When Durango High School senior cross-country and track and field star Madeleine Burns had an offer to run at an Ivy League school and a host of elite cross-country schools, she wanted to take her time to make the right decision. After narrowing her list from 10 schools down to two, Burns was torn between the University of Colorado Boulder and Princeton. In the end, she opted to run for the Tigers and will leave for New Jersey next fall.
Burns won the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 4A 3,200-meter race at the state track and field championships, and finished fourth at the CHSAA Class 4A cross-country championships this past fall. She said it was not an easy decision to make.
“I think Princeton will be a good fit for me because it’s an up-and-coming program, and the education is top-notch,” Burns said. “I originally had eight to 10 schools that got whittled down. In the end, Princeton, it’s such an amazing opportunity to compete and study at an Ivy League school, and I wanted to experience something new.”
Burns has had an almost meteoric-like rise in the last two seasons, as she has gone from one of the team’s stronger runners to being a school record-holder, and one of the best runners in all of Colorado.
“Her work ethic helped get her to where she is now,” said DHS head coach Ken Flint. “She decided that she wanted to be one of the best runners in Colorado and the nation, and she was willing to do whatever it took to be that type of runner. She’s such a focused individual and goes after what she wants. This is the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned, and know that she will get better and better.”
Burns is a four-time state qualifier in cross-country and a three-time qualifier in track and field. She toppled two school records that were set by Laura Thweatt, who would go on to compete at Colorado and the USA. Burns’ record in the 3,200 is 10 minutes, 53.63 seconds, and her fastest 5-kilometer time in cross-country was 17:22.1, which was set at Desert Twilight in Arizona. She also had the chance to represent her country, after she helped Team USA bring home a bronze medal at the World Mountain running Association’s Under-18 Mountain Running Youth Cup in Italy in August, where she finished seventh overall.
After a busy summer and fall, Burns said the recruiting process was rigorous, but she said that once she received an early admission letter from Princeton, she knew that was where she wanted to run.
“I wanted to go somewhere with a great engineering program, and that was also tough because CU has a strong aerospace engineer program,” Burns said. “But when I was visiting Princeton, they told me all about the professors, how you get to interact with them closely, and was super impressed with the engineering program. Plus, the campus was amazing, too.”
Burns is one of four runners to date to commit to running for the Tigers for next season, and her future teammates include a pair of twins from Oregon, Isabel and Fiona Max, Lucy Huelskamp, also of Oregon, and Tsion Yared from Florida.
“I can’t wait to get onto campus and be a part of this team,” Burns said. “I think it will be really cool to have a really solid team and group of girls to train with. I’ll get to know a whole lot more people because I’ve been surrounded by the same kids. It’s going to be a good change and will be fun to see a different side of the country.”
For a runner of Burns’ caliber, Flint knows that she helped take the program to new heights, and said that while it will be tough to fill her shoes, other strong runners are ready to step up.
“She made her mark on DHS and set the standard high,” Flint said. “For her to do what she did and set all-time records in the manner she did, it’s going to be a while until we see someone like Madeleine again. But with that being said, we have some talent behind her and now they know it can be done.
“It’s not pie in the sky to become an elite-level runner from Durango High School, and it’s just about whether they’re willing to make the commitment.”
With a future in Princeton orange and black soon to come to fruition, Burns still has one more season in DHS Demons’ red. She is training hard for her final season of track and field, and will compete in indoor events before she prepares to defend her 3,200 crown in the spring.