CHARLESTON, S.C. - The women's cross country team is ready to open the cross country season this Saturday with a tough 5k course at Carolina Challenge in Columbia, South Carolina.
CSU senior Kaitlyn Keene is excited to work with a team that consists of a number of promising newcomers.
"We have a very young team so I'm looking forward to helping the younger girls build for the future and see their times drop too," Keene said.
Keene says that the program has changed drastically since her freshman year and that the energy on the team is very positive.
She added, "Coach Aaron Iaun is doing a great job of keeping the team motivated and in good spirits. I'm super excited for this upcoming meet. It's a good opportunity for us to go out and race and see where we are individually and as a team!"
Taylor Barnes, a freshman from Florence, is looking forward to run the challenging 5 k course she ran in high school. During the months leading up to the event, Barnes has pushed through some major changes in the process of transitioning from marathon to cross country.
"The mileage is something that I'm used too," Barnes said. "The intensity and overall speed is new and it's pushing me and challenging me to do things I never thought I could do. Even though I was not the fastest or the best, God lined up things for me to come here."
Barnes has also transitioned from training by herself to training with a team consisting of hardworking girls. She explains that it's a humbling challenge, and at the same time, it feels good to have people to trust and look up too.
She added, "There is a lot of potential in our team. I feel like we have so many runners like me that are open to being coached. We have a really good coaching staff that wants to see us improve."
Assistant track and cross country coach Aaron Iaun says that the biggest thing the staff has focused on for the last couple years is having the athletes understand what it takes to be successful.
"Going to some bigger meets this season will expose our team to what it really takes," he said. "The opening meet will be more of a rust buster, just to get back into racing mode."
Iaun sides with his athletes when it comes to the potential and positivity of the team. He points out that the pre-season trip to Laurel Springs in North Carolina was a good way for the runners in the women's and men's cross country teams to get to know each other.
He added, "It really set the tone for the year. Positive energy, togetherness and teammates helping each other out."
The Bucs take on the field at the Carolina Challenge with the event scheduled to start at 9 a.m.