Influx of new talent has Mesa XC teams excited
All-American Alexis Skarda is gone, as are Kelsey Follett and Brooke Bosman.
The Colorado Mesa University women’s cross country team will be much different this season, but that doesn’t mean it will be weaker, as the RMAC coaches expect. The Mavericks are picked to finish ninth by the coaches after finishing seventh last year.
“When we did our time trial, the top five girls were all within one minute and the top four all within 45 seconds of each other in a 5K,” CMU coach Gig Leadbetter said. “I’m excited we have that fantastic bunching and depth. We don’t have the exceptional runner. We’re going to have to depend on those girls staying close to each other.
“So we don’t get first place, then eighth and 12th. This time we’ll get 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th.”
Sophomore Melissa Bauer returns with sophomores Amanda Anderson and Shannon Emery and senior Mayra Garcia from last year’s team. Anderson is nursing tendinitis in a knee.
“It’s definitely different,” Bauer said. “All the returners from last year feel like we have big shoes to fill. We’re trying to work hard and make sure we’re up there (near the top).”
The Mavericks’ expectations are much different than last year, but Bauer believes they will push each other.
“We work really well together running in a group,” she said. “We push each other really well. Hopefully we can build off that.
“I think a lot of us want to (contribute) and do the best we can. I think there are two or three of us that on any given day could be our No. 1 runner.”
The men’s team begins its second season, but the first with a recruited group of runners.
“Now we have some freshman recruits, so we actually have some (distance) runners,” Leadbetter said. “They were all 400-, 800-meter runners last year.”
Jonathon Carlton, Edgar Hernandez, Connor Hill and Shane Niksic return from last season.
The Mavericks are picked last in the RMAC by the coaches. First-year program Chadron State is picked ahead of Mesa.
“We’re going for sixth or seventh out of 13,” Niksic said. “I definitely have a chip on my shoulder about it. We’re definitely going to surprise some people.”
“We were ranked last, and we’re so excited about that because we’re going to turn some heads,” Leadbetter said. “I think we’ll get about halfway up the RMAC list.”
Freshmen John Cusick and Justin Shaver are expected to make a difference in the Mavs’ success.
“John Cusick and Shane Niksic and Justin Shaver are going to blow people away,” Leadbetter said.
Niksic said having a year of experience makes a difference. He used the summer to prepare for this season, unlike last fall, when the men’s program was a late addition to the athletic department.
“We were notified a week before we were going to have a team,” Niksic said. “It was me and two other guys that were going to (run). We had to find five other guys to have a team.
“Our top two guys were track guys. We didn’t actually have a distance team, (but) we beat Regis in two of three meets.”