EUGENE, Ore. — University of New Mexico alumna Courtney Frerichs advanced to the 2016 Summer Olympics on Thursday night after finishing in second place in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The reigning NCAA champion and NCAA record holder in the steeplechase, Frerichs ran a lifetime-best time of 9 minutes, 20.92 seconds at Hayward Field in Eugene, securing the requisite top-three finish needed to advance to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Frerichs, who now runs professionally for the Bowerman Track Club, will be joined by American record holder Emma Coburn, who won Thursday’s race, and Bowerman teammate Colleen Quigley.
“I am just ecstatic right now,” Frerichs said. “This year couldn’t have gone more perfect, and to top it with this. To be with these two girls (Coburn and Quigley), I’m just so happy.”
After transferring from the University of Missouri-Kansas City last August, Frerichs posted a strong season, winning the NCAA team title in cross country and capturing an individual steeplechase title in record time as a Lobo.
She continued to shine in rainy conditions at Hayward Field, rallying for one of the coveted top-three finishes on the final lap of the seven-lap race.
The Missouri native opened the event near the middle of the 14-runner pack, eventually moving up to fourth place through five laps.
She fell back to fifth place with just two laps left, but closed the gap late, passing Leah O’Connor and Stephanie Garcia, who tripped over the final barrier on the homestretch, on the bell lap.
Frerichs’ time is a personal record by nearly four seconds, topping her previous best of 9:24.41, which she ran for the NCAA title last month.
She moves to fourth in American history with that mark.
Frerichs is also the seventh UNM track & field athlete to make the Olympics, and the first from the women’s side.
The other UNM Olympians are Americans Buster Charles (1932), Dick Howard (1960) and Gary Kinder (1988); Australian Simon Arkell (1992); and Trinidadian Michael Solomon (1976, 1980) and Jarrin Solomon (2012).
The first round of the steeplechase at the Olympics Games is Aug. 13 with the finals two days later on Aug. 15.