Mesa women’s XC team aims for nationals
Colorado Mesa’s women’s cross country team has been on the cusp of qualifying for nationals in recent years, but sicknesses and injuries have hindered that dream.
Mesa senior Alexis Skarda has qualified for nationals twice, placing high enough to earn All-America status both times, but she’s always qualified individually.
Fellow seniors Kelsey Follett and Brooke Bosman and the rest of the Mavericks are hoping to join her for the first time this year.
“Each year has had its ups and downs,” Follett said. “Through it all Gig (Leadbetter) has been an amazing coach. He’s always believed in all of us. We’ve always struggled at regionals, with sicknesses, mainly. We haven’t had that lucky day yet. This year, I think is our year.”
The NCAA Division II Central Region Championships begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Washington Park in Denver with the women’s race. The men’s race follows at noon. The meet is hosted by Metro State College.
The top six men’s teams and top five women’s teams advance to nationals. The top two individuals from non-qualifying teams and any top-5 individuals will also advance.
The Mesa women will need some luck to finish in the top five to qualify as a team.
Five teams in the region are ranked in the top 25 nationally. Western State is ranked No. 1, Adams State is No. 3, Augustana (S.D.) is No. 4, Mary is No. 8 and Metro State is No. 21.
“Metro came out of nowhere at RMAC,” Leadbetter said. “We haven’t seen that kind of performance from them. In order for us to make nationals, we’re going to have to beat Regis, Colorado School of Mines and Mary. I don’t see us beating Metro.”
Colorado Mesa isn’t ranked in the top 10 in the region, but that’s without Skarda. She’s missed most of the season with a foot injury. Follett is nursing a heel spur injury.
“I don’t know how (Skarda) is going to do,” Leadbetter said. “She’s not going to be at her peak running, but the only way you can do that is specificity running. At least it kept her central cardio strong. She’s so competitive, I still wouldn’t be surprised if she finished in the top 10.”
Skarda kept her cardiovascular condition in shape racing with the Colorado Mesa cycling team. Last weekend, she won the USA Cycling Division II women’s cross country mountain bike national title.
Skarda won the race in a time of 1:50.23, beating some cyclists from Division I schools. She placed second overall in the short track behind a Division I cyclist from the University of Denver.
“We’re real excited to have Alexis back,” Follett said. “Everyone’s been strong. I think we’re going to do good this year.”
Leadbetter believes it will take their best effort to qualify the team for nationals.
“Kelsey has to run harder than she’s ever ran in her life,” Leadbetter said. “Brooke was sick at RMAC, but is there with Kelsey. Melissa Bauer, Amanda Anderson and Mayra Garcia have got to move up close to Brooke. If they do that, we have a chance.”
The first-year Colorado Mesa men’s program isn’t expected to challenge for a national berth, but Leadbetter is hoping the Mavericks can finish ahead of a couple of RMAC schools and build for next year.
“The guys have been so fun to work with,” Leadbetter said. “They get (personal records) every other day it seems like. So many of them are 400, 800-meter runners in track. They are working hard and having fun.”
Casey Vaughn, who had to clear NCAA eligibility over some confusion on non-school sanctioned events, is eligible and should give the Mavs a boost.