is also the reigning USATF Steeplechase Champion.
“I had faith in my training and faith in my coaches and that today was going to come together as long as I focused on doing what I know I can do,” Coburn said after the race.
This will be the second straight time that CU will have athletes running in the steeplechase at the Olympics, as Jenny (Barringer) Simpson qualified for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games in the event. Simpson still holds the American record in the steeplechase at 9:12.50.
Coburn and Kipp join two former Buffs who have already qualified for the London Olympics for Team USA: Kara Goucher in the women’s marathon and Dathan Ritzenhein in the men’s 10,000-meter run.
The steeplechase duo were not the only current student-athletes who competed in Friday’s trials, as senior Joe Morris joined former CU sprinter Jeremy Dodson in the 200-meter dash preliminary rounds earlier in the day. However, Morris needed a little luck to advance to Saturday’s semifinals in the event.
Morris, who was in the last heat of the qualifying event, needed to run a 20.79 to advance, but instead fell three-hundredths of a second short of that mark with a time of 20.82.
Olympic dream over, right? Not quite yet.
After Morris’ run, it was ruled that Troy Faulkner was disqualified in the previous heat, allowing the Buff to get the last qualifying spot based on time and advance to the semifinals with Dodson.
Dodson earned an automatic qualifying spot after running a 20.28 and finishing second in the first heat.
“It’s nerve-wracking to get that first race over with and shake everything out,” Dodson said. “After that first round, now I feel ready to go.”
Dodson finished with the third quickest time in the preliminary round while Morris finished 21st.
The 200-meter semifinals will be on Saturday at 7 p.m. MT.
In the women’s 1,500 meters semifinals, alums Jenny (Barringer) Simpson and Sara Vaughn easily qualified for Sunday’s finals after Simpson placed second and Vaughn fifth in their respective heats.
Simpson was in the first heat and quickly jumped out to the front of the pack with Morgan Uceny and Nicole Schappert. After 700 meters, Simpson moved to the second position – behind Uncanny – where she remained for the final two laps. She crossed the finish line with a time of 4:09.12 and a giant grin on her face.
“At this point, I am just trying to focus on me and focus on the training that I have done throughout the season,” said Simpson, who finished second overall. “I am really happy with today. It felt really smooth and really good. Hopefully that is a good indication for Sunday.”
Expect the Simpson-Uceny matchup/rivalry to continue during the finals on Sunday, when they are run at 5:23 p.m. MT.
“I think we are equally strong in similar areas,” said Simpson, when comparing herself to Uceny. “I think we make a really good matchup because we are both good kickers and we are both strong runners and we are both becoming better and better tacticians.”
In Vaughn’s race, she found a good spot in the inside lane and stayed there for all four laps, finishing in 4:10.57 and picking up one of the five automatic qualifiers in the heat. She finished 10th overall.
Volunteer assistant coach Emily Pearson began her quest at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the women’s heptathlon earlier in the day and is in 16th place with 3,391 points.
She began the competition with a 17th place finish in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.03 seconds, before picking up a 12th place finish in the high jump with a mark of 1.69 meters (5 feet, 6.5 inches). In the shot put, Pearson had a long throw of 11.76 meters (38 feet, 4 inches) and placed 15th. She had her best finish in the final event of the day, the 200-meter dash, as she ran the distance in 24.53 seconds and picked up 930 points.
The women’s heptathlon concludes on Saturday with the long jump (4 p.m. MT), the javelin throw (5:15 p.m. MT) and the 800-meter run (7:20 p.m. MT).