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Coburn Wins 3rd US Steeple Title in Meet Record

COBURN SETS MEET RECORD, CAPTURES THIRD NATIONAL TITLE
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

SACRAMENTO
(28-Jun) — Blistering hot temperatures here at Hornet Stadium were no
match for Emma Coburn, as the 23-year-old sped her way to a third
national title in the 3000m steeplechase. Establishing a new meet
record of 9:19.72, Coburn solidified her spot as America’s best
steeplechaser with a convincing, 50-meter win.

As temperatures
hovered around 90F (32C), Coburn took to the track determined to claim
her third national crown in four years. Racing a step behind fellow
Team New Balance athletes Nicole Bush and Stephanie Garcia in the
opening laps, Coburn waited patiently before it was time to go.

“I’m
not always very comfortable running in the heat, so my plan going into
the race was to be pretty conservative and to run with the group for at
least the first half,” said Coburn. “But with three and a half laps to
go I felt great off the water jump. Right at three and a half laps to
go I kind of took over.”

Propelling herself clear of the water pit, Coburn threw in an aggressive surge that instantly broke up the field.

Completing
her sixth circuit of the track in 73.7 seconds, Coburn had edged away
from Ashley Higginson and Garcia, both of whom tried valiantly to match
Coburn’s intensity.

Sensing her challengers fading behind,
Coburn threw in successive knockout laps of 72.9 and 71.6 to finish off
the race, creating a gap of about half a straightaway in the process.
Cruising down the homestretch, she’d finish in a new meet record of
9:19.72, shattering Anna Willard’s 2008 best of 9:27.59. It was the
fourth-fastest time ever for an American.

“When I saw my time
at the end I was really surprised because my last 400 I wasn’t even
really pressing that hard,” said Coburn, who was raised in Crested
Butte, Colo. “I felt really relaxed and was pleasantly surprised with
the time.”

As is her style, Coburn looked completely in control
of her effort throughout the contest, her smooth stride fluent over
each barrier and water jump.

Coburn believes breaking 9:20 in
today’s heat is an indicator of good things to come. She’ll race next
at the IAAF Diamond League in Paris on July 5, and hopes to come closer
–perhaps eclipse– Boulder training partner Jenny Simpson’s 2009
American record of 9:12.50.

“I’m not great in the heat so I
think running 9:19 here shows that I’m in much better shape than when I
ran 9:19 in Shanghai [on May 18],” she said. “I don’t really know what
to expect from this season. I just hope to continue to PR and be
competitive on the world stage.”

Higginson, representing
Saucony and the New Jersey/New York Track Club, came across the line
second in a personal best of 9:27.59. Garcia was third in 9:32.76.

With
Higginson’s time, all three of the podium finishers have dipped under
the 9:30 barrier this year (Garcia ran 9:28.96 at the adidas Grand Prix
on June 14).

“It’s exciting that the whole field is kind of
rising to the occasion and getting a little bit more competitive. I’m
excited about it,” said Coburn.

Higginson credited Coburn for the fast times seen in the discipline recently.

“The
steeple is so exciting to watch this year and I’m glad I was a part of
it. It’s cool we are getting respect, and hats off to Emma for creating
that respect and having us so motivated to try and clip her heals as
long as we can. She’s world class,” said Higginson. “She’s just so cool
and composed. It’s great.”

MANZANO SPRINTS TO VICTORY

In
the men’s 1500m final, Leo Manzano showed the flat-out sprinting speed
that brought him an Olympic silver medal in 2012, winning his second
outdoor national 1500m title in 3:38.63.

Manzano, 29, from Austin, Texas, spent most of the race back in the pack. He said later that he hadn’t planned to run that way.

“The
overall strategy was to be somewhere in the front. Unfortunately, it
didn’t quite pan out,” Manzano told the media, looking slightly
embarrassed.

With about 300 meters to go and the pace heating
up, Manzano found himself well behind leaders Pat Casey, Lopez Lomong
and Will Leer. He was nervous, but didn’t panic.

“I was a
little bit worried after 800 meters,” Manzano admitted. He had planned
to be “a little further ahead,” he said. “Once I saw that nothing was
literally opening up, I started to get a little nervous.”

Deftly
moving through the field, Manzano hit his top gear through the turn. He
ripped down the homestretch at Hornet Stadium in the blazing sun,
completing a 52.7 second final lap. He raised his right index finger as
he broke the tape.

“You know, it’s a blessing,” Manzano said of
his victory. “As you guys know, I spent a year and a half without a
sponsor. Probably, the roughest year.”

Casey, who had the lead
coming out of the final bend, was a clear second in 3:38.94. Lomong was
just able to hold off Will Leer to take third. Both men were timed in
3:39.11, but officials said Lomong had a 6/1000ths of a second
advantage over Leer at the tape.

With his victory here today, Manzano now has five national titles: 1500m indoors and outdoors twice, and the road mile in 2014.

Middle
distance action here in Sacramento continues tomorrow on the fifth and
final day of these championships with 800m finals for both men and
women, 1500m final for women, and the 3000m steeplechase final for men.

PHOTO:
Emma Coburn leads Ashley Higginson and Stephanie Garcia on her way to
winning her third USA steeplechase title in a championships record
9:19.72.

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