Claudia Burgess had to weigh her options last spring. Trust us when we say, there were many of them for the Boulder High student-athlete.
Known for her extraordinary abilities in distance and cross country running, Burgess had a major shift toward wanting to pursue Nordic skiing during her junior year of high school. It's an endeavor she is equally adept at — the proof being multiple appearances at the Junior Nordic Nationals.
It was a leap of faith, really, but one that eventually came around in a way she never could have foreseen. Missing all of her junior year of track, Burgess still managed to prove to the coaches at the University of Oregon that she was going to be a great addition for their prestigious cross country and track programs.
And while Nordic skiing is a "forever" sport that Burgess will always have time for, she has the clarity of mind that is putting her out on the track for the full season for the first time in her prep career.
She's a runner, and that can only mean good things for the Panthers in 2018.
"Since I've never had a full track season, it feels a little odd to say, 'yeah, so I'm running at Oregon next year', but I'm excited to see what it's like to put myself out there right before I head off," said Burgess, who still qualified for the Nordic Junior Nationals this March but opted out of participating. "I feel honored to have a chance to be part of that program next year.
"I decided to take off the track season last year to focus on Nordic cross country, and now that I'm running in college it's crazy to think about ... but ultimately it worked out how I wanted it to. It was a choppy process, but it all fell into place. I'm excited to see what we can do in my last high school running season."
There's a logjam in Boulder County when it comes to absolute phenoms in distance running, and Burgess is right among them. She has placed in the top 10 in 5A cross country three times in her four years, including a third place showing this past fall, and on the track she has two top-8 performances at state dating to her freshman and sophomore seasons.
A few weeks after this year's state cross country meet at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs, Burgess set a personal best time while finishing 44th in her division at the Nike Southwest Regional race in Arizona.
Think she's excited to see what she can do?
"Of course I was excited about how I ended my cross-country season and I am excited to see that carry over to track," Burgess said, noting one of her biggest role models, Melody Fairchild, ran for Oregon. "I don't think there's any one race I'm focusing on more quite yet ... but for personal goals, I will be going after my freshman and sophomore year PR's. I'm pretty sure I'll be capable of that."
The Panthers girls finished 23rd as a team last year, scoring 12 points via a now-senior Lauren Neugeboren's fourth-place finish in the mile and another fourth place finish from the 1,600 relay team — which also included Neugeboren and returners Alana McClements and Lily Margolis.
Burgess is almost a lock in the mile and two-mile this season and, barring anything crazy, will help along a 3,200 relay team that should qualify for state. Neugeboren is another girl to watch out for as someone who has shown steady improvement in track and will be asked to go all out on relays, too.