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Coburn and Constien Named Steeplechase Olympians

Jun 24, 2021

EUGENE –  For the second time ever, Colorado track and field will have two Buffs compete in the Olympics in the women's steeplechase at the same time as Emma Coburn and Val Constien finish first and third in the steeplechase finals here at the USATF Olympic Trials Thursday evening.
To start the final Constien was in third while Coburn sat in seventh. Constien took the lead in the fourth lap, then Coburn moved to second in the fifth lap and sat and took the lead in the final lap. Constien fell to fourth then benefitted from a fall from Leah Falland to move to third before sprinting away to a finish five seconds ahead of fourth in 9:18.34 seconds, a personal best by nearly 10 seconds. Coburn finished in a new Olympic Trials record of 9:09.41.
Coburn, the 2017 World Champion in the steeplechase, makes her third Olympic team in the event after taking the bronze in Rio in 2016 and qualifying alongside teammate Shalaya Kipp in 2012 while both women were current CU athletes. Constien, who interned with the CU athletic department post graduation, was the 2019 Pac-12 Champion in the event and will make her first Olympic team after running nearly 20 seconds faster than she did in college two years ago.
Colorado also had two athletes advance through their prelim round in their first trials action. Eduardo Herrera moved to the finals in the men's 5,000 while Sage Hurta advanced to the semis in the women's 800.
In the 5,000, Herrera started in third and fell to seventh through the first 1600 in around 4:25 in the first heat. With four laps to go Herrera was hugging the back of the pack in 10th as the heat slowed down. He made a move to the front and sat in third close to the 10 minute mark. With 800 remaining Herrera was in fifth as a group of six began to separate. At the bell, he held outside position and passed the 10k champion. He hit the 200 mark in fifth and had a battle down the straight with Garrett Heath to finish sixth overall.
He had to wait and see, needing at least two runners from the second heat to run slower than his 13:45.33 to advance to the finals. The second heat went through the 3,000 mark with the final two runners eight seconds faster than the leader of the first heat, but a runner dropped out prior to the start giving Herrera only needing one runner to falter below his time. He ended up making it through as the final runner by time.
Hurta started her professional career on a bright note with a six-tenth of a second personal best in the women's 800 first round, advancing to semis after finishing second in her heat in 2:00.08. Hurta, who turned pro a day before the trials started, sat intelligently in the top-three before moving to second and pushing the pace in the final 300-meters. Her time was the second best time of the opening round, bettering second by nearly half a second.
Coburn and Constien add to the Buffs Olympic total that now stands at four, the fourth-most in CU history after the 2000 team of six and the 2008 and 2012 teams of five athletes. Morgan Pearson is through in the men's triathlon while Joe Klecker advanced in the men's 10,000 following a third-place finish on the first day of the trials.

Emma Coburn, New Balance
9:09.41 (MR)
First place
On the event…
I think that US women's steeple is the deepest it's been. It was knowing my strength and depth. I knew that I could push really hard the last two laps. Courtney started pushing in and it thinned out the pack, and I tried to stay behind her. I knew I had to really grind if I was to get some real estate between her. 
On the philosophy behind Team Boss…
I think that we are a group that since we aren't backed by a shoe company but backed by ourselves we are able to cultivate a group of grown ups who are friends and fight together. I love the people on my team and joe as our coach 
On her hurdling form in the last 700 meters…
Honestly it's almost easier  to hurdle at that faster pace than going slower. At a faster pace it's more natural and fatigue is hard, but I've been used to that discomfort at end of race
On competing against Courtney over the years…
Courtney and I genuinely like each other, she wants to beat me and I want to beat her. We are training the right way and keep getting better and better
On her training this past year...
Every athlete has a story about what happened the past year. Joe took advantage of it and I trained more as a half marathoner and made the most of it. We came out better and I don't think I lost anything last year. Emotionally I had to shift my timeline as the Olympics were shifted and plans with family and money changed too. Personally there were scary moments but i'm excited 
On the Hayward magic...
I think the US championship will always be tense, but I haven't gone into a championship where I don't think I was prepared. We had great weather despite a rough week in Oregon in terms of weather. 
On talking to Leah Falland after the race...
We have been close since 2015. She's one of the best steeplers in the country. My heart broke when I saw her fall. Leah, I love her and care about her and her family. On a friendship personal level it's hard, but I know she is more than this moment, she will have many great moments after today. 
On her mom's cancer diagnosis...
Still actively getting chemotherapy, completed 22 rounds. She has Stage 4 colon cancer that spread to her liver and lungs. It's inoperable but she has surpassed all her doctors expectations. She's an Energizer bunny, she's really strong emotionally. She has more chemo ahead of her but she is doing well and i'm happy that she was able to be here with me 
On winning nine consecutive championships...
It's a challenge that I like to rise up to. It's a pressure I'm used to, and I'm grateful to be here and be a consistent athlete. It doesn't get any easier, it gets harder. Every year I have to reanalyze to prepare well for this meet. 
On her goal to break nine minutes...
Every year since 2017 I have felt fit enough to break nine minutes. I feel like racing in July we won't know until we do it.
On the success of New Balance at the Trials...
Being an athlete for them for eight years, Jenny Simpson's positive experience there pushed me to join them. They have a strong group of women with this middle distance squad, it's fun to be part of it. We have gone to each other's weddings and they went to mine. I love what New Balance is.
Val Constien, Tracksmith
9:18.34 (PB)
Third place
On the race
The gun went off and I just tried to get in a good position. I wanted to be in striking distance the whole time. I really wanted it to be a low drama race, so I tried to stay out of other peoples' way and tried to not step on anybody. WIth three laps to go, Emma and Courtney took off and Leah went with them. I knew I couldn't keep that pace with three laps to go, so I decided I would sit in fourth in case anything happened. Unfortunately, Leah fell down at some point and I knew that was my shot. If I could capitalize off that mistake I could end up beating her and making that team. I had no idea if she was on my shoulder or if I was pulling away. I just gave it my all, and with 100 meters to go I was just running as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line and I was in a lot of pain. 
On the ortland Track Festival
Pretty much after I ran that time I had to switch my mindset to, 'Oh, it would be pretty cool to make it to the final' to, 'Oh, I just ran the A standard. If I'm top three I could go to Tokyo.' Three weeks ago I woke up and said I could do this, so it's been fun. Goals change.
On growth in this event
I mean, in college I was never a shoe in for anything. I was okay but I was never really a top competitor ever. In college I was a two-time steeplechase All-American, but I was never on the top of that podium. College was really, really hard for a lot of reasons. I think that now as an adult out of college I've been able to make a lot of really good decisions and Ive been able to positively change my life. I've set everything up to make this possible in the last two years.
On laying off the early pace
Yeah, I did notice that they had picked it up a lot. Early this morning my coach Billy called me on the phone and said, 'Make this be your race, don't let external factors get in the way.' I knew that if I just made it my own race I could do something great. Like I said, the fact that Leah fell down was a big mixup because she had just as good of an opportunity as me. I'm really, really happy to be here, I think I earned it, I think I worked hard, but if Leah hadn't fallen down I might not be sitting in this seat.
On training with Jenny Simspon
Training with Jenny is amazing. She is the nicest woman in the world, she's helped me out a lot. She does sometimes give me advice in practice or she compliments me on my form which is really great. We didn't do too many workouts together this year
On possibility that top three finish might not happen
Yeah, definitely 100% I did not think a top three finish was possible until Leah fell down. I just took my shot and it paid off.
On the final two laps
It was surreal. Everything that I had ever done in the past years I've done intentionally with those last two laps in mind. In those last two laps I had to remind myself that I deserve to be here just as much as anybody else. The top three go, and I was in the top three. No part of my body was gonna stop until I crossed the finish line.
On sponsor setup and working with Stryde
I work a full time job. I work 40 hours a week. I work for a running tech company called Stryde. I would not be here without this full time job. I mean beyond Tracksmith giving me clothing, I buy everything myself. I have funded everything myself, including this trip. Anyone working a fulltime job can still have Olympic aspirations
Val or Valerie
I like to go by Val Constein
On the transformation from college to now
Consistency. It's all about consistency, and being happy. For the longest time in college I was miserable for a lot of different reasons. Mental health is huge. If you can figure out to be happy and get a year of training under your belt, you can accomplish anything. 
On how flexible Stryde lets her be with training
I am a customer support agent. I answer emails with technical questions about the product. Luckily my boss is very supportive, but I am still obsessed about having good numbers. I am still committed to working 40 hours a week. I want to be a contributing member of that team as well. 
On finishing top  three with former Colorado Buffalo Emma Coburn
Emma is amazing. She is the face of women's steeplechase in America, and to be on a team with her is going to be so incredible. I think that it's just a testament to Mark and Heather being amazing coaches. They have a science about producing steeplechase Olympians. It's all just coming together which is really fun.
On how life is going to be different now
I know it's going to, but I have such a great setup. I'm going to have to figure out how to have all these changes just add positively to my life. I don't think that much is going to change, I still want to work at Stryde, I still want to live in Boulder. I don't want to sacrifice any of that because I don't need to. It would be cool to get maybe like a contract for a shoe company, but I would hope that would be the only change.
On if it was a race for third?
I suspected that this would be a race for third, because Emma and Courtney have run 9 flat basically both of them. Nobody had even come close to that. I saw this as a race between all of the women who had the A standard. It's a three dimensional race, stuff can happen. The people that you think are a shoe-in can always fall down. I wish that Leah hadn't fallen, 'cause it could have been an even more exciting race. 
On Leah falling down
When Leah fell down I did see that as an opportunity to have to take third. Falling down and having to keep going is really difficult. I wish she hadn't fallen 'cause it could have been a more exciting race, but the fact that she did give me an edge to sneak into that third place position. 
Sage Hurta, On Athletics Club
2:00.08 (PB)
Second Place, Heat 1
Second Place Overall
On her event today...
I was just trying to stay super relaxed, and I was like I just gotta be in a position to win. I wanted to make sure I had it for the last 200. I just said relax, tuck back, and be ready to go for the last 200.
On wearing the ON kit...
It's been a dream of mine for the last little bit, I've been waiting the last week for the NCAA to end…
On running a PB...
I haven't run that many 800s… I think that I have lots of room for improvement, and that's what I thought, just keep chipping away at that PR.
On running the 800 versus the 1500...
The 800 in my heart is my favorite event and is my strongest event right now. I only ran the 1500 at NCAAs to… build my stamina. Fully committed to running it here.
On her belief in her 800...
I think it's just that added confidence of now I'm at this higher level at this longer event and I know that my speed has been better than it's ever been.
On what she'll do between now and the final...
Quick cool down, get some treatment, quick refuel… also cheer on my new teammate Leah in the steeple…
On Joe making the team...
I was watching on the back stretch and so nervous with 400 to go when he got boxed in... emotional overload… 


18-Jun Friday 5:03 PM Women's 1,500 1st Round Jenny Simpson 3:58.42 4:06.18 3:57.22 2nd NBCSN 1st Q 4:11.34
Dani Jones 4:04.26 4:04.26 4:04.26 10th NBCSN 16th Q 4:13.47
Micaela Degenero 4:09.38 4:09.38 4:09.38 24th NBCSN 26th 4:18.33
6:54 PM Women's 5,000 1st Round Jenny Simpson 14:58.67 N/A 14:56.26 8th NBCSN DNS DNS
Carrie Verdon 15:18.56 15:18.56 15:18.56 21st NBCSN 9th Q 15:32.87
Maddie Alm 15:19.03 15:19.03 15:19.03 24th NBCSN 3rd Q 15:31.43
8:25 PM Men's 10,000 Final Joe Klecker 27:23.44 27:23.44 27:23.44 7th NBC 3rd 27:54.90
19-Jun Saturday 7:40 PM Women's 1,500 Semifinals Jenny Simpson 3:58.42 4:06.18 3:57.22 2nd NBCSN 5th Q 4:06.81
Dani Jones 4:04.26 4:04.26 4:04.26 10th NBCSN 9th Q 4:09.92
20-Jun Sunday 7:35 PM Women's Steeplechase 1st Round Emma Coburn 9:02.35 9:08.22 9:02.35 1st 1st Q 9:21.32
Val Constien 9:25.53 9:25.53 9:25.53 4th 6th Q 9:28.37
Sara Vaughn 9:38.52 9:38.52 9:38.52 16th 18th 9:51.12
Madie Boreman 9:48.09 9:48.09 9:46.48 32nd 21st 9:56.63
21-Jun Monday 6:05 PM Women's 1,500 Final Jenny Simpson 3:58.42 4:06.18 3:57.22 2nd NBC 10th 4:07.76
Dani Jones 4:04.26 4:04.26 4:04.26 10th NBC 9th 4:06.46
6:40 PM Women's 5,000 Final Carrie Verdon 15:18.56 15:18.56 15:18.56 21st NBC 10th 15:54.04
Maddie Alm 15:19.03 15:19.03 15:19.03 24th NBC 12th 15:58.40
24-Jun Thursday 8:00 PM Women's 800 1st Round Sage Hurta 2:00.62 2:00.62 2:00.62 18th NBCSN 2nd Q 2:00.08
9:04 PM Men's 5,000 1st Round Eduardo Herrera 13:24.46 13:24.46 13:24.46 24th NBCSN 16th q 13:45.33
9:47 PM Women's Steeplechase Final Emma Coburn 9:02.35 9:08.22 9:02.35 1st NBCSN 1st 9:09.41
Val Constien 9:25.53 9:25.53 9:25.53 4th NBCSN 3rd 9:18.34
25-Jun Friday 4:02 PM Women's 800 Semifinals Sage Hurta 2:00.62 2:00.62 2:00.62 18th NBCSN
4:35 PM Women's 400 Hurdles 1st Round Eriana Henderson 57.69 57.69 57.67 24th NBCSN
26-Jun Saturday 11:00 AM Women's 10,000 Final Makena Morley 31:25.19 31:25.19 31:25.19 13th OLYMPIC
Carrie Verdon 32:09.82 32:09.82 32:09.82 31st OLYMPIC
Laura Thweatt 32:22.41 32:22.41 31:52.94 44th OLYMPIC
7:19 PM Women's 400 Hurdles Semifinals Eriana Henderson 57.69 57.69 57.67 24th NBCSN
27-Jun Sunday 11:00 AM Men's 5,000 Final Eduardo Herrera 13:24.46 13:24.46 13:24.46 24th OLYMPIC
5:18 PM Women's 400 Hurdles Final Eriana Henderson 57.69 57.69 57.67 24th NBC
5:30 PM Women's 800 Final Sage Hurta 2:00.62 2:00.62 2:00.62 18th NBC