Feature: Payne has Things Timed Just Right

By Marc Knutila published September 14, 2006

Timing is everything. Just ask University of Colorado at Colorado Springs All-American runner Shannon Payne. It seems she has timed things just right.

Payne is a two-time All-American and has received a UCCS school-record five RMAC runner of the week awards.

Pretty impressive credentials considering she didn't start to run cross country until high school.

"I started running in the ninth grade on a whim and was absolutely terrible," Payne admitted.

All she did in that first year as a runner was improve her time by five minutes and eventually become a highly-recruited cross country star out of high school.

Yes, timing is everything.

Perhaps the most astounding, or down right insane, thing about Payne however, is that she will run up to 80 miles in a week.

To most people going for a run means a slow jog around the block. For Payne, it means a treacherous two-hour run through the mountains in Monument.

A run like that can't be that bad, right?

"I'll run around 16 or 17 miles on a Sunday run," Payne explained.

So much for a jog around the block!

But that is the kind of training and dedication it takes to become an All-American. To the delight of UCCS coach Graeme Badger, Payne is not the only All-American on the UCCS women's cross country team, there are two others.

The team also boasts All-Americans Sarah Shepard and Ashley Birger.

Having three All-Americans is a big reason why the Mountain Lions are currently ranked No. 8 nationally. However, Payne seems almost unimpressed by the high ranking.

"The rankings are more like a guide," she explained. "It's hard to say who we are better than because we have only played a couple of the ranked teams."

Even so, Payne has some lofty expectations for the Mountain Lions cross country team this year

"We would like to finish top two or three in conference and qualify for nationals," Payne said. "Top five as a team [nationally] would be great."

But for Payne, it's all about being prepared for every meet.

"We have to make sure we are not overconfident against any team," Payne said.

Not being overconfident comes naturally for Payne.

Even with her All-America status she remains shockingly humble with her goals for the upcoming season.

"Basically, I would just like to go to nationals," Payne replied. That is a pretty modest goal for an athlete who not only qualified, but finished 10th out of 180 competitors in the NCAA Division II National Championships last year.

Her understatement was comparable to saying Lebron James is talented in basketball. To break through, she was put on the spot asked where she hoped to finish at this year's national championship meet.

"You know what, fifth would be a good goal," she said. That would also be a solid improvement from last year and would validate all of her hard training.

Validating herself is something she has been doing ever since coming to the UCCS campus.

After turning down cross country scholarships from both CU-Boulder and Colorado State, Payne had to prove that Division II runners could compete with Division I opponent.

So far this year, Payne has made her point.

She won the Wyoming Invitational setting a course record en route to defeating runners from Wyoming, CSU, and Air Force (all Division I schools). She followed it up with a fourth-place finish at the Lobo Invitational, where Division I schools UNM, LSU and Texas A&M participated.

It seems whether she is taking five minutes off of her time in one year, setting a course record time, or running countless hours each and every week, timing seems to be everything for Shannon Payne.

And it seems fair to say that for Shannon and the UCCS women's cross country team: the time is now.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
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