Barraza, Rotich qualify for U.S. Olympic Trials final in 3,000 meter steeplechase


EUGENE, OREGON (KTSM) – El Paso will be well-represented in the finals of the 3,000 meter Steeplechase at the United States Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., on Friday.

Brian Barraza, a Franklin High School graduate that ran collegiately at the University of Houston; and Anthony Rotich, a four-time national champion during his time at UTEP, both punched tickets to Friday’s Steeplechase finals with strong showings in the first round on Monday.

In a two-heat race, the top five finishers in each heat, plus the next four fastest runners that didn’t finish in the top five of their heat would advance to the finals. Barraza made it easy on himself, finishing in fourth place in heat two in 8:31.96 to move on to Friday.

Rotich had to sweat it out after finishing in eighth in heat one of Monday’s race in 8:25.74. However, heat one was decidedly faster than heat two, with the first 10 finishers in heat one running faster times than any competitor in heat two, so Rotich’s time was more than good enough to get him through to the final.

The Kenyan-born distance star, who became a United States citizen in 2019 and is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Rotich won the NCAA Championship in the 3,000M Steeplechase in three consecutive years (2013, 2014, 2015) while he was at UTEP. He’s comfortable running at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, and is hoping to punch a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

“That would be the best time of my life because I’ve always dreamt of being an Olympian and I’ve been working for it for quite some time now,” said Rotich.

As for Barraza, his most memorable moment at Hayward Field to date came in 2018, when he was leading the final at the NCAA Championships on the last lap, but tripped over one of the last barriers. It was a heartbreaking moment for Barraza, but he’s out for redemption at these Olympic Trials.

Both Barraza and Rotich still must achieve the Olympic standard of 8:22.00 in the 3,000m Steeplechase final on Friday in order to go to the Olympics; even if they finish in the top three of the final, they can’t go to Tokyo without the Olympic standard.

Rotich has run faster than that time in his career, clocking a personal best of 8:21.19; Barraza would need a personal best in Friday’s final to get the Olympic standard; his current best time is 8:24.39, which came at a meet in Portland, Ore., last month.

The finals of the men’s 3000m Steeplechase will take place Friday, June 25, at 5:42 p.m. MT at Hayward Field in Eugene.

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