No Payne, No Gain

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

When she was young, Aareon Payne ran to keep up with the boys in her local Cleveland Heights neighborhood. Now in her senior year at USC, Payne is running to keep her lifelong dream of winning an NCAA title alive. 

"I'd like to think we can go all the way," Payne (pictured below by said. "Maybe I am biased a little bit, but across the board we are dominant. Our jumpers, our throwers and our runners are all at the top of their game. Everything is coming together at the right time. And, I'm happy to be a part of it."

While the Ohio native has never been a demonstrative force on the USC women's track and field team, Payne has done her talking on the oval over the course of her collegiate career.

After a hamstring injury cut short her chase for a Pac-10 title in the 200m dash back in 2010, the sprinter came back with a vengeance last season. Payne won the 200m dash at the USC-UCLA Dual Meet and Trojan Invitational, before setting a personal record in the event with a time of 22.83 (fifth all-time in USC history) at Mt. SAC on April 16.

In addition, Payne provided stability on the second leg of the Women of Troy's 4x100 relay team, which took home top honors at the Pac-10 Championships and third place at the NCAA Championships.

For her efforts, Payne was named an All-American for both events.

"The vibe is really good right now based on what we achieved last year," said Payne. "But, as a senior on the 4x100 team, I want to take the girls under my wing and help them in any way I can. I'm not a big talker. I like to run and the let rest take care of itself. Luckily, this team is hungry and will not settle for anything less than what it's capable of." 

While she is the reigning 200m champion at the Trojan Invitational, Payne (pictured far left by will only be competing in the 4x100m race this weekend. Although it's in a limited role, the two-time All-American hopes to get the crowd excited by her performance.

"As track athletes if we are going to sell the sport we need to put on a show," said Payne. "People don't seem to get too excited at the idea of watching people run fast around the track. But then we they actually see us, and we are giving it our all, it's something special."

After graduation Payne plans to enroll in a veterinarian school, but for now, all eyes are on leading the No. 3 ranked team in country to the program's first ever NCAA crown.

"You hear about the Trojan Family and you think it's just a selling point to try and recruit you to come to USC," said Payne. "But after four years of being here, it's so true. This is my second family and I couldn't have asked for more in a college experience. I have one final shot at helping us get to the top and can't wait to see where we end up. If nothing else, it's going to be an exciting few months."

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