by CHRIS BOULOUS
WESTFIELDS Sports student resident Eliza Barton, 17, is not exactly sure what she is more excited about: Running in front of 30,000 people and competing against some of the world's best athletes or partaking in day-to-day college life.
All she knows is she will be happy to give up an Aussie summer for it.
"It'll be going from shorts and thongs to snow gear but it'll be worth it," said Barton, who is off to Monmouth University in New Jersey next month on a full athletics scholarship.
"It's a big step to make but I think it'll be beneficial to my running. The competition will be very tough but I'm looking forward to it."
The middle-distance runner has excelled since the day she started running in the tiny tots at Greystanes Little Athletics in 1998.
And 18 state titles and many national medals later, the Greystanes resident is ready to take the next step in her running career which she hopes will end with an Olympic medal down the track.
From her favoured events of the 800- and 1500-metres to the longer cross-country formats, Barton has consistently been in the top echelon of runners.
"I've been talking to some of the girls on the track team and I'm starting to get excited about the prospect of running in front of full crowds and pushing myself to the limit," she said.
One person who has no doubt she will exceed expectations in the United States is long-term coach James Fitzgerald.
More commonly known as Jimbo, he has developed a nickname of his own for his star pupil.
"I call her Makybe [as in the three-time Melbourne Cup-winning horse Makybe Diva] because she's my quality mare," he said.
"She's so dedicated. She has natural ability and always has but her work ethic and her meticulous nature is what sets her apart from the rest."