Brittney Reese

Emma Coburn leads shocking U.S. steeplechase one-two (video)

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The U.S. distance running boom in one image:

Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs clearing the final barrier and dashing to the 3000m steeplechase finish line at the world championships. Behind them, four gassed Kenyan-born runners unable to keep pace.

Coburn and Frerichs went one-two in one of the biggest shocks at a surprise-filled worlds in London. It’s the first time Americans earned gold and silver in an individual Olympics or worlds race longer than 400 meters since the 1912 Stockholm Games.

“Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?” Frerichs repeated to Coburn.

Coburn, a bronze medalist in Rio as part of a dazzling U.S. team distance effort, emerged Friday from the greatest field in the event’s history to become the first American woman to take steeple gold at the Olympics or worlds.

“I thought, on a perfect day, I can sneak on the podium and get third,” said Coburn, who switched coaches to her fiancé after grabbing one of seven U.S. distance medals in Rio (most since 1912). “As we all know, I came in ranked sixth on time  [in the world this year], ranked fifth of people in the final.”

Coburn clocked 9:02.58, taking five seconds off her American record. Frerichs, 11th in Rio, also went under the existing American record in 9:03.77. Frerichs chopped 15 seconds off her previous best time.

“I didn’t even expect a medal to be a possibility,” she said.

Coburn and Frerichs embraced and dropped to the track together as the Kenyan-born women trickled in. A truly shocking image.

“I don’t think it’s family friendly what I said to Courtney,” Coburn said. “Holy guacamole is the PG version.”

As recently as four years ago, the U.S. put nobody into the 15-woman worlds final, while Kenyans and Ethiopians grabbed the first six places. In 2014, the East Africans let Coburn run away with a Diamond League victory in Shanghai, reportedly thinking she was a pacemaker.

By Rio, the U.S. had medal contenders in both steeplechases and at every distance. Americans came home with medals in the 800m (first since 1992), 1500m (first gold since 1908), 3000m steeplechase (first since 1984), 5000m (first since 1964) and marathon.

Steeplechase is the most recent surge.

Evan Jager took silver in Rio, in addition to Coburn’s bronze. Before Jager, the U.S. went 15 years without a top-10 in the men’s steeple at worlds and the Olympics.

The women’s steeple only recently joined the Olympic and worlds program (2008 and 2005). Before Coburn, the U.S. had a best finish of fifth in an Olympic or world women’s steeple.

“We’ve been through the ringer, and it just takes a few years before you really get out there feeling like it’s your race,” Coburn said. “I can’t totally explain why Team USA is crushing, but I think consistency has a lot to do with it.”

Kenyan Hyvin Jepkemoi took bronze Friday after getting silver in Rio, continuing that nation’s steeple medal streak, but her countrywomen struggled. The last time a Kenyan man or woman failed to make an Olympic or world steeple podium was 1987.

“I did all I could to win that race,” Jepkemoi said, according to the IAAF, “but they were stronger.”

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain (formerly Kenya) faded badly on the final lap. She gave up the lead at the bell and ended up 11 seconds behind Coburn in fifth.

Kenyan 18-year-old Celliphine Chespol, who in May ran the second-fastest time ever despite stopping to fix her shoe, faded behind the top five on the penultimate lap. She ended up sixth.

Another Kenyan, Rio fourth-place finisher Beatrice Chepkoech, momentarily forgot the first water jump and had to retrace her steps. She recovered for fourth place but could not match the final sprints of Coburn and Frerichs.

In other events, Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers repeated as world 200m champion in 22.05 seconds. She edged Marie-Josee Ta Lou by .03. The Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo took bronze. The field lacked Olympic and world 100m champions Elaine Thompson and Tori Bowie, who skipped the event.

Brittney Reese won her fourth long jump world title with a 7.02-meter leap. Reese, who bagged every global title from 2009 through 2013, tore a hip labrum in late 2013. She failed to make the 2015 Worlds final. She considered retiring, “plenty of times.” But Reese came back to win the 2016 World Indoor title and a silver medal in Rio.

On Friday, Reese prevailed by two centimeters over Darya Klishina, the only Russian track and field athlete allowed into Rio, who competed in London as an authorized neutral athlete as her nation is still banned due to its poor anti-doping record.

On the back of her bib, Reese had written “RIP Paw Paw” in remembrance of her grandfather who died last month.

“My grandfather is the reason why I’m in track,” she told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “I put his name on my bib to have him close to my heart.”

Rio gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta snuck in for bronze by one centimeter with her last jump. Serbian Ivana Španović appeared to leap greater than seven meters on her final attempt, which could have gotten her gold, but was given a 6.91-meter mark. It appeared the bib on her back came unhitched and grazed the sand ahead of the rest of her body.

World-record holder Keni Harrison nearly missed the 100m hurdles final, hitting the first hurdle with her lead leg in her semi. She was the last qualifier into Saturday’s eight-woman final by one hundredth of a second.

Harrison, from a family of 11 children, is undefeated since shockingly missing the Rio team by placing sixth at the Olympic Trials.

Rio gold medalist Brianna Rollins is not at worlds, suspended after missing three drug tests in the last year.

All of the favorites advanced to Sunday’s women’s 800m final. That field is led by Caster Semenya, who earned 1500m bronze on Monday and hasn’t lost an 800m in nearly two years.

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, eyeing his fourth straight world title, led the men to advance into Sunday’s 1500m final. Rio gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz was last in his first-round heat Thursday.

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MORE: World Championships TV schedule

Matthew Centrowitz, after ‘rock bottom,’ glad with runner-up at USAs

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Matthew Centrowitz said he hit rock bottom two weeks ago.

“I was ready to do the depressed thing that most people do,” Centrowitz, whose normal dark buzz was topped with faded blonde, said Saturday. “Bleach it like Justin Bieber.”

Back then, Centrowitz did not believe he would be racing this weekend at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The Olympic 1500m champion was sidelined for weeks due to a series of ailments.

A left adductor strain in April. A May visit to the emergency room with a viral infection similar to his 2014 bout with pericarditis. His heart rate was through the roof. Then, a right adductor tear.

“I was ready to can the season, to be honest with you,” said Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m gold medalist in 108 years. “I was like, no one’s going to see me. I’m done with my year. So I dyed it.”

The next day, people told Centrowitz that, regardless of hair color, he would be racing. At some point, he came to believe them.

So, on about 10 days of training, Centrowitz came to Sacramento to try and earn a place on the three-man world championships team.

Centrowitz did just that Saturday, finishing second to Robby Andrews in the 1500m final.

Third is as good as first,” said Centrowitz, who is going to his fourth straight worlds, seeking to complete his medal collection (bronze in 2011, silver in 2013).

Andrews, in fifth place going into the final lap, surged past Centrowitz on the last straightaway to win in 3:43.29. Centrowitz was second in 3:43.41.

“He’s been banged up, I’m not going to say it’s a true battle,” said Andrews, who was second to Centrowitz at the 2015 USATF Outdoors, 2016 USATF Indoors and 2016 Olympic Trials.

Andrews, who was disqualified in the Rio semifinals, is not yet on the team for worlds in London in August. He must still run the world championships qualification standard of 3:36.00 by July 23.

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Earlier Saturday, Allyson Felix headlined the qualifiers for Sunday’s 200m semifinals, which do not include Justin Gatlin.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.60 seconds, after shockingly failing to make the Rio Olympic team. Harrison was followed by Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali in 12.68. Also making the world team was 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper.

Harrison had not raced since May 5 after breaking her left hand in a warm-up and undergoing surgery.

“In a few more weeks, my hand will be back to normal,” said Harrison, whose world record from July is 12.20. “I’m not race sharp.”

Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson took the women’s 1500m in 4:06.33. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Kate Grace and surprise Sara Vaughn, a 31-year-old mother of three daughters.

“It’s a lot of times about squeezing in the training whenever I can do it,” Vaughn, a first-time world team member, told media in Sacramento. “It’s not always the primary focus, so coming out to Sacramento for a week and pretending to be nothing but a professional runner is kind of weird for me. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I felt extra light on the track. It brings a lot more joy to the sport when I can share it with my three daughters.”

American record holder Shannon Rowbury shockingly missed the world team, fading to eighth.

In the 400m, Fred Kerley and Quanera Hayes each won their first U.S. titles.

Kerley, who didn’t make it out of the Olympic Trials first round, won comfortably in 44.03 seconds. The NCAA champion from Texas A&M now owns the five fastest times in the world this year.

Kerley is joined on the world team by Olympian Gil Roberts (44.22), Wil London III (44.47) and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt. Merritt has a bye into worlds as the 2016 Diamond League champion, so he didn’t race the 400m in Sacramento.

Kerley and Merritt are medal contenders, though gold will be difficult against South African Wayde van Niekerk, who broke Michael Johnson‘s world record in Rio.

Hayes, who was eighth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, won the women’s 400m in 49.72 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Phyllis Francis and Kendall Ellis.

Three-time Olympian Natasha Hastings finished fourth, just missing the individual 400m world team. She also finished fourth in the Rio 400m.

Hayes, Francis and Ellis join the 2015 World champion Felix on the U.S. team in the 400m in London. They’re looking to unseat Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas.

Olympic champion Michelle Carter was upset in the shot put, finishing third behind Raven Saunders and Dani Bunch. They’re all going to worlds.

Tianna Bartoletta edged Brittney Reese in a battle of Olympic long jump champions, 7.05 meters to 6.98 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Sam Kendricks became the first American to clear six meters in the pole vault since 2008.

MORE: Gatlin gets one more shot at Bolt after surprise U.S. 100m title

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Ten women’s events to watch at Olympic Track and Field Trials

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More than 100 athletes will qualify for Rio by the end of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10 on NBC Sports.

The top three finishers per event, provided they meet the Olympic standard, are in line to go to the Games. More finishers in the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m sprints, usually the top six, make the team for the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The U.S. Olympic track and field team is always the largest in size across all sports.

This year’s squad could be favored for even more success than 2012, when it led the medal standings with 28 total and nine gold, with the Russian track and field out of the picture for now.

However, the U.S. will look to bounce back from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where it topped the medal table with 18 overall, its smallest haul since 2003. Jamaica and Kenya took more golds.

Track and Field Trials
Live Results
Daily Schedule
TV Schedule
Men’s Preview
Women’s Preview

Here are 10 women’s events to watch:

Long Jump
July 1-2
2012 Olympics: Brittney Reese (gold), Janay DeLoach (bronze), Chelsea Hayes (first round)
2015 Worlds: Tianna Bartoletta (gold), Janay DeLoach (eighth), Jasmine Todd (first round), Brittney Reese (first round)

Outlook: Bartoletta is the reigning world and national champion. But the favorite may be Reese, who won every Olympic and world title from 2009 through 2013 and has the four best U.S. marks this year. DeLoach finished behind Bartoletta and Reese at the 2015 Nationals, and in last year’s world rankings.

High Jump
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Brigetta Barrett (silver), Chaunté Lowe (sixth), Amy Acuff (first round)
2015 Worlds: Chaunté Lowe (first round)

Outlook: Lowe is the reigning national champ, but Vashti Cunningham wasn’t present at that event because she was competing in Junior Nationals. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham posted the two best American marks in 2015. So far this year, Lowe owns the three top U.S. outdoor clearances, but Cunningham’s indoor best was better. Elizabeth Patterson could push them, and so, too, could 40-year-old Amy Acuff, who seeks her sixth Olympic appearance. Barrett is retired.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Sanya Richards-Ross (gold), DeeDee Trotter (bronze), Francena McCorory (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Allyson Felix (gold), Phyllis Francis (seventh), Natasha Hastings (semifinals)

Outlook: Coming off an ankle injury, Felix’s first chance to earn a spot on her fourth Olympic team comes in the 400m, which she’s never run individually at an Olympics. But she won the world title last year after posting a personal-best 49.26. Richards-Ross won the London gold medal in 49.55 but failed to make the 2015 Nationals final and suffered a hamstring strain earlier this month. Keep an eye on Courtney Okolo, who set an NCAA record in April with a time of 49.71, second fastest in the world this year. Also in April, Quanera Hayes went 49.91.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Alysia Montaño (fifth), Alice Schmidt (semifinals), Geena Gall (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Brenda Martinez (semifinals), Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (semifinals), Alysia Montano (first round)

Outlook: The crowd favorite might be Montaño, who placed fifth in the London Olympics behind two Russians who later received lifetime doping bans. In 2014, Montano famously ran the 800m at Nationals while 34 weeks pregnant, and she won her sixth national title last year. But the actual favorite might be Ajee’ Wilson, who posted the world’s best 800m time in 2014, and the U.S.’ best in 2015 and so far in 2016. She would have been a medal contender at 2015 Worlds but pulled out due to a stress fracture in her left leg.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Carmelita Jeter (silver), Tianna Bartoletta (fourth), Allyson Felix (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Tori Bowie (bronze), English Gardner (semifinals), Jasmine Todd (semifinals)

Outlook: Jeter withdrew before Trials with a quadriceps injury that has slowed her for years. Bowie’s 10.80 in May is the second-best mark this year, and Gardner’s 10.81 is No. 3. The race is likely for the third individual Olympic berth to join Bowie and Gardner. Three other American women have also gone under 11 seconds this year.

100 Meter Hurdles
July 7-8
2012 Olympics: Dawn Harper-Nelson (silver), Kellie Wells (bronze), Lolo Jones (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Brianna Rollins (fourth), Sharika Nelvis (eighth), Dawn Harper-Nelson (semifinals), Keni Harrison (semifinals)

Outlook: Americans went 2-3-4 in this event at the 2012 Olympics, and they very well could sweep it in Rio. U.S. women posted the world’s top 15 times last year, despite missing the worlds medals, and they have the best 11 so far this year. The top four all belong to Harrison, who broke Rollins’ American record at the Pre Classic on May 28. Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers posted the world’s best 2015 times.

400 Meter Hurdles
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Lashinda Demus (silver), Georganne Moline (fifth), T’erea Brown (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Shamier Little (silver), Cassandra Tate (bronze), Kori Carter (semifinals)

Outlook: Little has owned the 400m hurdles in the U.S. since posting three of the world’s five best times last year. Included in those marks were a world silver medal and U.S. and NCAA titles. Just behind her at Worlds and Nationals, and much of the rest of the year, was Tate. These two are near-certain locks to take the top two berths to Rio. Demus will miss the Trials due to injury.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Shannon Rowbury (sixth), Morgan Uceny (11th), Jenny Simpson (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Shannon Rowbury (seventh), Jenny Simpson (11th), Lauren Johnson (semifinals), Kerri Gallagher (semifinals)

Outlook: The battle here is really for the third Olympic berth, because Rowbury and Simpson should snag the first two. Rowbury and Simpson ranked third and fourth in the world, respectively, in this event last year, and Simpson already owns a top-10 time this year. Simpson edged Rowbury at the 2015 Nationals, but Rowbury broke the American record three weeks later.

Pole Vault
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Jenn Suhr (gold), Becky Holliday (ninth), Lacy Janson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Sandi Morris (fourth), Jenn Suhr (fourth), Demi Payne (first round)

Outlook: Suhr shouldn’t have a problem getting back in the Games to defend her gold medal, but the 34-year-old will be challenged by the 23-year-old Morris. They were part of a three-way tie for fourth at last year’s Worlds. Earlier last summer, Suhr handily defeated Morris at Nationals.

200 Meters
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Allyson Felix (gold), Carmelita Jeter (bronze), Sanya Richards-Ross (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Candyce McGrone (fourth), Jeneba Tarmoh (sixth), Jenna Prandini (semifinals)

Outlook: Felix hopes to complete the 200m-400m double in Rio, but first she has to qualify in both events. This has long been her best event: defending 200m Olympic champion, two previous Olympic silvers and three world titles. She didn’t run the 200m at the 2015 Worlds as she focused on the 400m. Bowie’s 21.99 is the second-fastest in the world in 2016, and tops among Americans, but Felix hasn’t yet raced the 200m this year due to her ankle injury. Keep an eye on Ariana Washington, the Oregon freshman who swept the NCAA 100m and 200m titles; her 22.21 in the 200 is fifth in the world this year.

MORE: Olympic Track and Field Trials broadcast schedule