It's on to the finals for Jenny Simpson.

The Olympic bronze medalist and former Colorado All-American enjoyed a stress-free opening day at the USA Track and Field outdoor championships on Thursday, turning in the top preliminary time in the women's 1,500-meter run to cruise into Saturday's championship heat.

Simpson, who also doubles as a volunteer assistant for the Buffaloes, is aiming for her sixth consecutive national title in the event. She turned in a semifinal-best time of 4 minutes, 7.67 seconds at Drake University Thursday. Current CU star Dani Jones, who redshirted during the spring collegiate season but turned in an impressive win last month at the Prefontaine Classic, nabbed the final slot in the championship heat, placing 12th in the semifinals at 4:08.82.

Simpson and Jones will compete in the 1,500 championship Saturday at 2:46 p.m. MDT. Former Buffs Sara Sutherland (4:14.17) and Sara Vaughn (4:16.50) didn't make the cut in the 1,500 Thursday.

CU will be well-represented in Saturday's final of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase as well, with 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn and 2012 Olympian Shalaya Kipp both advancing out of Thursday's semifinals. Coburn finished fifth overall at 9:48.79 and Kipp placed ninth at 9:55.70. Sage Hurta, who won the Pac-12 championship in the steeplechase last month, missed the cut after finishing 18th (10:08.77).


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The women's steeplechase final on Saturday begins at 2:20 p.m. MDT. No athletes with CU ties compete on Friday, though on Sunday current CU runner Joe Klecker competes in the men's 5K championship while recent CU alum Erin Clark runs in the women's 5K championship.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07