Constien finishes eighth at USATF outdoor track and field 3000-meter steeplechase final

Battle Mountain grad was coming off of spring injury and recent COVID bout

Courtney Frerichs, left, of the United States, is congratulated by teammates Emma Coburn, and Valerie Constien, right, after the final of the women's 3,000-meters steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Frerichs and Coburn both will represent the U.S. at the IAAF World Championships this July in Euguene after finishing in the top three at the national meet Sunday. Constien finished in eighth.
Matthias Schrader/AP photo

Val Constien was unable to overcome a series of spring setbacks to make the 2022 U.S. world championship team, coming in eighth place at the U.S. outdoor track and field championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on a hot Sunday afternoon in Eugene, Oregon. The top three finishers qualified for the IAAF world championships July 15-24, also in Eugene. Crested Butte native Emma Coburn won the event — her 10th national steeplechase crown — in 9 minutes, 10.63 seconds.

“Well today was hard,” Constien posted Sunday evening on Instagram.

“I didn’t race with the confidence it takes to be a front runner. U.S. women’s steeplechase is more competitive than ever and I’m so honored to have toed the line with such amazing women!”

Constien’s time of 9:42.96 was well off her best of 9:18.34, run during her breakout 2021 season, which saw her qualify for the Tokyo Olympics alongside Coburn and Courtney Frerichs.

On Sunday, 2022 NCAA champion Courtney Wayment set the pace for the first six laps. She towed along Coburn and Frerichs, as well as Gabbi Jennings in a four-person breakaway that Constien was six seconds behind after the fifth lap.

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Coburn took control on the seventh lap, but Wayment remained determined to be the darling of 2022, hanging on for second in 9:12.10 after a sub-70-second last lap, the fastest of the field. Frerichs held on for third in 9:16.18 as Jennings fell off the hot closing pace.

“I’m really proud of that. Being a 10-time champion — it’s hard to show up for 10 championships healthy,” Coburn told gathered reporters after, noting that in 2013 she did not race because of a stress fracture.

“Every time I’ve shown up, I’ve won, and the women’s steeplechase is incredibly competitive. Racing against the collegiate record holder (Wayment) and the Olympic silver medalist (Frerichs) — it’s not easy stuff — and we push each other and we make each other better and I think we bring out excellence in each other. So, it’s a great time to be racing these women.”

“I’m really grateful for this, and first of many I hope,” a beaming Wayment told the press afterwards.

“I’m happy running a fast time and running an honest race,” the BYU graduate added, noting that she wasn’t necessarily keen on leading.

Wayment was fourth last year at the Olympic trials, finishing behind Constien.

“I think last year I was kind of an underdog coming in. I believed I could make an Olympic team, but there was all these women — and this year there’s still a bunch of phenomenal women — I feel like this year I’m fitter and I’m ready and hungrier,” Wayment said on Sunday to the press.

“I think last year gave me the taste and experience that I needed to help propel me towards this year.”

Wayment signed with The ON Athletics Club, a Boulder-based elite team coached by former Olympic distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein.

Constien, who also trains in Boulder (as does Coburn), slowed after the fifth lap, dropping from sixth to eighth as her 75-second laps turned into 80s on the final three revolutions.

“It’s been a tough year between a stress reaction in April and COVID just a week ago,” her Sunday post read. She was unable to compete at the Prefontaine Classic at the end of May as she had planned, making this past weekend her first race in a couple of months.

“These last nine weeks have been a challenge but that’s the sport. I’m still excited for the future and look forward to more fast races to come!”

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