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Ex-Lobo Frerichs sets U.S. steeplechase record

MONACO — Mission accomplished for Beatrice Chepkoech, who set out to break the 3,000-meter steeplechase world record and smashed it by more than eight seconds Friday.

Meanwhile, in her slipstream, setting the American record in the event, was former New Mexico Lobo Courtney Frerichs.

In a race that featured six of the top eight women’s steeplechase runners in the history of the event, Chepkoech clocked 8 minutes, 44.32 seconds at the Herculis Diamond League meeting, becoming the first Kenyan woman to hold the 3,000 steeplechase world record. The previous mark was 8:52.78 set by Ruth Jebet of Bahrain two years ago in Paris.

In the defining performance of her career, Frerichs, 25, was a distant runner-up but crossed in 9:00.85. The 2016 Olympian shaved nearly two seconds off the American record that Emma Coburn had set, which was 9:02.58. The 2016 national titlist in the steeple, Frerichs bested her PR, which entering the race was 9:03.77.

Frerichs is officially the sixth-fastest woman in the steeplechase in history.

Frerichs said in a postrace interview that she knew she’d be close to the mark.

“With 300 to go, I really thought I was going to dip under (nine minutes), but I think I was just running so fast I felt like a little out of control,” she said, according to Runner’s World. “And so there are some things I need to keep working on. But I’m really happy with how I executed today.”

Frerichs is from Nixa, Mo., and lives in Portland, Ore. She transferred to UNM from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and helped the Lobos to the 2015 NCAA cross-country championship, finishing fourth individually.

She also won the NCAA 2016 outdoor national title in the steeplechase for the Lobos, becoming the NCAA record holder with a time of 9:24.41. Shortly after, she advanced to the 2016 Olympic steeplechase finals in Rio de Janeiro and finished 11th overall in 9:22.87.

Frerichs also won the steeplechase silver medal in the 2017 world championships.