BUTTE — When Hayley Burns returns to the Mining City in a few weeks, the stakes will be much higher.
The Bozeman senior cruised to a win in the girls 800 at the Butte High Invite on Thursday. She's already comfortably hit the state qualifying mark in that event as well as the 400, 1600 and 3200. Burns currently holds the top Class AA mark in both the 800 and 1600.
Her decorated running career — as both a member of Class B Colstrip and now the AA Hawks — is filled to the brim with victories, including a first-place individual finish at the 2019 State B cross country meet when she was part of the Fillies squad as a sophomore.
And as member of Bozeman's cross country program in 2020 and 2021, she was a key factor in the Hawks girls earning a three-peat as Bozeman continued its dominance in that sport, winning 14 of the past 15 girls team titles.
But, despite all the hardware she's accumulated, there's one accomplishment that's evaded her.
"I've never won an individual AA so I think that's just definitely a huge goal," she said, shortly after clocking a time of 2:18.66 in the 800 on Thursday.
She came close at the 2021 state cross country meet in Missoula, finishing in third behind Hellgate's Kensey May and Helena's Kylie Hartnett. And the team titles she's earned with the Hawks have been greatly meaningful, but standing alone atop the podium as a AA athlete is one final box she's looking to check.
"It was incredible to win with the team, but I think individual is like really big," she said.
And so when Burns returns to Bulldog Memorial Stadium for the State AA track and field meet on May 27-28, it'll be her final shot at claiming that elusive title.
"It's kind of crazy how fast the season's gone by but I'm super excited," she said.
This outing looks to be more promising than last season, when at state she was still in the final stages of recovering from a fractured toe. She took 6th place in the 3200 at state last season.
She's feeling "most competitive" in the mile, where's she hit a class-best time of 5:05.33 this season.
And with her final chance at state medals ahead of her, she feels like she's running as well as she ever has.
"It feel amazing," she said. "I think this is the best season I've had and to have that my senior season I'm really happy about it."