No sponsor? No problem: Val Constien wins 3,000-meter run title at USATF indoor national championships wearing University of Colorado singlet
It is the 2021 steeplechase Olympian's first national title of any kind
Battle Mountain alumna Val Constien’s resume is pretty impressive: three-time NCAA Division I All-American, 2021 steeplechase Olympian, school-record holder and all-state runner. One thing was always missing, though: national champion.
The 26-year-old former University of Colorado runner took down Adidas pro Whittni Morgan in the homestretch of the 3,000-meter run to win the USATF indoor national championship on Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a time of 8 minutes, 48.29 seconds. The time was a facility record — notable due to the fact that nine USATF championships have been run there since 2010 — for the unsponsored Constien, who repped her Buffs jersey in the victory.
“I’ve never won a national title and so to do it now means a lot. Especially since last year was really bad,” Constien told Flotrack after the race.
Constien was diagnosed with a stress reaction on April 17, forcing her to take a month off from training. She embarked on a slow progression back into steeplechase shape before testing positive for COVID on June 10. After seven days of bad symptoms and minimal training, she boarded a plane for Eugene on June 22 to compete at the USATF outdoor championships, where she placed eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final.
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“I had a broken foot, broken calcaneus, torn plantar, COVID, long-haul COVID — so to be able to turn around and come here and really show everyone how fit and fast I am — it really meant a lot,” Constien said.
In Friday’s race, Morgan and Constien nestled behind Elena Henes for the first 2400-meters. The pace was not particularly quick — Henes came through the mile in 4:50.10 — but it was honest and consistent. Morgan, who won an NCAA cross-country title at BYU in 2021, and New Balance’s Emily Mackay picked things up with four laps remaining, but Constien was right there. The pace ratcheted up from 35-second 200-meter laps to 32s, and Morgan made a strong bid for the win along the backstretch of the final revolution.
“Well, she made a pretty good move with 100 to go and I just had to match it,” said Constien, who slingshot around the banked-track’s corner into first and gritted her way to the 0.13-second victory.
“I saw that there were two women that we were going to lap and so I was like, well, I gotta try and get around her before we swing too far wide and it worked out for the best.”
“It’s very hard to respond in that short of time,” Morgan told Flotrack in the post-race interview. “When you lose by that much it stings, but, it’s ok. It was a good experience for sure.”
When asked how confident she was with her finishing speed going into the final stretch, Constien said, “Well, I really wanted to try and win today and I had to put my nose in it. And I thought, well, what do I have to lose? If she out-leans me at the end, she wins and it was a great race, but if I can out-lean her, it will be a huge deal, because I’ve never won anything. So, I’m glad I did it.”
As far as sponsorships go, Constien said in a message to the Vail Daily on Wednesday that she’s still waiting patiently for a brand to step up. Friday’s performance could stoke companies’ interest, especially considering her primary event is the same distance — albeit with 28 barriers hurdles and a seven water jumps to negotiate.
If she hopes to compete at the IAAF World Championships taking place Aug. 19-27 in Budapest, Hungary, Constien would need to prioritize the USATF outdoor nationals from July 6-9 in Eugene, Oregon, the stage used to determine the U.S. squads for the global championships. Her 8:48-mark in Albuquerque — which sits at roughly 5,300 feet above sea-level — and an 8:41.7 time at the Boston University Invite earlier this month has Constien feeling confident about her outdoor prospects.
“I mean it’s really cool, considering I’m pretty efficient over the barriers and over the water. So, if I can maintain that efficiency, maybe I run 25 seconds slower in the steeplechase, but still, that’s incredible,” she said.
“I’m really excited. If I can stay healthy and keep training and keep my motivation up high, I think I can run well again in six months.”