Hughes Stadium, Sacramento- Morgan Lira competed in the 2000 meter steeplechase at the Junior Olympic National Championship Tuesday, finishing 10th in a time of 8:03.57.
While the steeplechase has been an event for men since the modern Olympics began in 1896, the women's steeplechase is fairly new to the running scene and has had a burst of popularity since it became an Olympic event (for women) in 2008. The first ever girls steeplechase at the Junior Olympic National Championship was contested in 2003 and this year was one of the most competitive fields ever in the event's short history.
In the intermediate girls race, eventual winner Amy-Eloise Neale of Snohomish Track Club (Mn) set a blistering pace opening with a 77 second first lap. Quickly opening up a gap on the field, a large pack of 15 runners gave chase. Part of the chase pack, Lira misjudged a barrier that resulted in a cartwheel, bruised shin and loss of time as she tumbled to the track. She quickly recovered and battled back to finish 10th, just seconds off her personal best. "I got distracted and didn't focus for just one second," Lira said of her spill. "It happened so fast I didn't know what happened, I just got up and kept going."
Lira qualified in the 2000 meter steeplechase by finishing second in the intermediate girls division (athletes born in 1994-1995) at the Region 16 Championship in Modesto in her first try at the event. Her time of 7:58 ranked her 10th in the nation for her age group going into the Championship.
"I think Morgan getting up and battling back is a demonstration of the fight and determination this kid has," Coach Small said. "This is a perfect example of why you never give up in a race. Finishing top 10 in the nation is pretty special."
When asked if she will try again next year the response was a nod and a definite "Yup!"