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In 9:10.63, her fastest time this season, Emma Coburn won her tenth 3,000-meter steeplechase title today at the U.S. championships. Coburn has proved to be a prolific winner, with her first U.S. title in 2011—and snagging a title every year with the exception of 2013, when she didn’t compete because of a stress fracture.
“I’m very proud of that, being a 10-time U.S. champion in the same event,” Coburn said. “It feels like a lifetime achievement award. It feels special and complete. Not saying I don’t want an eleventh title.”
Coburn followed her race plan and made it look pretty easy: She surged into the lead over the final two laps and opened up a gap over the women who would ultimately finish second and third, Courtney Wayment and Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs.
“I knew I wanted to turn my brain off and think as little as possible until two laps to go,” Coburn said. “Then I slammed it and didn’t look back.”
Coburn said she could see her sizeable lead on Hayward Field’s jumbotron and she tried to “chill a bit” and maintain composure over the last lap to avoid any catastrophic barrier collisions or a messy final water pit jump. But she may have nearly let up a little too much: Wayment was closing hard. Thankfully, Coburn’s husband and coach, Joe Bosshard, was in the stands around the final turn and yelled at her to finish fast. She listened to him.
Wayment, who is the fastest performer in NCAA history, led the whole race until Coburn took over the lead. Wayment ran a four-second personal best to finish second in 9:12.10.
Wayment isn’t intimidated by Coburn and Frerichs, who finished first and second at the world championships in 2017. “I’m here to focus on myself and what I can do. I want to see what my potential is and put myself in it,” Wayment said. “I respect them. They’re incredible. But I’m just worried about myself.”
With her second place finish, Wayment qualified for her first world championships.
Frerichs finished third in 9:16.18, her fastest time this year. She’s the current American record holder in the event with an 8:57.77 from last year’s Prefontaine Classic.
“The women’s steeple is incredibly competitive,” Coburn said, substantiating why she’s proud of winning 10 times. “Racing against the collegiate record holder and the Olympic silver medalist is not easy stuff.”
Coburn wasn’t happy with her showing at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, so she’s searching for some redemption on the global stage. “I was super upset about Tokyo, but I’ll always know who I am,” she said. “I still like myself and my life. It didn’t crush me as a human.” For Coburn, a bad race isn’t the end of the world.
Coburn, 31, has been competing at a high level since college. When asked about her longevity in the sport, she said, “I eat a lot of food, and I lift weights a lot. That’s helped me stay pretty durable.”