MONUMENT, Colo. (CBS4) – Former University of Colorado running star Jenny Simpson is headed to London later this month to compete in the Summer Olympics, and she thinks she’s got a good shot at a medal.
It will be the second Olympiad for Simpson, who ran in the steeplechase in Bejing four years ago and finished ninth. She won’t have any hurdles to clear this time around; she’s running in the 1500 Meters.
Two weeks ago at the Olympics trials Simpson finished third in the 1500.
“Being a competitor, sometimes it stings a little bit later, because you always want to be the best. But certainly top three was the priority and I have no complaints, I’m really happy with outcome,” Simpson told CBS4.
During the trials, Simpson’s entire focus wasn’t on the race. When being interviewed after one of the heats she asked that everyone take a moment to pray for the Waldo Canyon Fire victims.”
“I’m from there and excited to go home and be able to help out,” Simpson said on the broadcast.
Simpson lives in Monument and trains at the Air Force Academy, so while the Waldo Canyon Fire was forcing evacuations, Simpson was obviously distracted.
“I felt like there was something significant and tragic going on in my community and I felt like I should be here. It was definitely hard to be away from home. It was hard to be away from my neighbors and it was hard that I couldn’t make my home available to people who needed it. So there was definitely a sense of wishing I was here. But running is my job, and training and competing is something that I do every year and I try to do at a really high level so I learn how to cope with distractions and how to really focus even when other things are on your mind,” she said.
As a Colorado Buffalo, Simpson was the top American steeplechase competitor. She even set the American record in the race at the 2009 world championships.
So why the switch?
“As an athlete I was developing a lot into the middle distance range. The steeplechase is a grueling event and it made me really tough. So that toughness combined with the leg speed that I’ve gained over the years — I really think I’m a much better 1500 Meter runner.
“I think they are both hard in different ways but definitely there’s an advantage to knowing that the 1500 meters is going to be around four minutes, so no matter how hard it is, it’s over sooner than the steeplechase is.”
Simpson so far is every bit as good at the 1500 Meters as she was in the steeplechase. In 2009 she recorded a sub-4 minute 1500 Meters. And last year she shocked the track and field world — and herself — by winning the world championships in South Korea.
Even though she was competing in a different event at the last Olympics, Simpson says she the experience last time around is helping her as she prepares for this year’s games.
“I was kind of naive, and everything was brand new. So coming back as a veteran, I feel like that experience really gave me a lot and gave me a huge opportunity to learn and to grow,” she said. “The first time I was really just happy to be there and happy to be in the group going to the games.”
“And this time I’m happy to be there and I’m really going with the intention of making the final and hopefully coming home with medal,” she said.
A lot of former CU athletes have competed in the Summer Olympics but only one has ever medaled in track and field. Bill Toomey took gold in the decathalon in 1968.