This was my first trip to the Portland Distance Classic. And I am so happy that I visited the 13th Portland Distance Classic. The team that puts on this meet has paid attention to all details, and watching a track meet, as a media person, from the stands and by the track, was welcome!
Friday night was dedicated to the 3000m steeplechase and 10,000m athletes. Some fine performances and we will discuss and highlight them here. This piece is on the steeplechase, one of our most iconic events, and one with such history.
Courtney Frerichs takes off, 2021 Portland Track Classic, May 28, 2021, photo by Kathy Camara
Men’s Steeplechase: It’s Mason Ferlic!
This has been an exciting season for Mason Ferlic. We watched him win a 5000m at the Miles of Trials in late February 2021. We watched Mason win at the USATF GP on April 24, 2021, in the steeplechase. Mason Ferlic competes for Tracksmith.
Ferlic fights it out.
@masonferlic runs a scorching 8:18.80 in the men’s steeplechase.@benard3000 also dips under the Olympic Standard, with @spmcgorty12 getting third in his second steeple ever.
ðŸ“¸: @OttoHoriuchi #PortlandTrack pic.twitter.com/d9OoCSnUbq
— TrackTown USA (@GoTrackTownUSA) May 29, 2021
On Friday night, we watched Mason, never far out of the top three, use a 61.4 last lap to win the Men’s Steeplechase in 8:18.79. In second was Bernard Keter/ US Army, who moved up from fifth and took second in 8:20.40.
Taking third was Sean McGorty, who, in his second steeplechase ever, took third in 8:22.75. Twelve men made it under the 8:32.00 U.S. Olympic Trials steeple standard.
In the stands, I was able to speak with Craig Huff, nephew of Ivan Huff (5th in 1984 Oly Trials steeplechase, 6th in 1988 Oly Trials, PB of 8:16.59). Craig ran 8:36.59 and wants to come back to Portland next week, at the Stumptown classic, to take 4.6 seconds off his PB and make the Oly Trials standards of 8:32.00. Craig Huff, a San Jose State graduate, is coached by his uncle, Ivan Huff.
The steeplechase is 7 1/2 laps of water jumps, barriers, and controlling one’s pace and emotions. It mimics the military messengers of old, and is a great tradition in the US, with Horace Ashenfelter winning the gold in 1952, George Young taking bronze in 1968, Brian Diemer taking bronze in 1984, and Evan Jager taking silver in the 2016 Olympics and bronze in London 2017 WC.
As an aside, I was in the stands in Paris in 2015, with my brother, Brian, watching the AREVA meeting as Evan Jager ran his 8:00.45. An almost perfect race, even with his stumble. Evan was chasing the stars.
.@courtfrerichs8 took another win last night at the Portland Track Festival, clocking 9:21.73 in the 3000m steeplechase, while fellow Kimbia and @BowermanTC athlete @spmcgorty12 finished third in the men’s steeple in 8:22.75.ðŸ‘
ðŸ“¸Cortney White pic.twitter.com/8diE3Z0aAb
— KIMbia Athletics (@kimbia) May 29, 2021
The women’s steeplechase: it’s Courtney’s world, we just live in it.
I’ve noted for some time, the two best women steeplers in the US are Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs.
On Friday night, we were lucky enough to watch Courtney, in her second steeple of the 2021 campaign, just do it.
Mel Lawrence, Lizzie Bird, Sara Vaugh and Valerie Constein battled the entire race. By 1500m, Courtney Frerichs, using clean hurdling and just pushing the pace, for example, 74 seconds 1400m to 1800m, then 72 seconds, 1800m to 2200m, 71 seconds, 2200m t0 2600m.
Over the final 400m, Courtney Frerichs cemented her win, using a 69-second last lap to take the win in an SB 9:21.13. Courtney, the AR in the steeplechase competes for the Bowerman Track Club. Truth is, the race was never in doubt for Courtney, who looks fit, and ran with confidence that this writer has not seen before with Ms. Frerichs. She can run 8:55, and so can Emma Coburn. The steeple Olympic Trials final should be epic for women!
Not one, not two, not three, BUT FOUR women under the Olympic Standard in the steeplechaseðŸ¤¯@courtfrerichs8 9:21.13
Valerie Constein 9:25.53@lizziebird94 9:26.73@mellawrence29 9:27.34
ðŸ“¸: @OttoHoriuchi #PortlandTrack pic.twitter.com/v26gv7szN0
— TrackTown USA (@GoTrackTownUSA) May 29, 2021
The battle for second ended with Valerie Contein moving from 4th to second, finishing in 9:25.53! Valerie competes for Tracksmith.
Lizzie Bird, ASICS/Idaho Afoot, took third in 9:26.73. Mel Lawrence, competing for Oiselle, finishing 4th in 9:27.43 was 4th. Sara Vaughn, competing for &Mother/NYAC, moved from 11th to 5th in 9:38.52.
Nine women made the Olympic Trials standard of 9:50.00.
The steeplechase in the U.S. for women was changed in 2016 with Emma Coburn’s bronze Olympic medal. In 2017, Emma Coburn took gold and Courtney Frerichs took the silver in the steeplechase, in London, giving us one of the most wonderful surprises in American track & field history. It should not have been a surprise. Since 1992, when we put Carla Borovika on the cover of American Athletics and got chastizing mail, this writer has known with the speed, endurance, and focus of American women, we could battle the best in this event, and we do.
On to Eugene!
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