bridget franek

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon’s Hayward Field is starting to feel like home to the University of Colorado’s Emma Coburn.

The heavily favored 21-year-old redshirt took over the lead in the women’s steeplechase final less than one lap into the race and never relinquished it, winning her first Olympic Trials title in 9 minutes, 32.78 seconds. The Oregon Track Club’s Bridget Franek, who finished second to Coburn at last year’s national championships also held here, was runner-up again, crossing the finish line in 9:35.62. She was followed closely by Coburn’s collegiate teammate, Shalaya Kipp, who was clocked in 9:35.73. All three women, who came in under the Olympic “A” standard of 9:43, qualified for their first Olympic team.

“I’ve had this goal since last year,” said Coburn, who also won the 2011 NCAA steeplechase title at Hayward Field. ”This was a goal that I was really hungry to achieve and I just feel so blessed that I have a chance to run with these women in London and represent Team USA with all the other great athletes here.”

Coburn moved to the front just before completing the first full circuit around the track and kept everyone behind her the rest of the way. Delilah DiCrescenzo, third at last year’s national championships, ran in second for most of the race’s first half before fading and finishing seventh. Franek kept herself in third or fourth place for the early part of the race before moving into second with three laps to go, a position she held all the way to the tape.

“It was warm out there, warmer than I expected,” revealed Franek, who moved to Oregon after finishing up her collegiate career at Penn State in 2010. “I definitely gave more than I have in any race this season so far. It was really good to be able to do that on the one that mattered. I moved out here away from my family and friends back east for this reason and do do that for them, for my coach, for myself, for my God, is just amazing.”

Kipp, who this spring won the NCAA championship while Coburn redshirted to focus on her Olympic preparation, needed an Olympic “A” standard time of under 9:43.00 (her previous personal best was 9:43.09) in addition to a top-three finish in order to make the team. While not totally confident that it would happen on this night, she trusted in her training and the encouragement of her coach, Mark Wetmore, who told her last winter that an Olympic berth this summer wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

“Training has gone well,” Kipp said. “I’m so fortunate to be able to train with Emma and I have fantastic coaches that helped me get here. I’m really excited.”