CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Georgina Russell and Taylor Barnes attacked the daunting 6k course at Panorama Falls in Charlottesville at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. Both Buccaneers have broken their personal records in every race throughout the season, and the NCAA Southwest Regional Championship was no exception.
"I knew what I was in for. It was the type of hilly course where souls could be lost if you don't keep your focus. I think we all saw some of that unfold but both Taylor and I had our race plans and were prepared for this," said a satisfied Russell, who finished in 22:40.
Russell went out courageously with the leading pack of 60 fierce females, but lost some ground in her second and third mile. She crossed the finish line in 112th place out of the top 257 runners in the region.
"Georgina went out boldly and followed the race plan. We were hoping that maybe Georgina could have placed a bit higher, but in the end, it played out like we thought it would," said Aaron Iaun, Assistant Track and Cross Country Coach. "This was also a great experience for Taylor. Experiencing this type of racing is important for the future," Iaun added.
Taylor Barnes has exceeded all expectations, and improved her 5k record by several minutes during her first months as a college athlete. Barnes clocked 24:25 in today's 6k, after passing 12 runners in her second mile and finishing with a fast sprint.
"I think this was a good way to end my season and I'm really exited I ran a PR! The course was very hilly and hard, so if I can go out on a flatter course and transfer that effort onto flat ground, I'll be golden," said a smiling Barnes (207th).
Assistant coach Aaron Iaun, who has mentored and trained the women's team through the season, emphasizes that the Regional Championship was a solid way to end the year. This fall sets the Bucs up for a promising track season and has laid a firm foundation for next year.
"We have come so far from last year, and we'll be way more competitive next year. We have a chance to return here with a strong team and do really well with a young group of runners next year," explained Iaun.
This fall has been a learning curve for the whole cross country team and a time to build a base for the coming years. The work that started in 2016 has already produced many of the best performances the Charleston Southern cross country team has seen in the last 20 years.
"Our vision is to have a really competitive program. But as we build toward our goals, we have to see the small victories in every race," concluded Iaun.
The Buccaneers will now transition into pre-season for track and field. The first race will be held January 6 at Clemson.