Lincoln ran a personal-best of 8 minutes, 12.65 seconds on Friday at the IAAF's Golden League meet in Rome to take 10th in the steeplechase in a field topped by world-record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar in 7:56.34.
Lincoln's time was the fastest by an American in 10 years dating to an 8:10.43 by Mark Croghan in 1995 and it is the eighth-fastest in American history. Lincoln is now the third-fastest steepler in U.S. history.
Lincoln, who won four NCAA titles at Arkansas from 2001-03 and the last two U.S. titles in the steeplechase since going pro, was on pace to break Henry Marsh's 20-year-old record of 8:09.17 with two laps to go in the 3,000-meter race before stumbling on the second-to-last hurdle.
"I'm real happy with the way he's running," said Arkansas coach John McDonnell, who still trains Lincoln in Fayetteville. "With a lap to go, he was on schedule to break the American record. He was at 7:06 and all he had to do was run a 63 (second final lap), but he stumbled on one of the hurdles and ended up running 8:12.
"When you stumble in that race, it hurts you quite a bit. He's ahead of schedule."
Lincoln made his second straight American team after winning the U.S. title in the steeple June 25 in Carson, Calif., to qualify for the 2005 World Championships August 6-14 in Helsinki, Finland.
He also won the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004 and was the only American to make the finals in Athens last August.
Lincoln was the first American to win three straight NCAA steeple titles and with a three-year deferment to enroll in medical school at UAMS in Little Rock, breaking the American record is his goal.
McDonnell said Lincoln had that thought on his mind with two laps to go.
"He saw the clock and thought, 'Gee, I have a chance to break the record,'" McDonnell said. "He moved into fifth place and went a little too fast. He was a little too excited. He shouldn't have been looking at the clock.
"But hey, he's a winner and he wants to get that record. Sometimes you have to do that, but he's not quite sharp enough to do it yet."
Lincoln is in Barcelona celebrating his two-year anniversary with wife, Fayetteville native and former Lady'Back All-American pole vaulter Jennifer Culp Lincoln.
Up next for him is a 3,000-meter race in Italy this Sunday, a 1,500 in Belgium on July 20 and another fast steeple race in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 26 as his final tune-up for Worlds.
"He's in a good frame of mind both mentally and physically," McDonnell said. "I don't want to put the monkey on his back, but I think he can break that American record and that would be nice."
The flat races are designed for speedwork without taking a toll on his legs, which Lincoln says are quite fresh after he missed more than four months of training between January and April of this year with stress fractures in his lower legs.
Lincoln said after winning his second straight American title that breaking the record will have to come naturally.
"I think it can be done and I'm going to do it, but it's hard to make claims like that because Shaheen may go out so fast he isolates himself and we have some sort of sit-and-kick race," Lincoln said. "There's so many variables. I'm definitely going for that time. I think it's definitely going to come when I get in there with those guys and compete. The better race I get into, the faster I'm going to have to run to compete. I'm trying to look at it that way.
"Other years I've gone for times, and when I focus on that I get kind of frustrated and it doesn't help. The times I've run PRs, I've been in a competitive race and not thinking about time at all.
"It would be wise for me to focus on that."
Lincoln Closer To Breaking American Record
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