The teams are looking to capitalize off of last year’s success. The men were the 2020 Peach Belt Conference (PBC) champions and were led by Jacob Poston and Carlos Rodriguez, who both ranked at the top of the conference. Poston was the conference Co-Runner of the Year and achieved a spot on the all-conference team. Rodriguez was named to the sportsmanship team.
The women ranked fourth in the conference championship, led by Mackenzie Taylor. She was named PBC Runner of the Year after winning the PBC championship as an individual runner.
The men are ranked second in the preseason ranking entering this season. They are also ranked eleventh out 30 in the nation. In addition to Rodriguez, Hans Troyer, Kai Brickey and Chandler Kennedy return from last year’s team. The women are ranked fifth in the NCAA rankings and will be led by Taylor, who also returns from last year’s team.
Coach Adam Ward, who is the head coach for both teams, is entering his eighteenth season at Augusta University. Ward is looking for the team to get better at minor things this season.
“I’m looking for us to get better at the little things … taking better care of ourselves: sleep, nutrition, hydration, limiting stress to what extent that is possible,” he said. “[I want them to become] better students of the sport and better racers regardless of the circumstances.”
Both teams have achieved a lot under him, and that kind of success can be hard to replicate.
“We are currently preparing for our first meet of the season and getting several new men and women acclimated to college life and training,” Ward said. “They have a lot of new stimuli thrown at them for the first time and I am hoping we can help them navigate it as best they can.”
COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, and the virus has affected the Jags’ training sessions this year. But Ward said they haven’t had to adjust their daily routines too much.
“It has [affected us] in the way we have to handle close quarters, training in the weight room and how we travel, but being an outdoor sport has been very helpful,” he said. “We have been able to remain almost normal, without many changes to what we do.”
Ward said that it was hard to pick an individual that stood out this offseason, but he was impressed by the team’s performance in the lead-up to the season.
“Our sport is often looked at for its individuality, but in all honesty, I am really impressed by our freshman men and all of our women’s team,” he said. “They put in the work to be ready for what is being asked of them by me, themselves and their teammates.”
Ward also mentioned he wants the team to focus on having fun this season.
“My goal is that each person improves, has fun, fully commits to their academic obligations and that we compete to the best of our ability,” he said. “Beyond that I would like to help our young men and women win conference and return to the NCAAs in Florida this winter.”
The next meet after the opener is the North Alabama Showcase on Sept 17. in Huntsville, Alabama followed by the Alexander ASICS Invitational on Oct. 2 in Fairburn, Georgia. The PBC Championship will be in Fairburn, Georgia on Oct 23. The Jaguars close out their season in November at the NCAA Championship.