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Steeplechaser loses Olympic standard because of misplaced start line

Craig Nowak ran a massive 3,000m steeplechase PB of 8:21.49, but he later learned that his Olympic-qualifying time wouldn't count

On April 16, American track athlete Craig Nowak had the race of his life in the 3,000m steeplechase, running an enormous PB and Olympic-qualifying time of 8:21.49 to take the win. He was undoubtedly ecstatic with the result, but that excitement of hitting Olympic standard didn’t last long, as just a few days after his career-best run, Nowak was notified by race officials that the steeplechase start line was misplaced, and his result was therefore invalid. 

Nowak’s invalid result

Nowak ran his now-invalid PB at the Rick Erdmann Twilight track meet at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). As he explained on Instagram, the track installation company put the steeplechase start line in the wrong spot at EKU, and while it likely wasn’t off by much (there hasn’t been word yet on how misplaced the start line was), it really doesn’t matter how short the course turned out — the results of a race that was five metres shy of the full distance are just as invalid as a run that was 50 metres short. 

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The news had to come as a brutal blow to Nowak, as this was truly a career-changing result. His best result in the 3,000m steeplechase was an 8:35.14 run from 2018. This is a quick time, but it’s nowhere near the Olympic standard of 8:22.00. Had his run counted, Nowak would rank in the top 40 in U.S. history in the event, but now, he’s back to a result just inside the top 200. 

The good news for Nowak is that it’s unlikely the track installation company made a massive mistake when placing the start line, and while he can’t know for sure what his time would have been on a true 3,000m course, he probably still smashed his previous PB. Plus, regardless of how far he ran, Nowak still won the race, so he can let that momentum carry him into his next event, wherever that may be. 

Other athletes

Nowak wasn’t the only runner who experienced the disappointment of losing a PB result. EKU’s Ahmed Jaziri, who finished in second place in the men’s 3,000m steeple, ran a huge PB of 8:23.14, which would have been the NCAA-leading time so far in 2021 and an EKU school record. Jaziri’s teammate Pedro García-Palencia also ran a big PB, and his fifth-place result of 8:38.09 would have been the second-best result in the event in the NCAA this year. 

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In the women’s race, Australia‘s Amy Cashin won in a 10-second PB of 9:48.60. This result catapulted Cashin into the top 10 in Australian history in the 3,000m steeple, but that result will soon be erased from the all-time rankings. (Cashin’s legitimate PB of 9:58.75 still puts her in the top 20 among Australian women.) EKU’s Laura Taborda also ran a PB, posting a time of 10:05.3 and breaking her own school record by a whopping 17 seconds.