Two young Buffs, sophomore Emma Coburn and freshman Shalaya Kipp, will compete for a national title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The dynamic duo finished 1-2 in their heat at the NCAA West Regional last month in Austin, Texas.
"This year isn`t about filling Jenny`s shoes," Coburn said. "It`s more about me and Shalaya trying to do well and work off each other."
Last year as a freshman, Coburn finished 11th at the national meet with a USA Junior record time of 10 minutes, 6.21 seconds. Barringer, the top American finisher in the steeplechase at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, won her third NCAA steeplechase title with a record time of 9:25.54.
Coburn has closed the gap on her legendary former teammate a little bit. She won the Big 12 championship with a time of 9:56.29, which broke the conference meet record held by Barringer (9:58.14) set in 2009.
"You want to improve what you do in the past," Coburn said of her expectations for this year`s NCAA championships. "I want to finish in the top eight because that`s where you`re automatically an All-American. ...
"I was just happy to win the Big 12 championship. A lot of the good steeplechasers are in the Big 12.
Kipp won Utah high school state championships in cross country, the 1,600 and 3,200. Once she arrived in Boulder from Salt Lake City, CU head coach Mark Wetmore had her try steeplechase.
"I was definitely surprised because I didn`t know much about it. I was thinking I was going to be a 5K and 10K runner," Kipp said. "Once I started getting recruited I started following what Jenny was doing. I think the success we`re having this year shows we have good coaches who know what they`re doing."
Coburn and Kipp will have the advantage of teamwork on their side if they both advance beyond Thursday`s semifinal to Saturday`s final.
"Having Emma around is very helpful," Kipp said. "In the regional I was able to stay right behind her and have confidence going over the water jumps because she knew what she was doing."
SMU`s Silje Fjortoft ran the best regional time (10:08.20) in the third and final heat. But Coburn and Kipp were just trying to survive the Texas heat and advance to the NCAA meet.
"They ran exactly as we instructed them to get through in difficult conditions," Wetmore said. "It was another hot, muggy night (in Austin). They kept hitting their splits and advanced easily."
The events are sold out for the NCAA championships, which will be run on the University of Oregon`s famous Hayward Field.
"I think it`s going to be really fun. I raced a 1,500 there my freshman year in a random meet (the Oregon Relays) and it was still a spectacle," Coburn said. "I`m excited to see the full stands and watch all of the races. There`s going to be a lot of energy there."
And an opportunity for CU to win another national title in Barringer`s signature event.
"Shalaya is right on my heels," Coburn said. "With us doing well this year the steeplechase might shift from Jenny`s event to being known as a CU women`s event."