Emma Coburn lighting up the track in division one comps

Seventh-fastest in the NCAA in steeplechase

Former Crested Butte Titan track star Emma Coburn set a new junior American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and is the seventh-ranked steeplechase athlete in the NCAA Division I.

Coburn is on a meteoric pace in her first year of running at the University of Colorado.
“She’s having a very good spring but she’s not done yet,” says CU track and field head coach Mark Wetmore.
Coburn admits that coming into the prestigious Division I track and field program as a freshman with a full-ride scholarship was a bit unnerving.
“When I first got here I was hugely intimidated,” says Coburn. “I thought, what if I fail?”
Coburn spent the fall season running cross-country and commenced her pre-season workouts with the coaches to bring her into the collegiate fold for her first season of track and field.
“The coaches have been great,” says Coburn. “They gave me the perfect workouts.”
While Coburn competes in the 800 meters, 1,500 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, her premier event is the steeplechase.
Her first collegiate test in the steeplechase came at the Potts Invitational at CU on March 21.
Coburn’s introduction was a bit more than she expected. When racing at the high school level, she was often in front with just two or three competitors around her over the jumps. Running at the collegiate level, Coburn found herself clearing hurdles and the water barrier surrounded by her peers.
“It gets crazy going over the jumps,” says Coburn. “That was a huge shock. My form over the barriers was awful.”
Nonetheless, Coburn still managed to post a time of 10:50.34, qualifying her for the Midwest Regionals.
With the initial shock subsided, Coburn improved on her form and knocked 34 seconds off her time at the Mt. SAC Relays a month later, running the 3,000-meter course in a time of 10:16.54, but it didn’t come easy.
“I was on a 10:10 pace through two kilometers, but my legs gave out,” says Coburn. “I wasn’t used to that pace and I’ve never been in that much pain.”
With two races under her belt, Coburn headed off to California to run in the steeplechase at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University on Saturday, May 2.
The race brought in a handful of collegiate runners as well as the top professional steeplechase athletes in the nation, most of whom were twice Coburn’s age, an age gap that tends to favor athletes in the steeplechase.
“The event favors older folks,” says Wetmore.
Despite the field of competitors, Coburn remained focused on her personal time rather than on her finish.
“It’s a little intimidating being on the line with all of the professionals,” says Coburn. “I didn’t mentally freak out as much. The front pack took off and I took the lead in the chase pack and just tried to click off my splits and I was able to maintain my pace. I wasn’t going for place.”
Coburn finished in 11th place overall, third out of the college runners in attendance, with a new personal record time of 10:06.54. Her time set a new junior American record and moved her up to seventh overall in the NCAA rankings. In addition, Coburn qualified for the United States Track Championships later in the summer.
Coburn now has her sights set on the Big 12 conference championships in mid-May.
“Hopefully I can score some points for the team,” says Coburn.
Then it’s off to the Midwest Regionals at the end of May for a shot at qualifying for the NCAA championships, a rare feat for a freshman, especially in the steeplechase.
“There aren’t many freshmen that make it to the championships,” says Wetmore.
Coburn has a shot in one of two ways. First, she can qualify by finishing in the top five at the regionals, although, according to Wetmore, that may be a bit difficult this season.
“Unfortunately, her region is loaded,” says Wetmore.
“Our region has the top five women in the country,” adds Coburn.
Or, if she misses the top-five spot, her overall national ranking still may provide her a way into the NCAA championships.
“She’s still alive on the National list,” says Wetmore. “She’s got a real good shot.”
Additionally, Coburn is posting times right now that rival the efforts of her teammate, senior CU runner Jenny Barringer, when Barringer was a freshman.
Barringer won the USA steeplechase title in 2007 and was on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, breaking her own American record with her ninth-place finish in the Beijing final.
“Emma is faster at this point in her career than Jenny was,” says Wetmore.
“It’s all going really well,” says Coburn. “I feel like I’m just getting better and better.”

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