For Day 7, Olivia Miller, our intern, decided to write about the women’s steeplechase, and her approach to the piece reminds us just how challenging making the top three at the Olympic Trials can be, and the different paths the athletes who make the final are on. 

The Women’s 3000m Steeplechase: A Tale of Glory and Woe, by Olivia Miller

The women’s 3000m steeplechase finals looked a little different this year. Due to injury, Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who were part of the Olympic team in Tokyo, were unable to compete, leaving Valerie Constien as the only Olympic veteran.

Early on, Annie Rodenfels made her presence known. She took the lead but awkwardly stutter-stepped over the barriers. At around 1500m, Rodenfels was overtaken by the pack led by Courtney Wayment, who had been comfortably sitting in second place.

On the last lap, it was Constien with Markezich in second. When she jumped over the water barrier, Markzeich had an uneasy landing. She stumbled, and by the time she could catch her balance, Wayment and Marisa Howard were in front of her. Markzeich still had a chance until her legs gave out after the last barrier. For a moment, she played out across the track but was able to pick herself up, placing sixth overall.

Constien finished first. Her performance was impressive, to say the least. The Tokyo Olympian, who has spent this past year recovering from a torn ACL, set a meet record at 9:03.22, smashing the prior trial record of 9:09.41 set by Emma Coburn in 2021.

Wayment, who finished fourth at the last trials, was in second at 9:06.50. Howard came in third with 9:07.14 to complete the group of three competing on the Olympic stage. The race wasn’t just historic; it was a meet record; the first nine women to cross the finish line had personal bests.

Krissy Gear, who beat Emma Coburn to finish first in the 3000m steeplechase in the 2023 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championship, was a definite contender for Paris. But she never completed it.

Krissy Gear, 2023 US Champion, had a rough steeple race, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

Gear began to slip out of the pack and at around 1000m found herself in last place. Just after reaching 1800m, the 24-year-old veered off the track and jogged into the tunnel.

She later went to Instagram to explain her decision not to finish.

“Today I did something I said I would never do, no matter how slow it meant I would run: I quit. Nothing happened that physically forced me to. I just quit.”

In her post, Gear emphasized that this was not the end but rather a pause.

“I’ll be shutting my year down to get mind and body right.“

As she prepares for Paris, Constien isn’t yet fixated on a spot on the podium. In the mixed zone, the 28-year-old explained that she’s focusing on the now.

“I’m not going to think that far ahead. I’m just going back to Boulder, get back to work, do some training, try to feel good, and we’ll see what happens. I mean, the steeplechase is a crazy event. People fall down, people get back up, some people don’t finish the race, and you never know what can happen.”

Well said.