Runner hurt by barrier set too high
EUGENE, Ore. -- A mix up with a water jump barrier cast controversy over the women's steeplechase at the U.S. track and field championships.
Olympian Jennifer Barringer easily won the 3,000-meter steeplechase title on Sunday, two days after qualifying for the event was marred by the barrier being set too high.
Barringer, the American record holder, ran the event in nine minutes, 29.38 seconds, well ahead of second-place finisher Anna Willard and Bridget Franek, who finished third.
"Over the last 48 hours, there's been a lot of drama in our sport," Barringer marveled.
In the preliminary round Friday night at Hayward Field, Nicole Bush took a spill after hurdling the water barrier and fractured her right foot.
Bush, who had just finished her senior year at Michigan State, tumbled into the water on the third lap. Amazingly, she still finished the race.
It was later determined the barrier was set as many as six inches too high, perhaps at the men's level. The barrier is at 36 inches for the men and 30 inches for the women.
USA Track & Field CEO Doug Logan said he takes responsibility for the mistake.
"It's disappointing what happened," he said. "It's human error. I won't go any further than that. I don't throw people under buses ... I'm embarrassed by it."
Logan said he sought out Bush on Saturday to personally apologize and offer support with medical treatment and rehabilitation.
"She's definitely in our plans for the future and I wanted to reaffirm that," Logan said. "I indicated to [Bush and her coach] that I was going to do all in my power to make sure that human error did not occur again in any event."
That feeling is shared by the athletes.
"Above everything, safety should be the No. 1 priority," said Barringer, who said she was among those who reported afterward that the barrier was way too high.
"It is what it is," Willard said. "You just have to deal with it."
Willard finished Sunday in 9:35.01, and Franek in 9:36.74.
Barringer also had the top qualifying run in 9:47.94 seconds. Her record is 9:22.26, set last summer in Beijing. And despite her fall, Bush still qualified for Sunday's final in 9:57.06.
Bush will need up to 10 weeks to recover, said Logan, who was stunned she finished.
"I told her it was a valorous race, she showed an extraordinary amount of courage and extraordinary amount of sportsmanship and gumption to finish despite the fact she was hurt," Logan said. "It showed me something about her courage and her tenacity."
Barringer won the steeplechase at the NCAA championships earlier this month in Fayetteville, Ark., with Bush taking second.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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