There may be no other training group in the country in which two female professional runners are in position to break American track and field records.

The Boulder-based group of New Balance athletes Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson — guided by University of Colorado coach Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs — got its first on Saturday when Coburn set the American record in the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 9 minutes, 11.42 seconds in Glasgow, Scotland. She was second to Ethipoia's Hiwot Ayalew.

Coburn continued what's been a runaway season of success for her on the American and international racing circuit. She credits her frontrunning approach.

"Some of the confidence to go up and lead comes from racing those women knowing that they're not going to make the race happen," Coburn said by phone from Switzerland, where she is staying before a 1,500 meter run in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, on Saturday. "If I want it to be fast, then I have to just do it on my own."

And the record she broke? Simpson's 9:12.50, set in August 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin while Simpson was still at CU. It was the last steeplechase she ran before turning her focus to the 1,500.

Coburn plans to keep competing in the steeplechase. Her goal is finishing in the top three in the Diamond League in the event.


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"Jenny wasn't in Glasgow and her immediate reaction, when she told her husband, was, 'Oh, I wish I were there to see it!'" Coburn said. "I think she's far enough removed from the steeple, that if anyone was going to break it, she hoped it would be me.

"I think the transition was more obvious for Jenny because she had run 3:59 (in the 1,500) the year she broke the American steeple record. There's only a handful of American women who have ever run under four minutes, so in college, she was already one of the best 1,500 meter runners in American history."

At the July 5 Paris Diamond League Meet, Simpson fell just .10 seconds short of fellow CU alumna Mary Slaney's 1983 American record in the 1,500.

"It's been fun getting to have someone around you who's trying to break an American record as well," Coburn said. "I don't know if there's any group in the U.S. that has two women trying to break American records in it. We're pretty lucky with our situation."

Because it isn't an Olympic or World Championship year, Coburn is freer to race more — and aggresively — week after week.

"My body performs better when I'm just going hard the whole time," she said.

Daniel Petty: 303-954-1081, dpetty@denverpost.com or twitter.com/danielpetty

Hiwot Ayalew, right, wins the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with Emma Coburn, left, finishing second, during day two of the IAAF Glasgow Diamond
Hiwot Ayalew, right, wins the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase with Emma Coburn, left, finishing second, during day two of the IAAF Glasgow Diamond League Meeting at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday July 12, 2014. Coburn set the American record in 9:11.42. (Martin Rickett, PA Wire/The Associated Press)

Setting the pace

A look at Emma coburn's 2014 steeplechase times.

Date, time (race)

May 15 9:19.80 (Shanghai Diamond League)

June 3 9:17.84 (Prefontaine Classic, Eugene, Ore.)

June 28 9:19.72 (USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Sacramento, Calif.)

July 5 9:12:12 (Paris Diamond League)

July 12 9:11.42 (Glasgow Diamond League)