DES MOINES, Iowa - The third time is a charm, or at least that is the case for University of Colorado junior Emma Coburn who won her first NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase title on Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Coburn, the 2010 and 2011 Big 12 champion, won the title in 9 minutes, 41.14 seconds. She was the runner-up to Penn State's Bridget Franek in 2010 and was 11th as a freshman in 2009. The Buffs have won the NCAA steeplechase title four times in the last six years as former Buff Jenny Barringer won it in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Coburn becomes just the second female CU athlete to win the steeplechase at nationals.
The race started out normally for Coburn as she went to the front from the gun, but she did have company for the majority of the race from Virginia's Stephanie Garcia. With two laps remaining Coburn started to put some distance, about 15 meters, between her and Garcia. Coburn really turned in on heading into the last lap and won easily as Garcia could not match her kick. Garcia ended up finishing second in 9:47.29.
"It was a good experience to have someone pushing me," Coburn said. "I hadn't had that really all year in the steeple. That was really great that Stephanie Garcia was on my shoulder and a little ahead of me too. I wouldn't have ran that fast if she hadn't been pushing me."
|Emma Coburn gets a hug from teammate, and fellow All-American Shalaya Kipp, following her NCAA Outdoor 3,000 meter national championship.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
CU coach Mark Wetmore was also happy with Coburn having some company for the majority of the race.
"We knew that the Virginia woman would go with her," he said. "She is coached by people that don't like to get second, so we knew she would be there. She lasted a long time and kept Emma on pace. Emma needed that since she hasn't had anyone to push her this season, so actually we wanted that."
This has been quite the season for Coburn who is one of 10 NCAA female athletes on The Bowerman watch list, the top athletic honor in the track and field world. She ran a personal best time of 9:40.51 at the Cardinal Invitational on May 1, which at the time was the fastest in the world. That time is now 13th overall and is the second fastest time by an American. Coburn's time today was the fastest that she has run since May 1.
"I was really excited," Coburn said. "I didn't think I'd be able to run 41 in the heat like this - especially because I'm a wimp when it comes to hot weather. I was really proud of myself that I kept my poise even though I had someone on my shoulder and it was warm.
"I knew that even if I got second, I was still going to run a good time. It was definitely a mental fight with four laps to go, three laps to go, and she was still there. I just had to tell myself, 'relax, relax.' If it came down to it, I was getting myself ready for a big last 150 (meters)."
Coburn wasn't the only Buff to do well in the steeplechase as teammate, sophomore Shalaya Kipp, raced to a third-place finish. Kipp over took two runners in the final lap to move from fifth to third and crossed the finish in a personal record time of 9:56.37. She improved two positions from her fifth-place finish last year as a freshman. Kipp was ranked fifth on the form chart heading into the finals.
"She was fifth a year ago and we were confident that she could be higher than that," Wetmore said. "She ran a sound race technically and followed our race plan and we are very proud of her finish.
"I'm very happy with how Emma and Shalaya ran. Both of them did very well and what we expected them to do."
As a team Coburn and Kipp recorded 16 points for Colorado and helped the Buffs to a 17th-place overall team finish, tying Central Florida. Texas A&M won the women's team championship with 49.00 points. This is the best team finish for the women since 2005 when CU placed 12th. The Aggies also won the men's championship with 55 points. CU tied for 64th with one point.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Bosshard raced in the men's 5,000-meter run less than 20 hours after placing eighth in the 10k on Friday. Bosshard gave the race a good effort and finished 13th overall, finishing in 13:55.67.
"Joe has had way too many meters of racing in his legs the last month, but he came out and ran an honorable race which we knew he would do and we are proud of him," Wetmore said.
Some of the Buffs will compete at the USA Track & Field Championships June 23-26 in Eugene, Ore.
NCAA OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Des Moines, Iowa (Drake Stadium)
Track Events (CU Athletes Only)
Women's 3,000-meter steeplechase (Finals): 1. Emma Coburn, 9:41.14; 3. Shalaya Kipp, 9:56.37
Men's 5,000-Meters (Finals): (1. Sam Chelanga, Liberty, 13:29.30) 13. Joe Bosshard, 13:55.67