EUGENE, Ore. – Emma Coburn finished her outstanding career at the University of Colorado with a bang when she won her second NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase crown on Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Championships.
The 2012 Olympian was the overall favorite heading into the race as she has the best time by an American this year (9:28.26) and she did not disappoint, winning the race in 9:35.38. Her finishing time was the fifth best in NCAA history and coincidentally all five of those times belong to the Buffs.
“On a day like this I have to look at the conditions and competition and think about if it is wise to shoot for the record and today I decided to be more conservative,” Coburn said. “I had to be smart. I‘d rather have an NCAA title and I didn’t want to risk not getting that. Today was just about winning the title and its fine with me.”
The race was a lot closer than most of Coburn’s previous NCAA races despite her typical race strategy of going right to the front to get out of traffic. Heading into the bell lap, she had about a 50-meter lead on the field and the NCAA title was hers to lose. Coburn continued to lead the race, but Florida State’s Colleen Quigley started to regain some ground and finished less than three seconds behind Coburn in 9:38.23. After Quigley, Weber State’s Amber Henry was the next to cross the line in 9:43.39.
Heading into the race, there was a lot of hype surrounding Coburn about whether or not she would go for the NCAA record in the event (9:25.54), which is held by former CU standout Jenny (Barringer) Simpson. Ultimately Coburn did not break the record, but she didn’t seem too upset since she came away from the meet with another championship.
Overall this is Coburn’s third NCAA championship. She also won the steeplechase in 2011 and the 2013 indoor mile crown this past March. She is also a six-time All-American for the Buffs, three times in the steeplechase, twice in the indoor mile and once in cross country.
This is the sixth steeplechase title the Buffs have won in the last eight years. Simpson won in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and Shalaya Kipp, who is redshirting this season, won in 2012 while Coburn was redshirting.
The title caps off an amazing season for the Crested Butte, Colo. native. She started her senior year last June by winning her second USATF Steeplechase crown to earn a spot at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. There, she made the final and finished ninth in a personal best of 9:23.56.
She didn’t have any eligibility remaining for the cross country season, so Coburn was able to focus on the indoor season. She was invited to compete in the mile at the prestigious Millrose Games (in a field full of professional athletes) and ran a PR of 4:29.86 to become the fifth fastest NCAA athlete in the mile. A few short weeks later, she ran another sub-4:30 mile to win CU’s first NCAA indoor mile title in 4:29.91 and became the first American to run a pair of sub-4:30 miles in the same season.
During the outdoor season, Coburn continued to impress. She ran the then-fastest steeplechase time in the world at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invite (9:28.26) in Stanford, Calif. just two days after her 2013 1,500-meter debut (4:11.36) at the 106th Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Coburn won her first Pac-12 title in the steeplechase in May (9:55.67).
Instead of taking a week off between conference and the NCAA West Preliminary Championship, she took to the track again in a field of professional athletes at the OXY High Performance meet in the 1,500 and blazed to a PR of 4:06.87 while becoming the fifth-best performer in NCAA history.
This past April, Coburn was named CU’s Co-Female Athlete of the Year for the third time, as well as winning CU’s Co-Female Career Athletic Achievement Award.
Coburn finished the 2013 indoor and outdoor season with the fastest time in the NCAA in the indoor mile, 1,500 and steeplechase.
Although the NCAA season is now complete, Coburn and several other current and former Buffs will compete at the USA Track & Field Championships, June 19-23, in Des Moines, Iowa.
NCAA Outdoor Championships Schedule (CU Events Only)
Historic Hayward Field (Eugene, Ore.)
Women’s 3,000-Meter Steeplechase Finals: 1. Emma Coburn, 9:35.38; 2. Colleen Quigley, Florida State, 9:35.28; 3. Amber Henry, Weber State, 9:43.39; 4. Rachel Sorna, Cornell, 9:52.86; 5. Leah O’Connor, Michigan State, 9:53.71; 6, Courtney Frerichs, UMKC, 9:55.02; 7. Grace Heymsfield, Arkansas, 9:57.18; 8. Alexa Aragon, Notre Dame, 9:57.26; 9. Ashley Beutler, Wisconsin, 10:04.98; 10. Martina Tresch, Kansas State, 10:09.07; 11. Shelby Greany, Providence, 10:10.76; 12. Jordan Hamric, West Virginia, 10:16.92.