COLORADO SPRINGS - Battle Mountain's Val Constien is a quick study.
It didn't take her long to figure out track and field last year - she placed at state in both the triple jump and the 800 meters. And, apparently, she's finally figured out running a 5K.
"I think I was learning how to race," she said Saturday. "Once I finally learned how to race a 5K, then I was good."
Very good. Constien finished in 19 minutes, 36 seconds in Saturday's state meet in Colorado Springs, taking fifth place. With that finish, the junior helped the Battle Mountain ladies to a fourth-place finish in Class 4A and earned an all-state honors for herself.
"It was very painful," Constien said of her stretch drive. "I knew I needed to run fast. I was surprised that I got fifth. I was happy I could help my team out."
The Battle Mountain ladies repeated their fourth-place finish as a team from last year, but what was really surprising was that they put up only 153 points, 72 fewer than they did last fall. (A reminder: Lower is better in cross country.)
The field was just outstanding, including The Classical Academy. The seven-time 3A state champions and running their first season at 4A, the Titans came as advertised, winning the meet with a miserly 98 points.
"Our hats are off to Classical Academy," Huskies coach Rob Parish said. "The girls team worked very hard for this day. It just shows you how competitive this field was."
Battle Mountain's boys took 23rd in their first appearance at state in two years.
Meanwhile, the Eagle Valley boys made the most of their second chance at state. After finishing 25th last fall, they were 17th Saturday.
"I was happy with moving up," Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. "I thought we had a better start. Our top-three guys went out hard and put themselves in position. To have five guys backs next year, we're going to have a really solid team."
Hunter Burnham and Carson McQueeney are the Devils' only two seniors on the boys' side.
Chantal Willoughby topped the Eagle Valley ladies in 43rd, as the Devils finished 24th.
"The girls were stoked to be on the state stage," Brandt said. "We set high goals. We weren't perfect, but we were proud of their accomplishments."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.