LONDON— For the second consecutive Olympic Games, there will be a University of Colorado student-athlete in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase as senior Emma Coburn easily advanced on Saturday morning.
She follows in the footsteps of former Buff Jenny (Barringer) Simpson who finished ninth in the event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Coburn finished the race in 9 minutes, 27.51 seconds, the second fastest time in her career. She was third in the second section of the event, earning one of the four automatic qualifying positions. Her time was the 11thbest of the day. She will run in the finals on Monday at 2:05 p.m. MST (9:05 p.m. in London).
This was Coburn’s first Olympics, but she has had major international racing experience since she competed at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea. The experience seemed to help her as she maintained calm throughout the race. She quickly moved to the front of the pack after the start and was third after the first full lap.
The Crested Butte, Colo. native took the lead when Portugal’s Clarisse Cruz tripped on a barrier with just over five laps remaining. Coburn would hang on to her lead until there were 600 meters left. At that point Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi both passed Coburn, but she held strong as the top three pulled away from the rest of the field. Coburn was able to close well and finished .11 seconds behind Ghribi (9:27.42). Assefa won the heat in 9:25.42.
“Leading wasn’t plan A, but I knew it was possible because I’d done it in Daegu,” Coburn said. “The woman leading tripped and I suddenly was in the lead. I knew I had to lead to keep pace. I was kind of relieved when the two other women came up at about 600 meters and I just latched onto them and ran through. I’m confident I can run similarly in the finals.”
Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore and associate head cross country coach Heather Burroughs were happy with Coburn’s performance.
“Heather and I are very happy with the races this morning,” Wetmore said. “Emma didn’t plan to lead. But the race was slowing down and it’s generally better to squeeze the slower runners out the back. Then the Portugal woman went down and Emma discovered herself out front. She managed it well, kept the pace pretty honest, allowed the normal attrition to take place, and then closed carefully. I think she kept a few seconds in the tank.”
“So now, if she recovers well, she can look forward to a more aggressive race in two days, maybe a chance to run her fastest time. She is excited, as are we.”
Good day today…now trying to rest up for Monday! Goodnight from London!
— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) August 4, 2012
Coburn’s U.S. and CU teammate senior Shalaya Kipp did not advance to the finals as she finished 12th in the first heat of the steeplechase; finishing in 9:48.33. It was still a good run for Kipp who just wrapped up an amazing season; winning the 2012 Pac-12 and NCAA Championships and placing third at the U.S. Trials in June.
“Shalaya did fine for her first experience at this level,” Wetmore said. “I think her final time today was about the same as Jenny (Barringer) Simpson’s at her first “major” international race in Japan in 2007. It is the seventh month of racing for Shalaya. She had a great year and has many more coming.”
Kipp ran a solid race and was in the same section with world record holder Gulnara Gulkina (Russia). She was able to run with the field for most of the race but was always near the back. Her time was 30th overall.
“It was alright,” Kipp said. “You get out there and there are more elbows than you’ve ever seen, even though there is the same number of people. I kind of got shoved to the back early on and got boxed. The race was going by so fast, you just try to think of jumping over every barrier, then all of a sudden there are three laps to go and I find myself at the back of the pack. It’s not like anything I’ve ever really experienced before. I wish I could have been at the front of that pack.”
Former Buff Dathan Ritzenhein placed 13th the 10,000-meter run, finishing in 27:45.89. This was Ritzenhein’s third trip to the Olympics, his second in the 10k.
CU triathlon club team member Flora Duffy finished 45th in the triathlon, clocking a time of 2:08.54. She was competing for her native country of Bermuda.