AUSTIN, Texas – Weather conditions may not have been perfect earlier in the day, but everything fell perfectly into place for the University of Colorado’s Emma Coburn on Friday night as she captured a first-place finish at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships to advance to nationals.
The running events were delayed three hours at Mike A. Myers Stadium due to heavy rain and lighting in the area, but in total the championships were suspended for nearly six hours as field events were stopped just before 2 p.m. and didn’t resume until after 8 p.m.
“Days like this are funny because you are sitting in your hotel room ready to go and then it’s an hour delay, then a two-hour delay and then a three-hour delay,” Coburn said. “It kind of messes up your schedule a little bit, but everyone has to deal with it, so it doesn’t make it a disadvantage to a specific athlete. I liked it because we got to run in perfect Austin weather.”
The weather had cooled off nicely by the time the steeplechase races started close to midnight and Coburn easily won the first heat in 9:55.30. She shot to the start from the gun and never looked back. Over 2,000-meters into the race, Coburn had opened up a 65-meter lead on the rest of the field and looked to be very comfortable and at ease. The field started to gain on her slightly at the end of the race, but Coburn had over three seconds on the next closest competitor, UC Davis’ Katie Fry (9:58.97).
“Two weeks ago at the conference meet we had a plan for her to practice a little bit in traffic; tonight was not the night to do that,” coach Mark Wetmore said. “You don’t need any mistakes tonight. She established a comfortable lead and practiced a couple of technical things along the way and didn’t run very hard but didn’t need to.”
With the finish, Coburn has earned her way back to the national championships and will have a chance to win her second NCAA Steeplechase title. Coburn won in 2011 before redshirting the 2012 season.
She wasn’t the only CU steeplechaser to earn a trip to NCAAs as teammate Aric Van Halen recorded a third-place finish in the second heat to advance, crossing the finish in 8:38.23. He ran a good race, moving to the front of the pack right away and held the second-place position until the final 300 meters when Portland’s Jared Bassett passed him. Van Halen held on and used his strong kick to hold off Wisconsin’s (8:39.52). Arkansas’ Stanley Kebenei won the heat in 8:36.08.
“This was his second fastest time ever,” Wetmore said. “Not only does it get him to NCAAs, but it’s an automatic qualifier for the USA Championship at the end of June. All in all it was a real nice race and now it’s back to work.”
Joe Morris also earned his first trip to the outdoor national championships in the 100-meter dash, finishing third in the first section with a time of 10.49. Morris had a quick start out of the blocks and led the field for the first portion of the race. He fell back just a bit, but was able to hang on at the end to pick up one of the three automatic qualifying spots as he edged out Texas A&M’s Prezel Hardy Jr. (10.50).
A few hours later, Morris returned to the track and had a dominate performance in the first round of the 200, winning his heat in 20.85 to move on to the quarterfinals on Saturday at 7:50 p.m. CT. He beat the runner-up, Nebraska’s Ricco Hall, by .34 seconds as Hall came in at 21.19.
“I am happy to see him get through in the 100 and it looks like he has a good chance to do so in the 200 as well,” Wetmore said.
In the high jump, Kelsey English, a middle blocker on the CU volleyball team, finished 13th, just shy of moving on to nationals, after clearing 5-8.75. In total, 10 athletes cleared the same height, but English finished just on the outside after the tiebreaker.
“Kelsey did a really good job and came close,” Wetmore said. “She did a real good job for someone who does it part-time.”
Saturday is the final day of the NCAA West Preliminary Championships. Brian Owens will be the first Buff to compete, throwing the javelin at 12 p.m. CT.
2013 NCAA WEST PRELIMINARY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Mike A Myers Stadium (University of Texas)
Men’s 100 (quarterfinals): (1. Charles Silmon, TCU, 10.23) 8. Joe Morris, 10.49
Women’s 200 (first round): (1. Paris Daniels, Kansas, 22.98) 30. Eileen Gehring, 24.21
Men’s 200 (first round): (1. Justin Austin, Iowa, 20.57) 4. Joe Morris, 20.85
Women’s Steeplechase (quarterfinals): 1. Emma Coburn, 9:55.30; 20. Diana George, 10:20.51
Men’s Steeplechase (quarterfinals): (1. Henry Lelei, Texas A&M, 8:27.62) 7. Aric Van Halen, 8:38.23; 27. Blake Theroux, 9:01.68; 45. Hugh Dowdy, 9:24.16
Women’s High Jump (first round): (1. Brigetta Barrett, Arizona, 5-10.50) 13. Kelsey English, 5-8.75
Courtesy of CUBuffs.com