Olympic Trials Women’s Steeple — Emma Coburn Runs Win Total To 9

Emma Coburn & Courtney Frerichs ended up 1–2 for the fifth year in a row as Coburn won national title No. 9. (KEVIN MORRIS)

AMERICAN RECORDHOLDER Courtney Frerichs began inauspiciously, falling in a tangle of runners after the first water jump in her heat. She quickly recovered, however, worked her way into the lead by the fourth lap, and qualified easily behind PRs by Grayson Murphy (9:25.37) and Courtney Wayment (9:27.17).

2017 world champion Emma Coburn saw the fall, decided that full-contact steeplechasing was not part of her plan, and led from gun to finish in her heat, in a quick 9:21.32, fastest ever at the Trials. Close behind was comebacking Leah Falland in 9:23.36.

No other event better exemplified the emotional agony and ecstasy that are the essence of every OT than this final. It began at a leisurely pace, led by Alex Wilson, with Frerichs on her shoulder, trailed closely by Falland, Val Constien, Marisa Howard, and Murphy, with Coburn on the rail slightly behind.

The pace quickened, and with 4 laps remaining, Coburn had moved up behind Frerichs, with Falland, Howard, Constien and Courtney Wayment close behind. The first 3 then began to pull away, opening a 2-second gap on their pursuers.

With 2 laps remaining, 2 races developed.

In front, Coburn passed Frerichs on the backstretch and, over the ensuing 600m methodically widened her lead. With a hurdling efficiency unmatched by most steeplechasers of either sex, she was not threatened, finishing in a Trials Record 9:09.41 — her ninth national title. Frerichs, alone in 2nd, also bettered the old record with her 9:11.79.

“Courtney and I genuinely like each other,” said Coburn. “She wants to beat me and I want to beat her. I knew that I could push really hard the last 2 laps. I knew I had to really grind if I was to get some real estate between us.”

At the first hurdle after the 2-to-go marker, the second race began when Falland, secure in 3rd, nicked the barrier with her toe, landed awkwardly and crashed to the track. Up quickly, she was suddenly 4th in a group of 4, led by Constien. Running hard, she moved up to Constien’s side, and the pair opened a 10m gap on Howard and Wayment.

At the final water jump, the die was cast, as Constien cleared cleanly and sprinted away, while Falland faltered. The Colorado alum finished in 9:18.34, a 7-second PR and No. 5 on the all-time U.S. list. She was followed by a parade of PRs, the greatest mass steeple finish in U.S. history. Falland, disconsolate, her Olympic dream undone perhaps by inches, collapsed to the track in 9th.

Constien was pragmatic about her success. “Three weeks ago, I woke up and said I could do this. I decided I would sit in 4th in case anything happened. Unfortunately, Leah fell and I knew that was my shot. If I could capitalize off that mistake, I could end up beating her and making the team. I had no idea if she was on my shoulder or if I was pulling away. I just gave it my all, and with 100m to go, I was running as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line and I was in a lot of pain.”

WOMEN’S STEEPLE RESULTS

(June 24; interior water jump)

1. Emma Coburn (NBal) 9:09.41 (MR) (68.86, 2:18.40, 3:28.61, 4:38.83);

2. Courtney Frerichs (NikBowTC) 9:11.79 (70.79, 2:21.00, 3:31.21, 4:41.70);

3. Val Constien (Tracksm) 9:18.34 PR (5, x A) (71.14, 2:25.03, 3:36.63, 4:48.30);

4. Courtney Wayment (BYU) 9:23.09 PR (9, x A) (74.76, 2:29.74, 3:41.31, 4:52.42);

5. Marisa Howard (IdA) 9:24.74 PR (11, x A) (76.54, 2:31.67, 3:43.26, 4:54.46);

6. Grayson Murphy (Sauc) 9:25.55 (73.42, 2:29.39, 3:43.26, 4:55.10);

7. Mel Lawrence (OisLWA) 9:26.15 PR (73.26, 2:29.69, 3:43.79, 4:55.41);

8. Allie Ostrander (BrooksB) 9:26.96 PR (71.87, 2:26.91, 3:42.14, 4:56.11);

9. Leah Falland (OnAC) 9:27.06 (80.01, 2:35.77, 3:45.90, 4:56.66);

10. Katie Rainsberger (Wa) 9:30.18 PR (73.95, 2:32.26, 3:47.19, 4:59.19);

11. Summer Allen (Web) 9:40.22 (76.17, 2:33.80, 3:51.22, 5:07.96);

12. Alexina Wilson (Tracksm) 9:40.62 (73.56, 2:32.78, 3:52.88, 5:09.68);

13. Mahala Norris (AF) 9:41.59 (77.33, 2:36.62, 3:55.38, 5:10.51);

14. Katy Kunc (Tracksm) 9:47.82 (81.31, 2:42.54, 4:01.44, 5:16.48).

HEATS (June 20)

I–1. Murphy 9:25.37 PR (10, x A); 2. Wayment 9:27.17 PR; 3. Frerichs 9:27.75; 4. Constien 9:28.37; 5. Howard 9:30.62; 6. Allie Ostrander (BrkB) 9:35.56; 7. Wilson 9:36.80; 8. Krissy Gear (Ar) 9:47.59; 9. Sara Vaughn (&Mother) 9:51.12; 10. Abby Kohut-Jackson (Mn) 9:52.84; 11. Caroline Austin (Tracksm) 9:56.08; 12. Madie Boreman (Co) 9:56.63; 13. Hannah Steelman (NCSt) 9:59.11; 14. Olivia Markezich (NDam) 10:00.45; 15. Madeline Strandemo (OisLWA) 10:01.85; 16. Kaylee Mitchell (OrSt) 10:26.69;… dnf—Alissa Niggemann (Wi).

II–1. Coburn 9:21.32 (MR); 2. Falland 9:23.36; 3. Lawrence 9:29.30; 4. Rainsberger 9:33.38; 5. Norris 9:35.32; 6. Kunc 9:37.85 PR; 7. Allen 9:38.61; 8. Carmen Graves (unat) 9:41.80; 9. Dana Klein (IdA) 9:49.89; 10. Gabbi Jennings (Furm) 9:58.07; 11. Kayley Delay (Yale) 9:58.87; 12. Emily Oren (OnAC) 9:59.34; 13. Lydia Olivere (Vill) 10:03.13; 14. Meredith Rizzo (TracksmH) 10:06.42; 15. Annie Rodenfels (AsicsGr) 10:11.76; 16. Tori Gerlach (unat) 10:25.39.

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