RIO DE JANEIRO — Former University of New Mexico runner Courtney Frerichs achieved a major goal on Saturday morning, comfortably qualifying for the Olympic finals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Frerich’s time of 9 minutes, 27.02 seconds was good for third best in her heat and the 12th best time in the preliminaries. Fifteen runners advance to the finals, which will be run on Monday at 8:15 a.m. MT.
She is one of three Americans who qualified for the finals along with Emma Coburn and Colleen Quigley.
Frerichs opened the race near the back of the 18-athlete prelim, but slowly moved up into the lead pack after four laps. She briefly took the lead with two laps to go, but throttled back on the bell lap with an automatic bid to the finals already well in hand.
Her time on Saturday is her fourth under 9:30 since May, which includes the NCAA record (9:24.41) and runner-up honors at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (personal-record 9:20.92).
Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet ran the top time in the prelims (9:12.62) running in heat one, while Coburn, who ran third place overall (9:18.12) and Quigley (9:21.82) also secured finals berths.
Frerichs, who spent the past year at UNM as a graduate transfer, also was a part of UNM’s national championship cross country team before winning the NCAA steeplechase title during the outdoor season.
On July 15, Frerichs talked to Albuquerque media (see video below) about qualifying for the Olympics and the possibility of advancing to the final as well as the prospects of using these Olympics games as a springboard for the 2020 Olympics.
“First goal will be to get to the final,” Frerichs said in July. “I’ll have to put together a really good race to (move) on. Then from there, if I get to the final, just challenge myself. I think I got a good taste of a championship style race at the (U.S.) Trials and ended up handling it okay, so if it’s that style of race, anything can happen.”
MILLINGTON: Former Lobo Ross Millington placed 31st in the finals of the men’s 10,000-meter run Saturday evening.