RRW: Fast Finish Earns American Elinor Purrier Spot in WJC Steeple Final

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By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
July 24, 2014


EUGENE, OREGON (24-Jul) — In only her fifth 3000m steeplechase race ever, American Elinor Purrier of Montgomery, Vt., sprinted down the homestretch here at historic Hayward Field with one goal in mind: make Saturday’s IAAF World Junior Championships final. That she did, setting a new 10:08.33 personal best en route to finishing sixth in the second section, kicking off day-three of competition in style.

“When I passed one girl and I realized that some of them were slowing down, I just gave everything I had,” said Purrier, a rising sophomore at the University of New Hampshire.

Primarily a miler, Purrier chose to try the steeplechase at the suggestion of her coach earlier this year. The decision has paid off, as the 19-year-old won the USA junior national title on July 6 and now has qualified for the final at her first global championships.

“We kind of wanted to take a break from the mile because I’ve been training really hard in that, and it’ll definitely help me in cross country. It’s kind of fun!” Purrier said, adding that her inexperience is why she still steps on the barriers.

While favorites Roseline Chepngetich of Kenya, Buzuayehu Mohamed of Ethiopia, and Zulema Arenas of Peru broke away and established a clear lead pack early on, Purrier sat back and remained content. She’d keep her eyes on Rosemary Mumo Katua (Bahrain), Minttu Hukka (Finland), and Emma Oudiou (France), hoping to pass two athletes and move into fifth, the final automatic qualifying spot.

“I really wanted to catch that fifth girl. I don’t know, I was just really pumped up,” she’d say.

Using her 4:36.14-mile speed in the final circuit, Purrier furiously closed the gap and passed Oudiou for sixth. Crossing the line just behind Hukka, Purrier’s 10:08.33 mark was a new personal best by more than 16 seconds. She was fastest among those advancing onto the final on time.

“I was hoping for the teens so I’m pretty excited I broke that,” she said. “I really have to recover but I think that there will be a little bit more motivation in the final.”

Asked her expectations for the final, Purrier gave a glimpse at her strategy.

“My best!” she said with a big grin. “I don’t really pick out a number, I just kind of wing it.”

Out front, Chepngetich, Mohamed and Arenas all broke ten minutes to finish one-two-three, 9:52.63, 9:52.97, and 9:54.12 their times. Arenas set a new national junior record.

In the first of two sections, Ethiopian Weynshet Ansa, Kenyan Daisy Jepkemei, and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet made a decisive surge at one kilometer, dropping the rest of the 17 women field. The trio would race together the remaining two kilometers, finishing within 2/100ths of a second of each other (9:56.06, 9:56.07, and 9:56.08).

Jepkemei, the reigning IAAF World Junior Championships gold medalist, was not in good spirits as she walked through the media mixed zone after her race, raising concern about the final.

“The race was really tough,” she told Race Results Weekly, an exasperated look on her face. “This is a challenge. I did not feel like this, but it is OK.”

New Zealand’s Rosa Flanagan was fourth in 10:09.43, while Great Britain’s Amy-Eloise Neale took fifth in 10:17.88. Neale went to Glacier Peak High School in the United States (Snohomish, Wash.), and now attends the University of Washington.

“My thought was if they take it out fast stay around fifth to seventh,” Neale said. “Fifth was kind of the goal, I didn’t really need to go any faster than that.”

American Hope Schmelzle finished 14th in heat two, 10:41.38 her time.

Tonight, finals of the men’s 1500m and women’s 800m and 3000m will be contested. American Mary Cain will toe the line in the 3000m, a medal favorite.


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