Very Little Drama In The Steeplechase Prelims As Both Men's And Women's Races Set Themselves Up For An Exciting Final

All The Favorites Advance, But For The Men's Defending US Champion Billy Nelson, Just Barely

June 25, 2012

The steeplechase is an event known for big upsets as it is so much easier for a fall or crash to happen compared to a flat event. One wrong step or awkward water jump and even a dominant runner can take a face plant and be out of the race. However, none of that happened today and all the top runners advanced unscathed, setting up what should be two exciting finals later in the week.

Women’s Steeple Semis:
The prelims of the women's steeplechase went by with few surprises as the top 2 this year coming in each won their heat and no one new got the "A" standard. Emma Coburn ran like the defending US champion and World Championships finalist that she is as she led her heat from the second lap on and finished right at the "A" standard like it was a tempo run. While only 5 have the standard going into the final, there are a few others who are just off it so there are a lot of names who could still sneak into that last Olympic spot if they have a big day.


Coburn took the lead at the first barrier, getting herself out of traffic as she already had stepped on the rail and had a near fall. Running in a light rain but no wind, it was ideal distance running conditions. Wearing her Colorado uniform (Coburn still has eligibility there) she ram 73.3 as her teammate and current NCAA champion, Shalaya Kipp, was right with her. The two training partners seemed intent on making the pace honest as Kipp still needs the 9:43.00 "A" standard and said she wanted to get it here. Also with the two Buffs was Nicole Bush, who famously broke her leg at the 2009 US meet in Eugene when the women’s water barrier was set at the wrong height.

Coburn was second to Bush going into the 3rd lap, but then took the lead and never let it go again. Kipp stayed right on her for as long she could, but her, Mason Cathey and Delilah DiCrescenzo fell 2 seconds back by lap 5 and could never close the gap. Kipp hit 2K in about 6:24 though so at that point she still had a shot at the "A".

With a lap to go, Coburn had a 3 second lead over the Cathey in 2nd and Kipp in 3rd. They were right around 8:28 high and 8:29 low so they would need a smoking last lap to hit the "A" standard. They would come up short as Coburn tempoed it in for the win in 9:43.19 with Kipp closing in 66.75 for second (9:46.17) and Cathey taking 3rd (9:47.32). Hey there Delilah moved up nicely in the last two laps but was content to stay comfortable focusing on just finishing in the top 5. Becky Wade grabbed the final auto spot in 9:50.66.

Quick Take #1: It's crazy to think how dominant Emma Coburn is over the rest of the runners in the US, but she is still so far away from being considered a medal threat at the Olympics. She has to bring her 9:25 PR from the Pre Classic down by another 10 seconds if she wants to even dream about a medal in London. Let's give her credit though; she did make the final at Worlds last year and she is still very young. 2016 could be her year.

Quick Take #2: After this race it's really seeming unlikely that Kipp or Cathey will be able to get the "A". It was good conditions here today with cool temperatures and little wind. They had the top runner in the US more or less rabbitting them on perfectly even "A" standard pace. You really couldn't have asked for a better setup. And yet, at the time of the year they should be peaking both runners finished 3 or more seconds off the standard. In her interview, Coburn said she really thinks Kipp is ready to break that 9:43 barrier, but she'll need to change something by Thursday or that probably isn't happening. Looking ahead to the final, Kipp said, "I'm going to hope it's under 9:43 and just race it."

 Place Athlete Name   Affiliation Time Qual
 1 Emma Coburn   Colorado 9:43.19
 2 Shalaya Kipp   Colorado 9:46.17
 3 Mason Cathey   Saucony 9:47.32
 4 Delilah DiCrescenzo   Puma / New Jersey New York T C 9:49.15
 5 Rebecca Wade   Rice University 9:50.66
 6 Lisa Aguilera   Nike 9:51.02
 7 Rebeka Stowe   Kansas 9:53.67
 8 Alyssa Kulik   Clemson 9:55.14  
 9 Mary Goldkamp   Unattached 9:57.66  
 10 Nicole Bush   New Balance 10:06.23  
 11 Shayla Houlihan   Brooks 10:08.58  
 12 Alexi Pappas   Unattached 10:17.09  
*Race Splits

Emma Coburn After Making Olympic Trials Steeple Final

Delilah DiCrescenzo After Making Steeple Final

Colorado's Shalaya Kipp Going After And Missing The "A" In The Prelim

Becky Wade After Making The Steeple Final In Her Second Steeple In 3 Years



In heat two, Sara Hall and Princeton alum Ashley Higginson set the pace early with Illinois State’s Aisha Praught (who was robbed of a shot at an NCAA title when she fell hard in the prelims at Drake Stadium a few weeks ago), Carrie Dimoff and 2011 World team member/2010 NCAA champion Bridget Franek right with them. The first lap was covered in an honest 74.3 with Higginson leading.

Hall and Higginson traded the lead back and forth for the first 5 laps with the rest of the pack in tow. By lap 6, the top 4, which included Franek, Higginson, Hall, and 2011 World Champs competitor Stephanie Garcia, had put a gap on the rest of the pack. Jamie Cheever and Praught were a couple seconds back off of them.

Higginson (who lacks the "A" standard) looked very good as she led going into lap 6 and hitting 9:43 seemed like a possibility.

Going into the last lap Franek, who has been very up and down this season, looked extremely smooth, splitting 77.58 and putting a 1 second lead on Higginson.

With 200 to go, Hall moved up to pass Higginson and Garcia fell back to 4th. The last straight would be uneventful as Franek crossed the line first in a controlled 9:44.05, while Hall closed in a very quick 65.62 to finish only half a second back. Higginson ran a PR for 3rd, but still missed the “A” by 2.21 and Garcia was back a few seconds for 4th. Dimoff had ran an inspiring 64.84 last lap (the fastest of the day) to grab the last automatic qualifying spot.

Quick Take #1:

Hall ran a decent amount of this race in the lead clear of traffic which turned out to be good for her since she started to stuteter on almost every barrier. The stuttering became more pronounced as the race progressed, especially in comparison to the more fluid Higginson and effortless Franek running near her. Come the final, that could cause problems for Hall when she has to run in a crowd. If she stutters on that last barrier when it's a close sprint to the finish for that last Olympic spot, she's toast. Hall has never made a World outdoor or Olympic team. Hopefully she takes the two rest days to work on attacking those barriers and maybe she'll get to join Ryan in London.

Quick Take #2:

We feel a lot better about Higginson's chances at possibly getting the "A" in the final than we did about Kipp or Cathey. Higginson had to help lead some of this race and finished only 2.21 seconds off the "A". In her interview she said she's PR'd every time out this year, so if she can PR one more time she might get it. If she does manage to finish top 3 then chances are she'll get it as it'll probably take the "A" to make the team anyway.

Place Athlete Name   Affiliation Time Qual
 1 Bridget Franek   Nike / Oregon TC Elite 9:44.05
 2 Sara Hall   Asics 9:44.55
 3 Ashley Higginson   Saucony 9:45.21
 4 Stephanie Garcia   New Balance 9:48.17
 5 Carrie Dimoff   Bowerman Athletic Club 9:49.03
 6 Jamie Cheever   Oiselle / Team USA Minnesota 9:51.42
 7 Sarah Pease   Unattached 9:52.43
 8 Aisha Praught   Unattached 9:55.78  
 9 Elizabeth Graney   Grand Valley State 9:59.76  
 10 Collier Lawrence   Oiselle 10:00.35  
 11 Lois Keller   Brooks / Club Northwest 10:00.62  
 12 Kara June   adidas/TeamRogue 10:32.98  

*Race Splits


OTC's Bridget Franek After Round 1

Sara Hall Dreams Of Joining Ryan In London

Ashley Higginson Talks About Having A Teammate In The Final With Her



Men’s Steeple Semis:
After the steeplechase semis we are sure of two things: Evan Jager has found his event and it will definitely be a dog fight for the 3rd spot on this Olympic team (possible dead heat anyone?) Almost everyone in the final has the "A" and even if they don't, the steeple is rarely tactical so hopefully we can look forward to an event where the top 3 finishers are actually the three we send to London.


The race started off with 2002/2003 US champ Steve Slattery looking as if he’d turned back the clock to his prime as had the lead after a 67.4 first lap. Right on his heels were the young studs Evan Jager and a bit further back, US NCAA champion Donn Cabral of Princeton. A 69.0 second lap did nothing to string out the field as Slattery stayed in the lead. The pace stayed tactical as they went through 1k at roughly 2:55.

Three laps in, defending US champion Billy Nelson took the lead for a short time with Jager running at his side, but by 1k to go it was David Adams leading with Jager and Ohio State’s Cory Leslie 2-3. With 600 to go pre-race favorite Jager finally took control as Leslie and NCAA runner-up Craig Forys followed. At this point Cabral, who had sat way back in the pack for most of the race, made a strong move into the top five as Nelson was dropped and fell 20 meters back off the lead group of 6.

Going into the last lap Leslie led, but Jager took over again and with 100 to go he eased comfortably in for the win in 8:30.60. Cabral ran a hard last lap moving up from 5th to take 2nd finishing only .04 off Jager. Forys was 3rd, Leslie 4th and Josh McAdams took the last automatic spot in 5th. Nelson and Slattery finished a distant 7th and 8th in 8:35.22 and 8:37.17. Nelson would make it in on time, but it would be the end of Steve Slattery's Olympic dream as he was the first man out of the final.

Quick Take #1: The finishing result of this heat had little surprises as the favorites finished first and second. However, they did it in very different fashions as Jager was near the front the entire way and finished looking comfortable while Cabral ran the whole race back in the pack and finished hard to take 2nd. It seemed like a very awkward race for Cabral who was in complete control of the field at NCAA's, but never looked completely comfortable here. Is he feeling burnt out after a long collegiate season or was it just awkward for him having to actually run in a pack? In his post race interview, he acted like everything was fine and said he just "spent a lot of time going back and forth shuffling around people". He had the fastest closing lap in the field (62.26) so that makes it seem it was more of a tactical issue and not fitness.

Quick Take #2: Nelson is the defending US champion and almost went out here. He ended up being the last qualifier on time and did not look good in this race. He said he had trouble on the last water jump which may have cost him a second and half, but that's still a long way from the front of this race. He may be in trouble.

Quick Take #3: Jager and Slattery's post race interviews are definite recommended watches and Slattery almost got the QOD.

 Place Athlete Name   Affiliation Time Qual
 1 Evan Jager   Nike / Oregon TC Elite 8:30.60
 2 Donald Cabral   Princeton 8:30.64
 3 Craig Forys   Unattached 8:30.85
 4 Cory Leslie   Ohio State 8:31.08
 5 Joshua McAdams   New Balance 8:31.15
 6 David Adams   Team Nebraska 8:32.17
 7 William Nelson   New Balance 8:35.22
 8 Steve Slattery   Unattached 8:37.17  
 9 Jordan Fife   Brooks / Team Indiana Elite 8:42.13  
 10 Ryan Haebe   Western State College 8:53.38  
 11 Corey Nowitzke   Unattached 8:53.58  
 12 John Ricardi   Brooks / Club Northwest 9:05.92  
*Race Splits

Evan Jager after Steeplechase Semifinal

Steve Slattery Talks About Life After Not Making Team

Craig Forys After Making Final

Don Cabral

US Champ Billy Nelson After A Rough First Round




Last year's World Championship competitors Ben Bruce and Dan Huling took the early lead in this heat bringing the pack through in a brisk 64.4. Huling ran a 66.6 second lap and the pace continued to be honest and quick with the pack strung out significantly by the time the leaders hit the 1k mark in 2:49.

Huling lead laps 5 and 6 with US 2011 3rd placer last year, Kyle Alcorn, taking the lead going into the last lap as a group of 6 had separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Four seconds behind in 7th lurked trail and Xterra standout Max King.

Huling took back over in the final lap to win the heat posting the fastest time of the day (8:29.00). Bruce took second with a fast closing lap (66.27) moving from 6th to 2nd and Alcorn was 3rd. Augustus Maiyo and Brian Ollinger got the last two auto spots as Donald Cowart and King finished 6-7 and got into the final on time.

Quick Take #1: Very little can be taken away from these two heats as the top 5 times in each varied by little more than a second. Coming in, we were convinced Jager was a huge talent and after watching his race and listening to his interview we're even more convinced of that. Cabral is probably still the favorite for 2nd, but the rest are all very close for that 3rd spot although Nelson may not be a factor.

Quick Take #2: Max King is one of the most versatile runners in the country (maybe planet?) He has an extremely full competition schedule running races almost every weekend which can range from an ultra/trail marathon, a World Mountain running championship, or a road race. After being away from the steeplechase for 4 years, here he is still running 2 seconds off his PR even though he does little event specific training and did the Trials almost on a whim. He had the third fastest closing lap in this heat (66.94).

 Place Athlete Name   Affiliation Time Qual
 1 Daniel Huling   Reebok 8:29.00
 2 Benjamin Bruce   adidas/McMillan Elite 8:29.11
 3 Kyle Alcorn   Nike 8:29.27
 4 Augustus Maiyo   Unattached 8:29.29
 5 Brian Olinger   Reebok 8:30.08
 6 Donald Cowart   Ragged Mountain Racing 8:31.51
 7 Max King   Central Oregon Running Klub 8:33.43
 8 Derek Scott   Run Portland 8:38.55  
 9 Lyle Weese   Unattached 8:38.55  
 10 De'Sean Turner   Indiana University 8:47.15  
 11 Justin Tyner   Falcon Distance Project 8:53.92  
 12 Travis Mahoney   Temple 8:54.03  
*Race Splits

Brian Olinger Focused On The Steeple After Dabling In The Marathon

Max King: "The Jacknife Of The Running World"



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