Jenny Simpson vs. Sifan Hassan vs. Abeba Aregawi in 1500; Emma Coburn Highlights Steeplechase

August 20, 2014

Training partners Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson have been two of the most successful U.S. distance runners this season, with Coburn breaking Simpson’s American record in the steeple on July 12 in Glasgow and Simpson barely missing doper Mary Slaney‘s American record in the 1500 a week earlier in Paris. With the Diamond League on hiatus for more than a month, neither has raced since mid-July, but that will change on Thursday as both will run their specialty events at the 2014 DN Galan Diamond League track and field meeting in Stockholm.

The only steeplers to beat Coburn this season — Ethiopians Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew — will both be on the line in the steeple. In the totally loaded women’s 1500, Simpson will face the fastest (Genzebe Dibaba (indoor time)) second-fastest (Sifan Hassan) and fifth fastest (Abeba Aregawi) 1500 runners in the world plus Americans Brenda Martinez and Shannon Rowbury.

We break down the two events for you below.

Article continues below player.

Other event 2014 DN Galan previews are here: *M 800: Can 1500 Man Ayanleh Souleiman End Nijel Amos’ Dominance?
*M 5000: Galen Rupp Battles Hagos Gebrhiwet, Caleb Ndiku; Ben True and Hassan Mead Chase Sub-13:00

Women’s 3,000 steeple (3:05 p.m. ET)

Coburn has PR'd in all four of her Diamond League races in 2014 Coburn has PR’d in all four of her Diamond League races in 2014

There are really only three names that matter in the women’s steeple this year and all three will once again be in action in Stockholm. Emma Coburn, Hiwot Ayalew and Sofia Assefa have posted the nine fastest times on the year and have won all five of the DL steeples so far (two for Ayalew and Assefa, one for Coburn). Ayalew has assumed control of the event recently, winning the last two DL events (the latter, in Glasgow, in a world-leading 9:10) as well as last week’s African Championships, where she defeated Assefa. Coburn has done yeoman’s work setting the pace whenever she races and has been rewarded with PRs in all four of her DL races in 2014. There’s little reason for her to change the formula, even though she was forced to take second last month in Paris and Glasgow when Ayalew kicked by her late in the race.

The goal for Coburn has been to run a little faster every time out and if that pattern is to continue, look for her to try and hit splits of around 3:03 per kilometer (9:09 pace). If she does that, Ayalew and perhaps Assefa will be the only ones to go with her, and from there it’s a question of whether Coburn has added the necessary strength and speed over her last month of training to hold them off over the final 200. Coburn was level with Ayalew at the water jump in their last race in Coburn, but her form wasn’t perfect on the jump and that gave Ayalew the gap she needed to pull away. A better final water jump in Stockholm could be the difference between a good race for Coburn and Diamond League win #2.

The full field.

ADAMU Birtukan 29.04.1992 ETH 9:20.37 9:27.29
ALEMU Birtukan Fente 18.06.1989 ETH 9:28.27 9:30.75
ASSEFA Sofia 14.11.1987 ETH 9:09.00 9:11.39 World bronze medallist won at Pre, NY; 2nd at African Champs
AYALEW Hiwot 06.03.1990 ETH 9:09.61 9:10.64 4 straight wins including Paris + Glasgow DLs and African Champs
CHEPKURUI Lidya 23.08.1984 KEN 9:12.55 9:24.07 WC silver medallist looked to be righting the ship with 9:24 in Paris but then ran 9:32 in Glasgow
COBURN Emma 19.10.1990 USA 9:11.42 9:11.42 Apart from USAs, has PR’d in all four steeples in 2014
DESALEGN Betlhem 13.11.1991 UAE 9:54.11 9:54.11
DIRO NEDA Etenesh 10.05.1991 ETH 9:14.07 9:19.71 5th at Worlds last year; 4th at African Champs
EL OUALI ALAMI Salima 29.12.1983 MAR 9:21.24 9:21.24 Bronze at African Champs
FOUGBERG Charlotta 19.06.1985 SWE 9:23.96 9:23.96 Swedish NR holder was 2nd at Euro Champs
GHRIBI Habiba 09.04.1984 TUN 9:08.37 9:41.30
HIGGINSON Ashley 17.03.1989 USA 9:27.59 9:27.59 PR’d at USAs to take 2nd but hasn’t raced since
KIYENG Hyvin 13.01.1992 KEN 9:22.05 9:22.58
KUDZELICH Sviatlana 07.05.1987 BLR 9:30.99 9:30.99
LACAZE Genevieve 04.08.1989 AUS 9:33.19 9:33.19 Perhaps better known for off-track antics, she did PR at Glasgow DL and was 5th at Commonwealths

Women’s 1500 (3:50 p.m.)

Hassan could not be caught in Zurich Hassan could not be caught in Zurich

Sifan Hassan is the favorite

At the start of the year, if you told us there was going to be a 1500 in August featuring Jenny Simpson, Genzebe Dibaba and Abeba Aregawi and that none of them would be favored for the win, we’d have a hard time believing you. If you told us that the favorite was a 21-year-old who represented the Netherlands, we’d have an even harder time. But 2014 has been Sifan Hassan’s year and after a world-leading 3:57.00 to beat Simpson in Paris and near-identical wins over Aregawi in Glasgow and at last week’s European Championships, she’s certainly the woman to beat in Stockholm.

The Ethiopian-born Hassan didn’t truly break out until this year, but her ascent began at this meet last year where she ran a world #3 8:32 for 3,000.  At that point, she had still never run faster than 4:03.73 for 1500, but 8:32 is a great time for a 20-year-old and in retrospect perhaps she should have been viewed as a breakout candidate in 2014 (For comparison’s sake, American collegiate star Abbey D’Agostino set her 3000 pb at age 21 of 8:51). Perhaps not, though; Hassan only ran 4:10 in her next race.

Jenny Simpson and the American record

With regard to Thursday’s race, the expectation is that Simpson will run aggressively in an attempt to break the American record of 3:57.12. She had success running from the front at USAs (where she won comfortably) and Paris (where she was a narrow second to Hassan) and has the biggest incentive to push the pace.

However, the question is will she get any help. Aregawi and Hassan are coming back from the European champs and could be a little tired. Plus Aregawi and Hassan already own their countries’ national records and will be more concerned with the win as the two are battling for the Diamond Race title (Aregawi leads with 12 points, Hassan is second with 9 and no one else has more than 5). Simpson has two big chances left in 2014 to get the American record (here and next week in Zürich) and will hope to take advantage as a non-championship year is a great time to chase times.

Despite a gold and silver at the last two Worlds, for whatever reason, Simpson just hasn’t run fast in championship years and with championships to peak for in 2015, 2016 and 2017, she may not have the same freedom to go for really quick times in those years. Though Simpson has grown tremendously as a runner in DL races this year, so perhaps she will be able to run fast times and peak effectively over the next few years.

Americans Shannon Rowbury and Brenda Martinez are both entered as well and if one of them is to challenge Simpson, it’s Rowbury, who is coming off PRs in the 5,000 (14:48 in Monaco) and 1500 (3:59 in Paris). It’s unlikely Rowbury will beat Simpson, but she has a much better chance than Martinez, who will be looking to get her season back on track after she was just 5th at USAs in the 800.

The wild card: Genzebe Dibaba

The one woman who could flip the script of this race is Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba. If you count indoor times, Dibaba is actually the world leader by a lot in 2014 (she ran a world indoor record 3:55.17 in February) but by this point in the outdoor season, she has usually begun to fade.

Last year after running 8:26 indoors for 3000 and 3:57 for 1500 in May, she finished just 8th at Worlds and followed that up with an 8th-place finish at the Stockholm DL meet and a DNF in Zürich; the year before, she ran 3:57 in May as well but failed to advance from the first round in the 1500 at the Olympics and didn’t race again after that. Dibaba raced last week and was second at the African Champs 5,000 (10 seconds back of winner Almaz Ayana).

Prior to the African Champs, Dibaba had been running pretty well, with a world-leading 14:28 5,000 in Monaco and a 4:28 road mile win in London, so a big question is whether the her big loss to Ayana in the African Champs was the start of a decline or a blip on the radar. Perhaps an even bigger question we have is, “Is Dibaba really a 1500 runner who has been focused on the wrong event all year?”

Dibaba has been focused on the 3,000/5,000 for all of outdoors but in the one 1500 she ran this year indoors, she ran 3:55!.

If she does well her and reverses her downward spiral, we think she should consider focusing on the 1500 in the future. Regardless, her presence on the start list is certainly intriguing.

AREGAWI Abeba 05.07.1990 SWE 3:56.54 3:57.57 World indoor/outdoor champ has lost to Hassan 3x in a row, most recently at Euros
BAHTA Meraf 26.06.1989 SWE 4:03.16 4:03.16 First DL 1500 for Euro champ at 5,000
DIBABA Genzebe 08.02.1991 ETH 3:57.54 Ran 3:55 to set indoor WR in Feb. but no 1500s yet outdoors
EMBAYE Axumawit 18.10.1994 ETH 4:02.35 4:02.35 World Indoor silver medallist was 4th at African Champs
HASSAN Sifan 01.01.1993 NED 3:57.00 3:57.00 Looks unstoppable: 4 straight wins at 1500, including Euros
KIBIWOT Viola Jelagat 22.12.1983 KEN 3:59.25 4:01.31 Ran 14:33 in Monaco but just one 1500 on the year: 4:01 in Shanghai in May
MÅKESTAD BOVIM Ingvill 07.08.1981 NOR 4:02.20 4:04.11 9th at Euro champs
MARTINEZ Brenda 08.09.1987 USA 4:00.94 4:02.52 Hasn’t raced since disappointing 5th at USAs in 800
MUIR Laura 09.05.1993 GBR 4:00.07 4:00.07 Broke through to run 4:00 in Paris but just 11th at Commonwealths + didn’t even make Euro final
PLIŚ Renata 05.02.1985 POL 4:03.50 4:05.40 4th at Euros
ROWBURY Shannon 19.09.1984 USA 3:59.49 3:59.49 Hasn’t raced since 14:48 5k PR in Monaco on 7/18
SIMPSON Jennifer 23.08.1986 USA 3:57.22 3:57.22 Missed AR by .10 in last DL race in Paris
TSEGAY Gudaf 23.01.1997 ETH 4:02.83 4:02.83 World Junior silver medallist
TVERDOSTUP Tamara 17.07.1979 UKR 4:07.43 4:08.16 Rabbit
WEIGHTMAN Laura 01.07.1991 GBR 4:00.17 4:00.17 Recent highlights from big summer include Commonwealth silver + Euro bronze

Other event 2014 DN Galan previews are here: *M 800: Can 1500 Man Ayanleh Souleiman End Nijel Amos’ Dominance?
*M 5000: Galen Rupp Battles Hagos Gebrhiwet, Caleb Ndiku; Ben True and Hassan Mead Chase Sub-13:00

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards