Where Your Dreams Become Reality
LRC Women's Steeplechase Final Recap - Berlin World Championships 2009
Jenny Barringer Sets American Record, Finishes Right Behind Gulnara Galkina ... In 5th
American Jenny Barringer entered the women's 3,000m steeplechase as one of the leading medal hopes for USA's distance runners after an outstanding season. Her toughest competition looked to be Russian Olympic champion and world record holder Gulnara Galkina. In the end, Barringer finished just over a second behind Galkina, but Galkina only managed fourth.
Barringer missed the medals, yes, but she ran a very smart race to grab fifth in a big personal best and American record 9:12.50. In the early laps, Barringer was way back - not even in the top two-thirds of the field - gapped by a relatively wide margin in a race of only 3,000m in length. She moved up well and caught many of the fading runners formerly in the ambitious lead pack.
When asked after the race (see part I of her post-race interview above) if she was kicking herself for being too far behind, Barringer said the pace was too fast early on. "These types of races are tricky," she said thoughtfully, "you have to be smart, not just passionate." Her patient tactics certainly paid dividends with a high finish and huge personal best, but some - even she and coach Mark Wetmore - might look back and say, "What if?"
In front, the race was very interesting. Galkina went right to the lead, running a fast opening 1,000m in 3:01. Her world record is only 8:58, and 3:01 at the 1,000m is on pace for a 9:03 full 3k steeple, so that's fast. Galkina, however, had lots of girls around her. Her Russian teammate was there, as was an eager Kenyan trio, hopeful to establish some level of superiority to match the total dominance of their male countrymen.
Also in the lead group was former World Championships 5,000m medalist Marta Dominguez, the oft-raced 33-year-old Spaniard who has only recently begun running the steeple as her primary event.
The pack began to thin out in the second kilometer, but a strong lead group still remained. Kenyan Gladys Kipkemboi assumed the front of the pack for a short time as they passed the second kilometer in 6:06, meaning kilometer #2 was run in 3:05, still fast but slower than the opening laps.
The champion Galkina started to show some cracks, but her teammate Yuliya Zarudneva pushed to the front entering the final two laps. Kipkemboi and teammates Ruth Bisibori and Milcah Chemos were hanging on to the pack, as was German Antje Möldner, inspiring the Berlin crowd to cheer even louder. At this point, Barringer could be seen passing struggling former frontrunners one at a time, but even with two laps to go, she was back in 8th or 9th, a long way back. It looked as if she had left herself too much ground to make up on the leaders.
On the bell lap, Zarudneva, Galkina and Dominguez raced down the backstretch trailed by the three Kenyans - an odd site in a distance race where the European-born athletes were really putting the pressure on the East Africans. In the last 300 meters much was to change, and a new champion was to be crowned.
First, the two most well-known Kenyans (Bisibori and Kipkemboi) cracked, then the mighty Galkina couldn't keep pace, leaving Zarudneva in the front with Dominguez trailing and Milcah Chemos in third. With 100m to go Dominguez made her move and powered by Zarudneva, who could not respond adequately. Chemos ralllied furiously over the final 100 and nearly stole the silver from Zarudneva but had to settle with a bronze for Kenya (their third WC steeple bronze in a row), while Dominguez ripped off her headband and celebrated a long-awaited World Championships win after two runner-up performances in the 5,000m.
Amidst the carnage, a charging Barringer (see part II of her post-race interview to the left) was able to pick off the two lagging Kenyans to complete a record-breaking but bittersweet race that saw her come up just short. As she says in part I above, she was happy with the time but her emotions were mixed about her race. "I could see the kicking starting," she said, "and I belong there ... I know if I'm there, I got it." Barringer goes on to discuss why she chose the steeplechase for Worlds (and several other topics).
As a last note, Galkina led the World Championships final for the second time in a row (she did it as well in 2007), and lost again. In 2007, she was 7th. Of the first 9 finishers, 8 set personal bests (including the three Kenyans). The only person to not set a personal best was, of course, Galkina. German Antje Möldner continued a pattern of excellent performances by German athletes in these championships with a national record 9:18.