Toeing the line as an NCAA Division I runner among a new group of competitors has been an exciting experience for Kaylee Volner.
After leaving the Maui Interscholastic League this summer, the Seabury Hall grad found her way to Santa Clara University’s women’s cross country team.
“It’s been such a fun experience so far and I can’t wait for this journey to continue,” said Volner, The Maui News’ 2022 MIL Female Athlete of the Year and two-time cross-country state finalist (2019, 2021). “It’s just a really good environment to be a part of.”
The last time Hawaii fans saw Volner run was in his race-winning 3,000 meter run at the State Championships in Oahu in May.
She is now one of eight freshmen competing for the Broncos.
“I would say the competition here is much more competitive, even in our own team we have four people within 10 seconds of each other so it’s always just, like, fighting for a place, but I loves competition,” Volner said Monday by phone. “It pushes me to work harder during training and during races.”
His season started on September 3 with his first 6 kilometer race at the USF Invitational in San Francisco, with a time of 22 minutes and 38 seconds. She was the team’s fourth runner in her debut and helped the Broncos finish fourth.
Last weekend, Volner ran a 19:01 – very close to his personal best of 18:57 – at the Battle in Beantown 5K in Boston, where Santa Clara finished 10th in a field that included several nationally ranked schools. .
“It was a very good experience to go to Boston,” Volner said. “It was fun to see the city, but also to focus on the racing when it was time, and yeah, it was really fun and competitive. … It was really interesting to see how fast everyone is compared in high school.
Then she will race Friday at the Pacific Invitational.
“Kaylee has a lot of talent, and while we don’t usually expect freshmen to contribute right away, she’s talented and driven enough to blend it into our top 5 or 7,” said Broncos coach Pete Cushman. “She scored twice for us, and that’s impressive considering all the new stresses. She’s away from home, learning a new running distance – we run 6K in college instead of 5K – she trains a little differently and is just adjusting to college life, and making those adjustments at his age is impressive and a testament to his overall talent.
Since arriving on campus in August, Volner has been “coherent and coachable” Cushman said.
“To excel in this sport takes a lot of consistent work over long periods of time, and she has been so reliable during her short time in our program,” he said.
Volner said Valley Isle’s transition to California has been smooth so far and aims to travel and help the Broncos in their conference and regional championship races at the end of the season.
“It’s a year that’s all about learning. Kaylee was the best runner in Hawaii, and now she’s racing in college at the Division I level where there are a lot of other runners who were the best where they came from. Cushman said. “And there are 22-year-olds, and there are athletes from all over the world, and taking the next step is going to be about learning, gaining confidence, getting fitter and , ultimately, to grow as an athlete over the next four years.
“It’s a step in that direction, and we just hope to see progress in this first year,” he added. “If she scores for our team, it’s a bonus for us in her first year.”
A typical Tuesday for Volner, a biochemistry major, includes a morning workout, an afternoon chemistry class followed by a chemistry lab, afternoon weightlifting, and then a multi-mile run. .
Amidst a crazy schedule, there are many benefits to being a college student-athlete, she noted.
“Like having such great resources, facilities and meeting so many new people through athletics, like I’ve met so many people from teams like water polo, football, baseball, rowing, but there are also downsides, like not having as much freedom over time, learning to juggle everything that is going on,” Volner said. “There are definitely some things that I was nervous about, like the team dynamics or how I would juggle practices or how difficult the practices would be from high school practices, but honestly I think the fit was really great. Everything has gone well so far.
Although Volner has gone through many changes, one thing has remained the same: wearing tie-dye socks on race day.
“This tradition will always be part of my racing career,” she said laughing.
Coincidentally, the women’s team also organizes “Friday Fun Socks” where everyone wears their coolest socks to train.
“It’s really cool,” she says. “I thought it was so funny because I always like to wear my funny socks.”
* Dakota Grossman is at [email protected].