Published: July 1, 2015 By

Val ConstienVal Constien’s (EnvEngr’18) parents never had to tell her to go outside to play.

The CU-Boulder freshman from the Vail Valley, who competes for the Buffs in cross country and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, has a yearning to be outdoors that drives nearly everything she does.

Constien grew up in tiny Edwards, Colorado, taking in as much of the great outdoors as she could while hiking, skiing and running.

With her high school Nordic ski team she “would do these insane adventure runs and hikes and we would go into the mountains for hours and hours, with just a little CamelBak backpack and Power Bars,” she says.

She even spent some quality time outdoors with her dad hunting.

“Whether or not you actually successfully get an animal, it’s just fun to walk around and hike,” she says of hunting antelope, deer, elk, turkey and grouse. “It’s just a fun way to be outside.”

Constien didn’t have time to hunt during her freshman year at CU, but she spent a lot of her time outdoors training and competing for the Buffs.

In May, she advanced to the NCAA West Preliminaries in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, a CU specialty. Coach Mark Wetmore has developed All-Americans and NCAA steeplechase champions Jennifer Simpson (Econ,PolSci’09), Emma Coburn (Mktg’13), Shalaya Kipp (IntPhys’14), Billy Nelson (Hist’08) and Steve Slattery (Econ’02) just to name a few.

For Constien, the steeplechase is a perfect marriage of her desire to be outside and be adventurous. The race includes four 30-inch-high barriers that each athlete must clear seven times in the course of the 3,000-meter race. The barriers are lower than traditional hurdles, but span the width of the three inside lanes of the track and do not yield as hurdles do. Also, there’s a fifth barrier with a water pit that steeplechasers land in after clearing the barrier.

“I’m not afraid of it, the barriers don’t startle me, the water jump is my favorite part,” Constien says. “I’m kind of an aggressive runner, so it’s fun to kind of attack it. Mark always says, ‘Attack the barrier, attack the barrier’ so that’s what I do.”

Constien’s personal best in the steeplechase came during the Pac-12 Championships in May. She finished seventh in 10 minutes, 28.08 seconds. CU teammate Erin Clark (IntPhys’18) won the event in 10:02.16.

Constien moved on to the NCAA regional meet, but didn’t advance to the NCAA Championships. Still, she’s confident she’s in the right place to succeed both on the track and in the classroom.

And even when she’s inside studying, the 19-year-old is thinking about the outdoors. She’s majoring in environmental engineering and focusing on finding a way to make domestic energy use more environmentally friendly and minimize its negative effects on the environment.

“It’s our mess, we’ve got to clean it up,” Constien says.

Specifically, she’s set her sights on making energy more efficient by localizing its production through smaller, but more numerous energy-generating facilities. By producing energy locally, whether by wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, natural gas or biomass, energy lost during transfer from traditional large power plants to consumers can be eliminated.

“I would love to work with making things more efficient, decreasing energy intake,” she says. “I love alternative energy as well.”

Without skipping a beat she adds, “I really love nature. A LOT. I mean skiing in it, hiking in it, running in it, it’s the best.”