Women’s Steeple Prelims: Everything Goes According To Form As Coburn and Frerichs Cruise Through

By LetsRun.com
September 27, 2019

DOHA, Qatar — Unlike the women’s 800 prelims, the women’s steeplechase prelims at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships this evening were totally uneventful. The top 12 seeds that started the prelims today all advanced to Monday’s final, with the top 8 seeds taking 8 of the 9 auto qualifiers.

In terms of a surprise, we’d say the biggest one was how good Uganda’s national record holder Peruth Chemutai looked in winning the first heat. Chemutai, only 20, hasn’t raced at all on the circuit since placing 10th at the Pre Classic on June 30. A 9:07 performer last year, she had only run 9:16 this year but tonight she looked like a runner who ran 9:07 last year and got 5th at World Cross this year.

Two years ago at Worlds, Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs captured the gold and silver and neither had any trouble as Coburn was second in heat 1 and Frerichs second in heat 2 (top 3 in each heat were auto qualifiers). After the race, Frerichs, who had the second fastest time of anyone on the day at 9:18.42, sounded confident as she said it was the easiest 9:18 of her life. The third American racer, three-time NCAA champ Allie Ostrander, formerly of Boise State and now with the Brooks Beasts, didn’t advance to the final but she did run well as she PR’d at 9:30.85 (previous pb of 9:31.44) to place 7th in heat 1, just behind former Princeton runner Elizabeth Bird of Great Britain, who also PR’d (9:30.13 previous pb of 9:36.84). The sixth and final time qualifier ended up going to Canadian Geneviève Lalonde, who almost equalled her Canadian record of 9:29.82 by running 9:30.01 in heat #1.

Analysis below.

*Heat by heat results.

Quick Take: Talk about going according to form. Here is how the top 12 seeds fared.

Seed Name Country PB SB Result
1 BeatriceCHEPKOECH KEN 8:44.32 8:55.58 Won heat 2 in 9:18
2 HyvinKIYENG KEN 9:00.01 9:03.83 Won heat 3 in 9:19
3 EmmaCOBURN USA 9:02.58 9:04.90 Auto Q, 2nd in heat 1 – 9:23
4 Celliphine ChepteekCHESPOL KEN 8:58.78 9:06.76 Auto Q, 3rd in heat 2 – 9:24
5 Winfred MutileYAVI BRN 9:07.23 9:07.23 Auto Q, 2nd in heat 3 – 9:29
6 Gesa FelicitasKRAUSE GER 9:07.51 9:07.51 Auto Q, 3rd in heat 2 -9:18
7 CourtneyFRERICHS USA 9:00.85 9:09.75 Auto Q, 2nd in heat 2 -9:18
8 ColleenQUIGLEY USA 9:10.27 9:11.41 DNS
9 PeruthCHEMUTAI UGA 9:07.94 9:16.72 Won heat 1 in 9:21
10 Karoline BjerkeliGRØVDAL NOR 9:13.35 9:20.69 Time qualifier, heat 1- 9:28
11 MarušaMIŠMAŠ SLO 9:20.97 9:20.97 Auto qualifier – 3rd heat 3 in 9:29
12 Anna EmilieMØLLER DEN 9:24.21 9:24.21 Time qualifer, 4th in heat 2 (9:18 NR)
13 LuizaGEGA ALB 9:22.00 9:25.80 Time qualifier, 5th in heat 2 – 9:28

Quick Take #1: The Doha heat didn’t stop a number of runners from running PBs or SBs

One of the big question marks about the World Champs this year is how big of an impact the heat would have on the distance races. The steeplechase maybe isn’t the best event to answer that as we’ve always said it seems to be an event where people can run fast no matter what the conditions and that proved to be true tonight. Six runners set a new personal bests, with the most impressive being the national record for Denmark’s Anna Emilie Møller. Møller, the top non-African-born finisher at World XC this winter, continued her storybook 2019 campaign by lowering her Danish record from 9:24.21 to 9:18 to advance to the final as the fastest time qualifier of the day (and 4th fastest person on the night).

Quick Take #2: Courtney Frerichs doesn’t mind missing out on $$$ at the DL final — her goal was performing her best at this meet

The last time Frerichs ran a World Championship race, her PR was 9:19. She lowered it dramatically in that race, clocking 9:03 to earn the silver medal, but today was another sign of just how far Frerichs has come in the event as she ran 9:18 in her prelim without much trouble to cruise to the final.

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“That’s the best I’ve felt running 9:18,” Frerichs said. “I didn’t feel like I was overdoing things at any point. I honestly felt better the second half when we started running faster.”

This was Frerichs’ first race since USAs two months ago, as she opted to stay at altitude training rather than racing any Diamond Leagues. Frerichs admitted it was hard watching the race, especially because “with my racing style, I feel like I could have run particularly well.”

But Frerichs said that she believes in Schumacher’s philosophy, and that as long ago as last year’s DL final, she knew she wouldn’t be running the DL final in 2019.

“We’ve really been all-in on this World Championships. I know that comes with some criticism, but it’s hard to have that many big showings in a year…I believe [Schumacher] peaks us better than anyone for World Championships.”

But what about that payday? There isn’t a ton of prize money in track & field, but in the DL final it’s $50,000 for first, $20,000 for second, and $10,000 for third.

Frerichs said that she’s in the sport for the big moments, and not for the money. When she earned silver two years ago, she didn’t even realize she had won prize money until two days later. 

“I don’t honestly think about money,” Frerichs said. “Part of that I think is Jerry has kind of ingrained that. But I also think that at the end of the day, we’re not in a sport that has a big payout, we’re here because we love it. We love challenging ourselves and we love seeing what we’re capable of. So I’m just 100% bought in those moments.”

Quick Take: Emma Coburn says she is at least as fit as in 2017, “if not better”

Coburn spent some time preparing for Worlds at elevation in St. Moritz, and one of the benefits of St. Moritz is that it’s only an hour’s drive from the town of Chiavenna, Italy, which, at just over 1,000 feet, basically feels like running at sea level.

That was a new experience for Coburn, who has lived and trained in Colorado for her entire career, but said that it was a fun one as she got to attempt some “really exciting” workouts that she wouldn’t have been able to handle at altitude.

Coburn’s goal is her third straight medal at a global championships, and though she says that she thinks it will take 8:55-9:00 fitness to medal, she believes it is an attainable goal, adding that she’s in at least the same shape as in 2017, if not better, when she ran 9:02 for gold.

Coburn also said that the conditions felt good for racing tonight and that the heat was not a concern.

“The air conditioning works,” Coburn said. “It felt slightly dry, and a tiny breeze, but really no complaints. I was very, very impressed with it. I think it’s gonna lead to some fast races. The track felt good, the crowd was loud. So it was a really good experience.”

Quick Take: A bittersweet pb for Allie Ostrander

For a woman whose indoor track season started on December 1, 2018 (she ran a 5k at Boston University right after NCAA XC), it was mighty impressive to see Allie Ostrander — formerly of Boise State University, now of the Brooks Beasts — run a steeple PR on September 27.

Despite the PR (9:30.85 down from 9:31.44), Ostrander felt mixed emotions tonight as she missed the Olympic standard — and a spot in the final — by .85 of a second (the final time qualifier was 9:30.01). Ostrander said she felt some mistakes by not running a little further to the outside of the pack to give herself a clear run-up at the barriers.

“I think that if I had run a little differently, I could have had that couple seconds and really had a chance at the final,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander has had a ton of success so far in the steeple — three NCAA titles and a spot on this year’s World team — but didn’t commit to the event long-term. This year, she did the steeple because the US got four spots at Worlds. But next year, the US only gets three, and there’s a firmly-established top three in Coburn, Frerichs, and Colleen Quigley. She said her event choice in 2020 will be dictated by the same logic as this year: which event gives her the best chance to make the team. 

Quick Take: Colleen Quigley elaborated about her injury

Quigley appeared on the NBCSN broadcast of the race and talked about why she withdrew from Worlds at the last minute. She said she has “bone damage” in her hip that a doctor thought could turn around and get better quickly at any point between two and six weeks. However, it never happened so she pulled the plug on Worlds even though she ran 30 minutes yesterday.

Quigley’s late withdrawal wasn’t made in time for alternate Marisa Howard to replace her: MB: Quigley officially scratched – Alternate Marisa Howard will NOT be competing, never even heard from USATF.

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