Thomas Beckum, 42, of Caribou won the USA Track and Field East Region and New England Masters 3,000-meter steeplechase championship in the 40-44 age division during a track and field competition in Worcester, Massachusetts July 7. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Beckum

Thomas Beckum of Caribou is the top-ranked athlete in the United States for his age group in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

The 42-year-old achieved the ranking by winning the steeplechase in the 40-44 age division at the USA Track and Field East Region and New England Masters, held July 7 at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“I just wanted to get one in and see if I could finish it at my age without getting hurt,” Beckum said.

The steeplechase is an obstacle race over four, 3-foot-high barriers and one water jump, consisting of a barrier followed by a 12-foot-wide pit of water, with each runner required to clear each obstacle seven times during the course of the race.

Beckum earned All-America status based on completing the race in 11 minutes, 31.55 seconds.

In addition to being ranked at the top of the United States standings, Beckum is No. 33 in the world.

“I did end up bruising my heels from landing in the water pit, and it affected my time,” said Beckum, who noted he was on pace at the 1-mile mark to run a masters personal best of 11:02. “I do plan on running one again this summer to get a faster time.”

Beckum’s experience in the steeplechase dates back to his days as a collegian at Cal State University, Los Angeles, in 1995.

“I found out it was my best event and after college I ran for an Olympic Development Team to train for the Olympic Trials,” Beckum said. “The major challenges that come from the steeple is pacing yourself and conserving energy by not changing the pace by surging back and forth after each hurdle.

“The other challenge is keeping your form during the second part of the race because hurdling 35 barriers takes its toll on your body,” he added. “You have to make sure to keep your form over each barrier as your body gets tired. If you hit a barrier, they do not go down, you do, and that in itself will scare people away from running it.”

Beckum, a physical education and health instructor at Woodland Consolidated School, is the varsity girls cross country coach at Caribou High School and the wrestling and track and field coach at Caribou Middle School.

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