Wetmore-Wednesday Top Races: Kipp Carries On Colorado Legacy With a Pair of Steeplechase Titles
BOULDER – The Colorado track and field and cross country program has a special history, one that began to hit full-stride under head coach Mark Wetmore.
CU track and field and cross country will take a look back at every year under Wetmore and recap the best races and teams of every calendar year.
In 2012, junior Shalaya Kipp joined the ranks of Jenny Barringer Simpson and Emma Coburn, as she won the NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase crown, marking the second-straight year CU had won the event at nationals, as well as the fifth time in seven years. Kipp also won the Pac-12 steeplechase title in CU's first year as a member. In doing so, she made a name for herself, while adding to Colorado's legacy.
Before the 2012 indoor season, Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore and associate head coach Heather Burroughs told Shalaya Kipp she would race at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. In doing so, it would extend her season through the first week of July.
Given the fact that Kipp had taken to the steeplechase since arriving at CU, it was an exciting prospect. She was ninth at the 2011 U.S. Championship after a third-place finish at NCAAs that same year. In 2010 at NCAAs as a freshman, she was fifth. Clearly Kipp had the talent and skill to compete at trials and it was an exciting prospect.
Kipp only raced twice that indoor season, both times the 5,000. Looking back now, Kipp thinks maybe her coaches had a plan she wasn't aware of, saying, "They might have had a lot more foresight than I did at the time, which is probably why I didn't run that many indoor races."
After wrapping up her indoor campaign, Kipp started her outdoor training and did not start racing until April. She opened up the season with a win in the 1,500 at the CU Invite on April 14 and followed it up with a 5k at Mt. SAC on April 20.
Kipp's season really got going the following week at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. On April 29, she made her 2012 steeple debut in a field full of talented racers, which included Delilah DiCrescenzo who had placed third at the U.S. Championships the year prior.
One of eighteen racers, which included just five collegians, Kipp worked her way to the middle of the pack after the first lap and was around seventh with three laps remaining. She moved into second at the bell lap behind DiCrescenzo. It came down to the final 100-meters where Kipp used her kick to pass DiCrescenzo in the last two meters. Kipp's winning time of 9:43.09 was a personal best and narrowly edged out DeCrescenzo (9:43.28).
When asked recently about that race, Kipp said, "That was a big race.
"I remember the last lap because I remember being in second and kind of starting to ease off. Then all of a sudden I remembered that this was still a race and I could still win it. I stayed on her as long as I could. In the last 100 meters, I was thinking, I always have a kick and since I was still in it, my kick got me through it."
The win against someone who had made the world team the year prior also gave Kipp confidence.
"Things became a lot clearer to me that I was really progressing to the next level," she said. "Just knowing I could be in it like that was a big mental break for me."
The next big race and step for Kipp was the 2012 Pac-12 Championship in Eugene, Ore. It would be the first time Colorado (and Utah) would participate in the championship. The Buffs had a strong showing in the Big 12 in the steeplechase between Jenny Barringer and Emma Coburn.
Kipp had no problems adding to CU's string of victories in the steeplechase and became the first Buffalo to win an individual Pac-12 Championship on May 12. Kipp recorded a time of 9:57.39 to defeat the runner-up, Oregon's Kimber Mattox (10:08:23), by more than 10 seconds to win her first conference crown.
"It's exciting," Kipp said following her race. "It's a nice accomplishment to have. I'm looking forward to prelims in Austin and then hopefully nationals in Des Moines in June."
Wetmore was also pleased with her performance.
"We were perfectly happy with her race," he said. "It wasn't a blistering time, but a matter of taking care of business. Congratulations to her for her first win and our first win of the weekend."
Kipp continued to make easy work of the steeplechase. At prelims on May 25 in Austin, she won the third heat with the fastest time of the time in 9:58.38 and in doing so, punched her ticket to nationals. And with that, she knew the NCAA title was within her grasp.
"I remember thinking after west regionals, 'If I don't mess something up, I could be the NCAA Champion,'" Kipp said. "I didn't put that out front for people, but I was thinking about it and knew I was capable."
The NCAA Championships that year were held in Des Moines and according to Kipp, it was scorching hot. She easily advanced to the finals after finishing the prelims on June 6, first in 9:59.18.
The final was two days later and it was one of the closest during Colorado's steeplechase reign. Kipp and Florida's Genevieve LaCaze ran together for most of the race, although it was Kipp who was doing most of the leading, which Kipp was very aware of.
The duo started to pull away from the field and with just under two laps remaining, LaCaze passed Kipp and put a couple of meters between the two. But that didn't seem to affect Kipp much as she got right back on LaCaze's shoulder. As the two entered the bell lap it was apparent they were both digging deep to use everything they had. Kipp retook the lead and after the final barrier, it was a sprint to the finish.
"We were together until the last 100 meters," Kipp said. "I remember even knowing that, but that is was okay because I knew I could outkick her and I could feel her dying at the end."
Kipp's closing speed paid off as she finished in 9:49.02, while LaCaze was right behind in 9:50.25. In doing so, she solidified herself as part of CU's steeplechase legacy.
"We both ran a hard race in the heat," Kipp said as she reflected on the race. "She kept the race honest the whole time. At the same time, I knew I was going to win the whole time. I didn't say that then, but that was always in my head."
With the win, Kipp became the third Buff in seven years to take home the NCAA title. In total, CU had won the steeplechase crown five of those seven seasons as Barringer won in 2006, '08 and '09, while Coburn was the champion in '11.
"I didn't even really know what the steeple was until I got to Colorado," Kipp explained. "Then I watched my teammates and thought, 'Wow, that's a crazy event. I'm never doing it.' Then one day Mark Wetmore pulled me aside said, 'How about you try the steeple?' and I haven't looked back since."
There was not much time to celebrate for the newly crowned champion with the Olympic Trials right around the corner.
"It was all such a blur," Kipp said. "I think it was all back to work. There was not much celebration."
So back to work she went with the trials coming up June 22-July 1, in Eugene, Ore.
[Make sure to tune into the next Wetmore Wednesday: 2012 Olympic Edition as we dive deeper into Kipp's Olympic Trials experience.]
PAST TOP RACES:
2011: COBURN WINS FIRST NCAA & U.S. TITLES; BUFFS MAKE STATEMENT WINNING INAUGURAL PAC-12 CROSS COUNTRY TITLES
2010: COBURN AND KIPP BECOME STRONG 1-2 IN THE STEEPLE; DODSON SPRINTS TO A STRONG FINISH
2009: BARRINGER BREAKS 6 COLLEGIATE RECORDS IN FINAL TRACK SEASON (VIDEO)
2008 (OLYMPIC EDITION): BARRINGER AND NELSON TAKE BEIJING OLYMPICS
2008: MEN WIN BIG 12 OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIP
2007: VAUGHN WINS 3 BIG 12 TITLES; BARRINGER TURNS DISAPPOINTMENT INTO FIRST U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP
2006: BARRINGER'S STEEPLECHASE LEGACY BEGINS; MEN'S XC WINS SECOND NCAA TITLE IN THREE YEARS
2005: METIVIER WINS INDOOR 3K; SLATTERY TAKES 10K TITLE
2004: BUFFS WIN MEN'S AND WOMEN'S NCAA CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
2003: RITZENHEIN RACES TO THE TITLE (FINISH VIDEO)
2002: TORRES CEMENTS LEGACY (VIDEO)
2001: CU MEN CAPTURE FIRST TITLE (VIDEO)
2000: KARA GRGAS-WHEELER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1999: JAMES DAVIS 1999 4x400-METER RELAY ALL-AMERICAN
1998: ADAM GOUCHER 1998 CROSS COUNTRY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (VIDEO) (5,000) (3,000)
1997: ADAM GOUCHER INDOOR 3,000 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1996: ALAN CULPEPPER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 5,000/ WOMEN'S BIG EIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP