Running Against The Pros, by Elliott Denman, note by Larry Eder

Emma Coburn, photo by

Emma Coburn and Shalaya Kipp both made the steeplechase team. Elliott Denman focused on both, who are college students, and who held their own with the pro athletes in the field......

Shalaya Kipp, photo by

By Elliott Denman

EUGENE, Oregon
June 29, 2012

Who says the professionals own big-time track and field?

Who says the grizzled vets of the global circuit are the only guys/gals capable of carrying their Uncle Sam's hopes at the London Olympic Games in the appropriate manner?

Who says student-athletes have no chance whatsoever against the contract pros?

Emma Coburn and Shalaya Kipp, that's who.

The University of Colorado teammates drove home their point in impeccable fashion Friday at Hayward Field, running off with the 1-3 places in the women's 3000-meter steeplechase final.

Coburn, a senior, won it in 9:32.78. Kipp, a junior, ran third in 9:35.71.

Run with the Buffaloes?

Only Penn State grad Bridget Franek proved capable. She squeezed between the two to nab second in 9:35.62.  USA will have a full house in London; all three have Olympic "A" credentials.

A Tiger tried her best to run with the Buffaloes and the Nittany Lion.

Princeton alumna Ashley Higginson tried clawing her way into the battle for London,  gave it her best shot and notched an Olympic "A" of her own. But her 9:38.05 sufficed only for fourth.

With the Coburn-Kipp slam; with ex-steeplechaser/CU grad  Jenny Simpson primed to claim a 1500-meter spot; with CU grads Kara Goucher (marathon) and Dathan Ritzenhein (10,000 meters) already London-bound, the conclusion must be drawn:  Colorado coach Mark Wetmore must  know what the heck he's doing.

Wetmore, of course, is a New Jersey guy. Once upon a time, anyway.

He learned the trade working with Ed Mather, the legendary coach at Bernards High School, whose teams struck terror in the hearts of rivals for years and years.

Wetmore struck out on his own and took the Colorado job 17 years ago. It's been win-win much of the time since.

Just look at the newest Olympians for evidence.

Coburn started fast and was never headed.  In a Trials full of tight-tight distance-race finishes, hers was a relative runaway.
She was well ahead by the end of the first lap and never endangered.

When she crossed the line in 9:32.78, she was all alone.

When Kipp got to the finish just behind Franek, it was time for an all-Buff lovefest.

They hugged in celebration before grabbing their American flags and joining Franek on the traditional victory lap.
Wetmore has never been a man to extend the truth, the whole truth.
"Honestly, it went the way we hoped," he said.
With no offense to Franek: "Now they can have a roommate they can get along with over in London."
"When I saw Emma cross at 9:32, I thought, 'I'm going to get the 'A' too,"  said Kipp.
"I just went out and followed  two spectacular athletes (Coburn and Franek)," Kipp said.
 "Luckily it worked out for me."
Earlier this eventful season, Kipp won NCAA Championship and Pac-12 Championship titles in the 'chase.
When assured that she was London-bound, Kipp said "I can't believe that."
Coburn redshirted the 2012 NCAA season after winning steeplechase titles at the 2011 NCAAs
and the 2010 and 2011 Big 12 meets.
Oh, and she took the 2011 USATF crown before placing 13th at Worlds.
She "believed" all the way to Friday's finish lne.
Said Coburn: "I had faith in my training and faith in my coaches and that today was going to come together as long as I focused on doing what I know I can do."
Her focus was 20-20.
Now it's the rest of the world's turn to Run With The Buffaloes.  And one Nittany Lion.

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