Steve Flint knows how to go out on top.
The 2006 Bayfield High School graduate ended his high school career by winning state championships in cross country, the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200-meter run on the track.
Now he has the opportunity to close his collegiate career at Brigham Young University with a similar flourish.
Flint qualified for the final of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships by placing fourth in his semifinal heat Wednesday.
“It was one of those races that played out just as I was hoping it would,” Flint said Thursday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald.
The steeplechase features barriers that runners must jump over and occasional water hazards that must be cleared.
Flint set a new personal record in the event Wednesday, and he ran the ninth-fastest 3,000-meter steeplechase in BYU history at 8 minutes, 41.18 seconds to reach the final field of 12 as the fourth seed. He was less than a second behind top-ranked Anthony Rotich of the University of Texas El-Paso.
The race will start at 5:57 p.m. Friday and can be viewed on WatchESPN.com.
Flint never has reached the NCAA finals before, but he always believed he could.
“I think I’ve been capable of it before, but this is the first time it’s come together and I’ve been able to do it,” he said. “It’s good to reach my potential.”
Flint’s uncle, former Fort Lewis College cross country head coach Ken Flint, saw that potential when Steve Flint still ran for the Wolverines in Bayfield.
“What sealed the deal was his sophomore year at state track in Pueblo, it was 90 (degrees) plus. He was running the two-mile with kids better than him, but he didn’t know it,” Ken Flint said. “He passed out from exhaustion in the last straightaway. I saw how hard he could push himself.”
Steve Flint’s state championships didn’t directly lead to his collegiate running career, though.
He worked for a year “or so,” he said before undertaking a two-year mission to Russia with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It was incredible. I would probably say it’s been the best two years for my life. It’s set the stage for so many choices I’ve made since then,” Steve Flint said. “I’m very religious, so it was something I’m passionate about. In terms of my athletics, it really helped because it helped me maintain a good focus on life in general and helped me develop a mental toughness I didn’t have.”
Steve Flint’s path then led him to BYU, the school his father Jim Flint attended.
As a Cougar, Steve Flint made the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic First Team as a freshman and sophomore then took 12th in the 500-meter run at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as a junior.
An injury to his iliotibial band that connects the hip to the knee required surgery and prevented Steve Flint from competing in outdoor track and field during his junior season.
“My junior year of both high school and college were very similar. In high school I had a really bad illness that ruined my junior year. Last year in college I had a really bad injury that ruined my junior year in college,” he said. “We fought through (the injury) for about a month with the trainers and doctors. It still wasn’t getting any better and had to have season-ending surgery.”
Steve Flint’s senior season has been his best yet.
He won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the BYU Cougar invitational and was sixth at the MPSF Indoor championships in the 5,000-meter run.
And that all was before Wednesday’s historic steeplechase semifinal.
“It’s good to get it done now,” Steve Flint said of reaching the final. “Now or never.”