THE FAVORITE made it clear from the gun: the women’s steeple would not be the same dawdling affair as the men’s final had been two nights earlier.
In fact, Norah Jeruto’s opening kilo was actually faster than the men’s — 2:57.72 versus 2:58.01. And at 2K, she still would have been only 6 seconds behind them.
Thus it continued all the way to the finish. Although Jeruto had challengers, she dictated the pace the whole way through, finishing her tour de force in a meet record and PR 8:53.02.
Tailing the Kenyan-born Kazakhstani across the line were three other African or African-born runners: Silver and bronze went to Ethiopians Werkwuha Getachew (national record 8:54.61) and Mekides Abebe (8:56.08 PR). Kenyan-turned-Bahraini Winfred Yavi, who bravely challenged Jeruto until the final water jump, placed 4th in 9:01.31.
It was the first race in history where the top three all dipped under 9:00, and marked Kazakhstan’s first world title.
With 2 laps remaining, it seemed as if the medalists had been decided, as Jeruto, Yavi and Getachew opened up a gap on Abebe. However, despite Yavi’s coming into the meet as the yearly leader, the pace clearly became too much for her. She took the backstretch barrier poorly, the last water jump particularly awkwardly, and lost yet another step on the homestretch barrier. That allowed Abebe to snatch bronze from her.
Jeruto sealed the deal with a powerful kick, her last 100 of 15.44 leaving behind Getachew’s 16.50 and Abebe’s 17.44.
Jeruto surely must love Hayward Field — 4 of her 6 fastest performances have been run here. The same could be said of female steeplechasers generally — half of history’s 14 fastest times have been clocked at the new Hayward.
“At the starting line, I was afraid of my friends from Ethiopia,” said Jeruto. “They are also champions like me so I was scared of them. I tried my best to win the race and it was not easy, it was tough. Next race, we meet with my opponents in Monaco and we will fight again.
“I decided to be in the front because I felt my fellow athletes and I like to control the race and to be in the front to make sure I can fight for medals.”
Ethiopia’s medals were cause for celebration for a nation whose steepling prowess is finally catching up to the rest of its glorious distance legacy.
“This is so amazing,” Getachew said. “We will surely celebrate. Today is very special. From Abebe Bikila to Derartu Tulu, Ethiopians are always there.
“This is a Kenyan event. Ethiopian men started to challenge and we are joining them now. We are progressing in the steeplechase. It’s becoming our event.”
For the American contingent, the global championship ground in this event certainly shifted from London, Doha and Tokyo, which saw Emma Coburn and/or Courtney Frerichs produce medals in each. Coburn was in the mix until about 5:00 in, when she began to fade. Frerichs would eventually catch her on the penultimate bend, placing 6th (9:10.59) to Coburn’s 8th (9:16.49). NCAA champ Courtney Wayment (BYU) finished 12th in 9:22.37.
“I thought I was fit enough to cruise through 2K at 6:00,” Coburn said. “That’s what I have done in years past. I guess I am just missing that this year a little bit. It’s disappointing. Had I run more conservatively, I could have finished 5th at 9:07 or something. I went for it and it didn’t pay off.”
Jeruto (previously known as Tanui) had signaled she was ready to go in the heats, where her 9:01.54, the fastest non-final ever, was some 10 seconds up on the next best.
WOMEN’S STEEPLE RESULTS
FINAL (July 20; interior water jump)
(temperature 86F/30C; humidity 49%)
1. Norah Jeruto (Kaz) 8:53.02 NR (WL) (3, 3 W)
(2:57.72, 3:00.57 [5:58.29], 2:54.73)
(15.44, 32.57, 66.58);
2. Werkwuha Getachew (Eth) 8:54.61 NR (4, 5 W)
(16.50, 33.91, 67.94);
3. Mekides Abebe (Eth) 8:56.08 PR (5, 8 W)
(17.44, 34.98, 69.52);
4. Winfred Yavi (Bhr) 9:01.31
(22.36, 40.61, 74.94);
5. Luiza Gega (Alb) 9:10.04 NR;
6. Courtney Frerichs (US) 9:10.59;
7. Aimee Pratt (GB) 9:15.64 NR;
8. Emma Coburn (US) 9:16.49;
9. Marwa Bouzayani (Tun) 9:20.92;
10. Alice Finot (Fra) 9:21.40;
11. Peruth Chemutai (Uga) 9:21.93;
12. Courtney Wayment (US) 9:22.37;
13. Celliphine Chespol (Ken) 9:27.34;
14. Maruša Mišmaš-Zrimsek (Slo) 9:40.78;
15. Gesa-Felicitas Krause (Ger) 9:52.66.
(best-ever mark-for-place: 2–4)
HEATS (July 16)
I–1. Jeruto 9:01.54 (fastest non-final ever); 2. Getachew 9:11.25; 3. Bouzayani 9:12.14 PR; 4. Coburn 9:15.19; 5. Elizabeth Bird (GB) 9:23.17 (fastest non-Q ever); 6. Jackline Chepkoech (Ken) 9:27.50; 7. Belén Casetta (Arg) 9:29.05; 8. Lea Meyer (Ger) 9:30.81; 9. Regan Yee (Can) 9:36.22; 10. Shuangshuang Xu (Chn) 9:39.17; 11. Brielle Erbacher (Aus) 9:40.55; 12. Simone Ferraz (Bra) 9:53.52; 13. U.K. Nilani Rathnayake (SrL) 9:54.10; 14. Yuno Yamanaka (Jpn) 10:18.18.
II–1. Finot 9:14.34 NR; 2. Abebe 9:14.83; 3. Gega 9:14.91; 4. Wayment 9:14.95; 5. Chemutai 9:16.66; 6. Pratt 9:18.91 NR; 7. Krause 9:21.02; 8. Amy Cashin (Aus) 9:21.46 PR (fastest non-Q ever); 9. Chiara Scherrer (Swi) 9:22.15; 10. Irene Sánchez-Escribano (Spa) 9:23.94 PR; 11. Purity Kirui (Ken) 9:26.88; 12. Parul Chaudhary (Ind) 9:38.09 PR; 13. Grace Fetherstonhaugh (Can) 9:49.85; 14. Carolina Lozano (Arg) 10:03.51.
III–1. Chespol 9:16.78; 2. Mišmaš-Zrimsek 9:17.14; 3. Yavi 9:17.32; 4. Frerichs 9:17.91; 5. Simbo Alemayehu (Eth) 9:21.10 (fastest non-Q ever); 6. Daisy Jepkemei (Kaz) 9:23.07; 7. Nataliya Strebkova (Ukr) 9:25.85; 8. Tatiane Raquel da Silva (Bra) 9:26.25; 9. Carolina Robles (Spa) 9:28.24 PR; 10. Ceili McCabe (Can) 9:32.73; 11. Cara Feain-Ryan (Aus) 9:43.41; 12. Adva Cohen (Isr) 9:44.74; 13. Kinga Królik (Pol) 9:44.74; 14. Reimi Yoshimura (Jpn) 9:58.07.