Emma Coburn and UMKC product Courtney Frerichs pulled off an unlikely and historic 1-2 finish for the United States in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the World Track and Field Championships on Friday.
Until Friday, no American woman had won a medal in this event at the world championships.
Coburn grabbed the gold in a championship-record of 9 minutes, 2.58 seconds. She took the lead for good at the final water jump and kicked for home to claim the gold.
Frerichs, a native of Nixa, Mo., finished 1.19 seconds behind, holding off defending champion Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya in a sprint to the end.
Frerichs entered the world championships with a personal-best time of 9:19.09; she ran a blistering 9:03.77 Friday.
“My coach (Jerry Schumacher) had told me to just go for it,” Frerichs told NBC after the race. “He told me that Emma races smart and that could get me in a good position to maybe crack the top five or six and hopefully get a good time.
“I felt very comfortable following her (Coburn). I know her form is great. I knew she was going to execute an awesome race and there was just such an extreme level of comfort.”
Frerichs also competed in the steeplechase in last year’s Rio Olympics, placing 11th.
Coburn counts as one of her coaches Heather Burroughs, a renowned runner at the Pembroke Hill School and an All-America at the University of Colorado, where she now coaches.
Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya, the third best performer this year, was running in the lead at the start when she missed the turn for the water jump on the inside of the track and had to go back. She made a strong comeback but faded in the final lap.