World Juniors Championships Kick Off In Spain

American Aisling Cuffe took sixth in the women's 3000m at the IAAF World Junior Championships. Photo: Mile Split

Yigrem Demelash of Ethiopia won the men’s 10,000 meters.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

The first day of competition at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, concluded today with a new world junior leading mark in the preliminary round of the women’s steeplechase, as well as a broken national high school mark in the same discipline. Two distance finals were contested in the evening portion of today’s program, giving Ethiopia and Kenya the early lead in the distance medal count standings.

Tejinesh Gebisa of Ethiopia and Daisy Jepkemei of Kenya won their respective heats in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, clocking 10:01.48 and 9:56.33, respectively. The latter broke the former’s world junior leading mark minutes after her 10:01.48 time was run, a fast way to start competition at the meeting, which is held every other year.

Behind Gebisa in the first heat, Brianna Nerud of New York finished fourth in 10:08.15, an American high school record and a mark good enough to advance the 17-year-old into Thursday’s final.

“I was expecting it to go out a little faster, so I felt like the first few laps were really slow. I wanted to try and pick it up,” said the front-running Nerud in an interview with nationalscholastic.org. In the interview, Nerud admitted she didn’t learn she had broken Mel Lawrence’s six-year-old national record of 10:15.26 until a reporter had mentioned it.

The women’s steeplechase final will be held on Thursday, and Nerud hopes to lower her new record even more.

“I’ll sleep today,” Nerud told nationalscholastic.org in between laughs. “I won’t [stay up late], I’ll be going to bed early!”

Earning Ethiopia’s first medal of the competition was Yigrem Demelash, winning the men’s 10,000m in 28:16.07. Letting Binlu Wang, Geoffrey Kirui and Philemon Kipchilis Cheboi do the majority of the leading in the race, then Demelash took over with 1000 meters remaining and powered home.  He ran the final kilometer in 2:51.41.

“I went step by step and it was finally easy,” he told the IAAF.  “I was very relaxed but I wanted to run under 28 minutes.”  Kenyans Chebo and Kirui followed across the line in 28:23.98 and 28:30.47, respectively.

Bronze medalist Kirui’s time and place was surprising considering the 19-year-old ran 27:08.44 at the Kenyan Olympic 10,000m Trials in Eugene, Ore., last month. Leading at each kilometer mark from 3000m to 6000m, including the 5000m halfway point in 14:12.83, Kirui told reporters he simply couldn’t match Demelash on this day.

“I am feeling good but I could not get the gold medal. This country is so beautiful and weather is so beautiful. I am thankful to everyone for their pleasure,” Kirui told the IAAF.

In the only other distance final of the day, Mercy Chebwogen of Kenya won the women’s 3000m. The youngest athlete in the discipline, Chebwogen took the race in a new personal best of 9:08.88, extending Kenya’s streak in this discipline to five at IAAF World Junior Championships.

The 16-year-old Chebwogen (b. 10 May 1996) took the lead with 240m remaining after staying content behind mid-race leader Emelia Gorecka of Great Britain.  Gorecka, the European Junior Cross Country champion, took the bell, but couldn’t hold off the charging Chebwogen and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebrekidan, who finished second (9:09.27).

According to the IAAF, Gorecka’s bronze medal was the first for Britain in the women’s 3000m since 1986. Her time was 9:09.43.

“I am used to be out there in front,” Gorecka told UK Athletics, wrapped in a Union Jack flag. “The pace had started to slow down mid-race so I thought it was the right time to get to the front and hold on. I know I have a strong finish, I know the other leading girls did too, but I didn’t want to leave the race open to one-lap wonders so I chose to make it hard for everyone.”

Just outside the top five was American Aisling Cuffe of Stanford University, finishing sixth in 9:19.95; compatriot Lindsey Crevoiserat took ninth in 9:21.88, a personal best.

In the men’s 1500m heats, many of the pre-race favorites advanced with ease. Among those not advancing, however, were both Americans, Isaic Yorks and Austin Mudd. Yorks placed seventh in his heat, clocking 3:49.21, while Mudd, a sophomore-to-be at the University of Wisconsin, was eleventh in heat two, 3:54.82 his time.

Great Britain’s Jessica Judd was the fastest qualifier in the heats of the 800m, running 2:02.71. The 17-year-old was the only competitor to break 2:03 in the preliminary round.

“I didn’t expect to run so fast but I’m confident for the final,” Judd told the IAAF.

Ajee Wilson placed second in her heat, qualifying in 2:07.07. American teammate Danielle Aragon also advanced to tomorrow’s semifinal.

On Wednesday, the second day of competition, the women’s 5000m final will be run, as well as the women’s 800m semifinals.

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