Emma Coburn Remains Queen Of The Steeple At USATF Championships As The Team From Rio 2016 Will Repeat At London 2017

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By LetsRun.com
June 24, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — No, it’s not just déjà vu you’re feeling. The top three in women’s 3,000m steeplechase final at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships was an exact repeat of last year’s 2016 Olympic Trials as Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn, and Bowerman Track Club teammates Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley will represent the US at London 2017 Worlds.

Not that this was at all surprising. Coburn was about as close to a lock to win as you can get and Frerichs was favored to get second. The big question was, “Who gets third – Quigley or last year’s Trials 5th placer Stephanie Garcia?” It didn’t take too long for these predictions to materialize themselves in the race as with 3 laps to go it was already down to these “big 4.” A lap later, Garcia had been dropped, leaving the three 2016 Olympians to battle among themselves. A lap later, heading into the bell, Coburn was clear of the field and would cruise to her sixth USA title (and fourth straight) in 9:20.28. The only drama was which BTC athlete would get second and that honor went to last year’s runner-up, Frerichs  (9:22.23), with Quigley third once again (9:25.40). Garcia finished a distant fourth in 9:37.66.

The Race

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After an extremely dawdling first 150m, Emma Coburn went wide around the field to take the lead before the first barrier and by the time they reached the first water jump the top runners had established themselves at the front with Coburn continuing to lead Oiselle’s Megan Rowland, Quigley in third, Garcia in fourth and Frerichs in fifth. The next few laps were uneventful with no major changes to the order and by 3 laps to go, the top four had separated themselves as Coburn was followed by Quigley, Frerichs, and Garcia.

One terrible stuttering water jump later and Garcia had fallen off the Olympic trio and as they entered the penultimate lap Coburn started to pull away from the Bowerman Track Club teammates. At the bell, Coburn had about a second on Frerichs and Quigley and her lead would grow another second over the final lap as she finished with a 69.52 to defend her US title relatively unchallenged. Frerichs’ couldn’t quite keep contact with Coburn, but in trying she put three seconds on Quigley as they took second and third. An exhausted Garcia came in 12 seconds later in fourth, a little ahead of Oiselle’s Mel Lawrence (9:40.00).

Results and analysis below. *Race Splits

1Emma CoburnNew Balance9:20.28
2Courtney FrerichsBowerman TC9:22.23
3Colleen QuigleyNike / Bowerman TC9:25.40
4Stephanie GarciaNew Balance9:37.66
5Mel LawrenceOiselle9:40.00
6Marisa HowardOiselle9:44.66
7Sarah Peaserabbit9:47.41
8Megan RollandOiselle9:51.14
9Katie LandwehrUnattached9:55.72
10Alex WilsonOiselle10:00.58
11Jessica KamilosSaucony10:05.17
12Emily OrenOiselle10:12.22
13Jamie CheeverOiselle / Team USA Minnesota10:16.01
DNSHope SchmelzleNorthern Ill.

Quick Take: Emma Coburn is in a class of her own in the US.

Coburn won her first US steeple title as a collegiate in 2011 and since then she has won every year except for 2013 when she missed USAs with an injury. With four titles in a row and six overall, Coburn continues her US steeple dominance, but when your PB is almost 12 seconds better than the next best runner in the field, it’s pretty easy to make it look easy. She’ll have a much tougher time in London if she wants to repeat her medal-winning performance from Rio because while Coburn just missed her own American record with 9:07.96 at the Pre Classic last month, she was still only fourth in that race. The level of competitions she’ll face in 2017 is much higher than in 2016. Only five women in history have ever broken 9:02 in the steeple but four have done it this year.

QT: Frerichs was a clear 2nd; is she closing the gap to Coburn?

Coburn’s margin of victory of 1.95 seconds was her smallest at USAs since her first US title in 2011 when she won by less than a second. However, that doesn’t mean that Frerichs is knocking on the door about to overtake her. It should be remembered that last year Coburn’s margin of victory over Frerichs was just 2.44 seconds. Yes, Frerichs, 24, is only in her first full year as a pro, but neither she nor Quigley (also 24) is that much younger than Coburn, who is just 26.

QT: Never bet against Colleen Quigley

Last year before the Olympic Trials there were a lot of questions surrounding Quigley’s fitness as she was on the comeback from injury and hadn’t ran a steeple all year (her only result was a 4:12 for 1500m). But she proved any doubters wrong by coming through after a tough battle to make her first Olympic team. This year, there were again some questions surrounding her form as she had only raced one steeple this year (a 9:33 in Doha on May 5th where she lost to Garcia) and hadn’t raced since. But once again Quigley delivered when it counted to make her third straight U.S. team and will now have a month and a half to get right for London.

QT: Stephanie Garcia beat herself today

Garcia is a very accomplished steepler and has finished in the top 4 at USAs three out of the last four years. However, Garcia did not look herself in this race and like she did in the prelims, she struggled mightily getting over the barriers smoothly. She was stutter-stepping before many of the hurdles and you could see her losing a meter or two on the top 3 on every jump. While she muscled through to keep contact for the first two-thirds of the race, having to run faster than everyone between the jumps ultimately caught up to her. After the prelim she told us that she tried to change her hurdling technique this year and her lack of confidence in the new form was causing her to stutter step. Unfortunately those issues followed her to the final and were at least a contributing factor, if not the principal one, that kept her out of contention for a Worlds spot.

QT: Your wedding > USAs?

There were no DNFs in the 2017 USATF women’s steeple final, however, there was one DNS. Northern Illinois’ Hope Schmelzle (9:50 PB, 6th at NCAAs) had a good excuse to miss today’s final – she was getting married. We don’t know the specifics, but considering most weddings get planned more than a year out, she probably wasn’t taking USAs into consideration as this time last year she was a 10:10 steepler who didn’t even make the NCAA meet. We imagine qualifying for the US final was a nice, if unusual, way to start off the wedding weekend. Congrats to Hope on the nuptials and great track season!
*MB: Hope Schmelzle Qualifies for Steeple Final, Scratches to get Married this weekend

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MB: Official 2017 USATF Outdoor Nats Day 3 Live Discussion Thread