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STORRS, Conn. – Sophomore women’s track and field star Susan Aneno’s cross-country trip this week to Eugene, Ore. and the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be her latest adventure in what has been an eventful two years.
Originally from Mpigi, Uganda on the eastern side of Africa, Aneno’s journey to UConn really began in high school after she received interest from head coach J.J. Clark.
“I knew Coach Clark before I came to the U.S. because he went to Uganda to recruit me when I was in high school,” said Aneno on Monday morning. “He was the first American coach I met and all along I wanted to run for him.”
However, fate would put Aneno at Middle Tennessee State for her freshman season, where she ran cross country, indoor track and outdoor track for the Blue Raiders. Aneno competed in the NCAA Regionals in outdoor competition, falling just short of a trip to Oregon.
Her transfer to UConn was completed in time to compete during the outdoor season in 2017, a decision that came relatively easy to Aneno once she gained her footing as a student-athlete in the U.S.
“UConn is a great school in terms of academics and it has a great business program. I was taking accounting, so I knew if I got into the School of Business at UConn, I would have a better opportunity after graduation,” said Aneno.
Not only did she choose UConn for academic reasons, but also to be closer to her uncle and cousins in Connecticut – her closest family that isn’t almost 7,000 miles away in Africa. Getting to run for Clark made UConn a slam-dunk.
“Given Coach Clark’s history in training good 800m runners, I knew if I trained with him, he would make me a great runner too,” said Aneno.
Now getting the chance to compete for UConn in the 800m event at her first-career NCAA Championships, she and Clark travel to Eugene on Monday afternoon to prepare for her semifinal race on Thursday at 9:14 p.m. (ET).
“Knowing that I’m representing UConn makes me so happy. I hope I can do my best and put UConn on top of the list,” said Aneno.
Aneno has already enjoyed a successful inaugural campaign for the Huskies, earning gold medals in both the 4x4 (3:43.42) and 400m (54.47) at the UConn Northeast Challenge on April 15.
At the American Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she won the 800m in a time of 2:04.97, while placing fifth in the 400m (54.31) and 4x4 (3:41.91).
“I have always been optimistic and tried to work hard to get below two minutes in the 800m,” said Aneno, who qualified for NCAA’s last week at the NCAA East Preliminary in Lexington, Ky. with a school-record run of 2:02.66.
“Running 800m now in the world, you must get below two minutes to qualify for championships or the Olympics and that’s my goal. I am still working hard to get there,” added the sophomore runner.
Aneno is the only athlete representing UConn, on the men’s or women’s side, at the NCAA Outdoor Championships this season. Despite that deserved recognition, she wishes her teammates were joining her in Oregon.
“I really would love to be together, train and go to nationals with my teammates, but hopefully next season we all make it,” said Aneno.
As the Uganda native prepares for her first trip to Oregon, she does so as UConn’s last track and field representative of the 2016-17 season. She will attempt to make her great sophomore season a historic one for the program.
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