BEFORE her feet touch Newcestown soil for the first time since August, Jane Buckley is determined to sign off her 2022 season in style at the European Cross-Country Championships in Italy this Sunday.
The 19-year-old West Cork woman is a freshman at Providence College in Rhode Island, and has turned heads in America.
She was their star of the show in the recent cross-country season – and wants to take her impressive form into the Europeans this weekend when she competes for Ireland in the U20 women’s race.
‘Definitely, things have really started to come together since I started over here,’ said Jane, speaking to The Southern Star from the States, ahead of her flight to Italy on Wednesday.
‘I am running faster than I ever would have ran before. Since I moved here, it has just clicked, and I have felt the improvement.
‘We run 6k here, and we ran 4k at home, but within my 6k here the 4k has alway been faster than what I ran at home.’
One race highlights Jane’s improvement and potential: the Big East cross-country championships on October 28th. It was just her third race since she moved to the States in mid August to start her athletics scholarship, and she even surprised herself that day.
‘That was fun,’ she said.
‘It was a good race, and it just all worked out for me.
‘I didn’t expect to win it. I wasn’t even thinking I’d be in the top three so I surprised myself.’
By winning the women’s 6k race Jane made history. She became only the second freshman ever to win the women’s race, with the previous freshman success back in 1982. And she is the first-ever Providence College freshman to win this Big East title.
At the Northeast Regionals in New York, Jane was the Friars’ top performer again, finishing third as they qualified for the NCAA championships in Oklahoma where she again led the way for her college. Again, making history. Jane finished 49th overall, the first since 2015 an athlete from the college had finished in the top-50 at the championship. She has hit the ground running in America.
‘I have really enjoyed it, and I settled in easier than I thought I would,’ she said.
‘My classes are organised around my running so I’m not struggling to fit in training. My classes finish before 1pm on most days and I have training then at 2.30pm.’
Her coach Ray Treacy, brother of Olympic silver-medallist John, has made an instant impression, too. This is his 38th season as director of cross-country and track at the college – and his coaching CV marks him out as one of the best in the business. Jane is soaking up all that knowledge on one side of the Atlantic and has her coach, Chris Harrington, at Leevale AC as well.
She’s certainly moving in the right direction and is keen to show at the Europeans on Sunday how much she has improved since the 2021 European cross-country spectacular in Dublin last December. She finished an impressive 30th in the women's U20 4000m last year; that was Jane's first time representing Ireland and came at the end of her breakthrough year.
‘This time I will definitely be a bit more experienced,’ Jane explained. ‘I feel more prepared this year because I am used to running faster for longer, because in America I need to run faster for all of the race, rather than pacing myself and waiting to make a move.’
This is Jane’s final race of 2022 and on Monday she’ll touch down in Newcestown again, full of tales of her adventures in America and, hopefully, from- the Europeans in Italy.