COLUMBIA, S.C. - The women's cross country season fired off at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Carolina Challenge in Columbia. A group of freshmen and a pair of more experienced runners took on the "rust buster race" on a challenging 5k course in good weather conditions.
Senior Kaitlyn Keene led the team from start to finish and clocked a time of 20:24.2, an improvement from last years' season opener. Teammate Bethany Thornhill also ran the course faster than last year and finished right behind Keene with a time of 21:04.2.
"I felt pretty strong for the first couple miles," said a smiling Thornhill. "I just need to keep telling myself to push through the last bit and finish strong."
Thornhill, a former soccer player, has made remarkable progress during her first year as a cross country runner.
"I'm just going to take one day at a time and keep improving day by day," said Thornhill. "Really focus on improving my time and not worrying about other things."
Taylor Barnes, a runner who just transitioned from marathon to cross country, also placed in the top 3 Buccaneers. Barnes crossed the finish line in 21:07,9, only 3.7 seconds behind Thornhill.
"As the season goes on I think we will be pushing each other more and more," explained Thornhill.
Assistant Track and Cross Country Coach, Aaron Iaun, is satisfied with the rust buster race and pointed out that the girls worked well together throughout the course, just like in training.
"We accomplished exactly what we were looking for, on both the girls and the guys side," said Iaun.
The Buccaneers will return to action on September 15th at the Adidas XC Challenge in Cary, North Carolina.