Published: April 5, 2021 By

Watch Hurta's win at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships

Sage Hurta is a fifth-year senior majoring in chemical and biological engineering. On March 13, she ran a personal best mile at 4:30.58 to win the Women’s Mile at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

What was it like competing for the Women's Mile at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships? How does it feel to win, especially with a personal best time?

Crossing the finish line in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I was overcome with both joy and relief. I spent much of 2020 injured, dreaming of an opportunity to win an NCAA title. Now that I had an opportunity to realize that dream, I didn't want to pass it up. Winning an individual NCAA track title has been a couple years in the making for me, delayed in large part by the pandemic.

I was pleasantly surprised that I ran a personal best time. The pace was somewhat slow over the first half of the race, and time was not a major priority. Mostly, I'm encouraged, because I think I have the capacity to run much faster in outdoor track this spring.

How did social distancing and safety protocols change how you trained and competed over the past year?

Luckily, distance running is something that can be done on your own and without significant resources, but our team practices were disrupted for much of 2020. I've run plenty of solo miles over the last year, and had to improvise with some at-home strength training. Thanks to the efforts of Athletic Director Rick George and the rest of the athletics department staff, we are back to a more "normal" practice schedule.

The logistics around competing are much different this year. There are far fewer racing opportunities, because not as many schools can host meets and field sizes are smaller.  Traveling is a little more stressful. Hopefully as vaccination expands and we switch to outdoor competition, everything will become a little easier.

How did you get involved in running and athletics? How did you stick with it over the course of your time in a challenging major here at CU Boulder?

Running and athletics have always been a major part of my life. My parents ran recreationally when I was young, and I always wanted to join in. Growing up, I also played soccer, basketball, volleyball and swam.

During high school, I identified as a strong student who also happened to be good at running. During my time in college, the balance has shifted, and while my standards in academics have not relaxed, running is even more of a priority in my life now. Whether I'd like to admit it or not, success in school and athletics came at the expense of engagement of other extracurriculars—such as more involvement in scientific research, or time spent socializing with friends.

Who has helped you along the way, whether in your journey as an athlete or as an engineering student?

The list of people who have helped me throughout my college career is quite extensive. First and foremost, my classmates have made life as a CBEN student enjoyable and fulfilling. There is nothing quite like suffering together for the sake of a common goal—like completing a thermodynamics homework assignment.

My parents have always helped and pushed me as both an athlete and as a student.

Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs, my coaches here at CU Boulder, have helped me learn how to navigate adversity and come to terms with my perfectionism.

My boyfriend and teammates, who I've shared the most time with over the past four and a half years, have provided invaluable support, perspective and community. It's not saying much, but thanks to them I've mellowed out a little bit and learned to prioritize friendships more.

Do you see overlap between the challenges of being an engineer and competing as a Division I athlete?

Athletics is a microcosm of life in general, and the requirements for high-level performance in disparate activities are characterized by surprising parallels. Engineers and athletes both need to overcome challenges that require an individual to extract the best from themselves. However, the ability to creatively solve problems or win a race is not a spontaneous event. It is the result of many hours of diligent practice and numerous failed attempts along the way.

Additionally, personal success is always the result of productive collaboration behind the scenes. Although individuals have a responsibility to give their best, every final product is always a collaborative effort.

Do you have plans to remain involved in athletics, either as a competitor or as a coach?

I plan on running professionally after school. Hopefully that will keep me going for a long time. I don't see myself coaching, but I'm sure I'll always stay involved with the sport. My dream would be to stay involved as a sports medicine doctor, helping athletes of all abilities maximize their success and longevity in sport.

Due to NCAA rules, I won't have any specific, official plans until June. However, I'll likely sign a contract with a shoe company that will support me while I train for the next few years. In a dream world, I'll be a superstar, but if not, I'll refocus on my second career. As of right now, I don't plan on working or going to school while I'm running, but I am going to take the MCAT, as I eventually want to be a doctor.

What advice do you have for your fellow ChBE students, whether they’re just starting out or graduating next year?

There's no one way to go through the ChBE program, and my advice may not apply to everyone. However, as I near the end of my time here at CU Boulder, I think it's important to take the time to get to know your classmates and professors. The department has so much to offer, so don't be afraid of utilizing the resources available. It may take some trial and error to figure out what your path may be, but don't shy away from that.