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What does Marion Jones have to do with the steeplechase?
(posted on 05/27/10 at 12:10 pm CDT, updated on 06/03/10 at 3:41 pm CDT)
Marion Jones is in the news again. I read an article about her first WNBA start and it reminded me of my first and only run-in with the former "Fastest Women in the World".
In 2001, the women's steeplechase was added to NCAA's for the first time, and I was hyper focused on making it to Oregon for the inaugural year. And I came so close. I'm sure I cried a little when we found out I had just missed qualifying. Coach Rinker probably said something like "Suck it up, you'll be fine, let's go to work." I had qualified for the USATF meet with my 10:30-something, so we went through another hard training cycle to get ready for my first USA's. My teammate Cindy had also made the cut, and we were both giddy and wide-eyed when we arrived in Eugene for the first time (although we didn't appreciate the flight attendant questioning whether we were old enough to sit in the exit row).
Cut to the preliminary heats. Cindy and I were nervous as hell (although not as amped as we had been for our first steeplechase when, due to what I call "extreme water barrier anxiety," we chopped off our hair with kiddie scissors). I remember watching the heat before mine and seeing this girl in purple from Weber State absolutely kill it (more about her later). Cindy and I ran in the second heat of three. The race felt fluid and easy, and I crossed the line in 10:19, a huge PR. Although Cindy did not have a great race, she was excited for me. I had made the final!
The day of the final I was unusually calm. After warming up, I was waiting near the warm up track, and I saw the girl the from Weber State winding her way across the warm up area toward the port-a-potties. I went back to stretching, trying to stay focused on my own race rather than watching Marion Jones warm up for hers. I had almost forgotten about the steepler from Weber State.
The door to the port-a-potty opened toward her right and she stepped out. At the same instant, Ms. Jones burst out of the blocks with her head down. And she RAN OVER Rebecca from Weber State. I don't remember exactly what happened in the moments right afterward, but I do know that Rebecca ran in the final, despite being run over by Marion Jones. I never raced her again, so I don't know what happened to Rebecca, but, girl, I saw that happen!
On a side note: The final went really well for me. My coach told me to just go for it and have fun, and I ended up running 10:12, finishing 10th in my first USATF championships. I was inspired to train like hell over the summer instead of working on my tan like usual, and that day marked the beginning of a great year.
Also: The date for my steeple clinic is still in the works, but I am working with a few fledgling steeplers who have contacted me recently. If anyone else is interested, please email me at:
*There will be a 2000m steeplechase at the Milestat Elite Gala on Saturday June 12, 2010 at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, VA. Entry info is at:
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