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By Chris Lotsbom, Race Results Weekly
(12-July) — With no distance finals being contested today at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, preliminary heats of the men’s 3000m steeplechase and 800m, as well as the women’s 1500m, took center stage in the morning session at Olympic Stadium. Among those advancing in their respective disciplines were medal favorites Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, Mary Cain, Jessica Judd, Conseslus Kipruto and Jamal Hairane.
Kenya’s Kipyegon, the world junior leader and third place finisher at the Kenyan Olympic trials in the 1500m, easily advanced by winning her heat in 4:10.17, more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Jessica Judd. At 18-years-old, Kipyegon has already run 4:03.82, doing so at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting. More recently, Kipyegon clocked 4:08.53 at altitude to place on the podium at the Kenyan Olympic Trials.
“I’m happy to be here for the 1500 and they selected me for both the World Juniors and London Championships,” Kipyegon told the IAAF on Monday.
In Barcelona, the very studious Kipyegon –news outlets have reported that she even took her schoolbooks to the meeting so she wouldn’t fall behind on her studies– taught the rest of the competitors a harsh lesson: watch out for me in Sunday’s final.
“My personal best is 4:03 but I am sure that here I will run under 4:02,” Kipyegon told the IAAF earlier this week.
Not a rookie to world competitions, Kipyegon was victorious at both the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships and the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2011.
Also advancing in the 1500m was Ethiopia’s Senbere Tefere, who won her heat in 4:10.78, and Kenya’s Nancy Chepkwemoi, also taking her qualifying heat in 4:13.43.
American Mary Cain finished third behind Kipyegon in heat 1, advancing with a time of 4:14.77. The 16-year-old from Bronxville, N.Y. is coming off of her first U.S. Olympic Trials experience.
“I felt really good,” Cain told USATF. “I started going out with the girls in 65, 66, and then I said to myself, ‘This is not my race.’ It’s a different pace that what I’m used to, and I know I have a kick to mess with, so I played the game differently after the first lap or so. I’m excited about getting to the final – it was my goal. Now it is time to cool down – one down, one to go.”
Cain is also the youngest representative from the United States at the championships.
“The older kids on this team have treated me so well. They’re like my best friends now. It’s been such an amazing experience. During the warm-up when I was freaking out they were like, ‘You got this!’ and in the stands now I can hear them. They’ve been so supportive,” she recounted, according to USATF.
Finishing in between Cain and Kipyegon was Britain’s Judd, yesterday’s 800m silver medalist.
“I love this track and I find it so hard getting away from it, my coach asked me if I wanted to run today and I had little trouble deciding,” Judd told UK Athletics. She will be competing in her fifth race of the meeting come Sunday’s final. “To get through to the final is amazing – some people are delighted to make one final, and I have made two already.”
Judd continued, “I am in the shape of my life and who knows what I could do in the final. Pressure is off, I will need to prove my worth just like I did in the 800m.”
Not advancing was American Hannah Meier, who finished tenth in her heat with a time of 4:31.20.
In the men’s steeplechase prelims, a pair of Kenyan’s kept their country’s dominance in the event alive, sweeping the heats with two victories. Gilbert Kirui and Conselus Kipruto advanced with ease, each clocking times in excess of ten seconds ahead of their next closest competitors. Kenya has won each of the 3000m steeplechase gold medals awarded in the twelve previous editions of the IAAF World Junior Championships.
American Eddie Owens finished sixth in 8:52.99 behind Kirui, advancing on to Sunday’s final. Owen’s, who attends Princeton University, will try to continue what has been a fantastic summer for the school’s steeplechasers. Former teammate and recent graduate Donn Cabral became an Olympian after finishing third in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Also contested was the first round of the men’s 800m. Fastest overall was Qatar’s Jamal Hairane in 1:47.61. Hairane may have been pushed to such a fast time thanks to Ethiopia’s Jena Umar, who took the pace out very hard and split 51.67 through 400m, far ahead of the rest of the field. Umar ended up succumbing to his early pace, caught by Hairane. But the 16-year-old did advance, finishing second in 1:47.80.
Nijel Amos, the world junior leader in the event, won heat 2 in 1:48.31. His personal best is 1:43.11, one of only two men who have gone under 1:44 entered in the competition. The other is Kenya’s Timothy Kitum (1:43.94), who also won his section.
The lone American to qualify for the semi-finals was Shaquille Walker, who squeaked in on time thanks to his 1:49.55 run.
For the final two days of competition, only evening sessions will be contested. Tomorrow, the men’s 800m semi-final will be run, as will the men’s 5000m final. Sunday, the championships will conclude with the finals of the women’s 1500m, men’s 800m and 3000m steeplechase.
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission