Friday, August 11, 2017

Colorado grad Emma Coburn wins USA's first women's steeple gold at world champs...

LONDON—With apologies to 70's music icons Kool and the Gang, Friday was ladies’ night, and the feeling was right for the women of Team USA, as they took home two victories in a fairly light night of finals at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships at London Stadium.

Depending on how you look at it, Emma Coburn’s (left/photo by Paul Merca) win in the 3000 meter steeplechase can be construed as either an upset or a steady upward progression by the University of Colorado graduate as one of the world’s elite in this event, after winning the event in a new championship and American record time of 9:02.58 on a comfortable night that had a little bit of rain going through the middle of the stadium.

The event had a bit of early drama, as early leader Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya appeared to get bumped from behind approaching the water jump.  

No matter what happened, she ended up running wide of the barrier, and had to go back and clear the barrier before eventually rejoining the lead group.

There were some other athletes who got jostled and bumped around, but in the last lap, it came down to defending champion Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya, Coburn, and surprising Courtney Frerrichs, the former UM/Kansas City and University of New Mexico standout, who competes for the Beaverton-based Bowerman Track Club.

On the final water barrier, Coburn shot on the inside, while Frerichs passed the reigning world champ on the outside.  

Coburn came through to finish in a new American record of 9:02.58, obliterating her previous American record of 9:07.63, set in earning a bronze medal at the Olympics last year in Rio, while Frerichs also ducked under the previous American record, in running 9:03.77 to take the silver medal.

Jepkemoi did well to hang on for third place in 9:04.63, while Chepkoech, who had to go back and clear the water jump early, worked her way to a fourth place finish in 9:10.45.

Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet, the reigning Olympic champion, finished fifth in 9:13.96, after appearing to put pressure on the two Americans entering the final laps.

“I’m so grateful to the support from all the people here,” said Coburn in the immediate aftermath of her bold run. “It felt almost like I was a British athlete, I felt so much energy. This is better than I could ever have imagined.”

“Seeing Emma sprint down the home straight got me going for the silver rather than the bronze,” Frerichs said. “I was just hoping to finish in the top five or six.”

For the Bowerman TC, this marks the third medal won at these world championships by its athletes, as Evan Jager (men’s steeple) and Amy Cragg (women’s marathon) have won medals for coach Jerry Schumacher’s group that trains out of the Nike campus.

Britney Reese, the multi-time world and Olympic champion, who missed some time earlier in the summer due to the death of her grandfather, won her fourth world championship in the long jump, leaping 23-0.5 (7.02m) in the third round, while USA teammate and defending world & Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta was third at 22-10.5 (6.97m), with neutral athlete Darya Klishina second at 22-11.75 (7.00m).

In the mixed zone afterwards, the winner said, “I’m real ecstatic today. I came out here with a mission, that was to get gold for my grandfather, and I’m glad I did that. My grandfather (King David Dunomes) passed away a couple of weeks ago. He’s the reason I’m running track today. It was an emotional time for me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to come out here and get him a gold medal. He was my #1 fan. He was the type of person that will call a whole family to let them know I was on TV. To have him in my heart, I’m glad I came out with the gold. It was tough because I thought that wasn’t going to be enough. I know my competitors, and I know on any given day 7 meters is the mark and that any of them can go 7 meters.”

The only athlete with Washington ties that competed Friday was former Washington State University assistant coach Angela Whyte of Canada in the women’s 100 hurdles.

The veteran was never a factor, running 13.23 to finish sixth in her heat.

The final athlete with Washington ties competing is 50k race walker Katie Burnett, who goes Sunday.

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