Illness helped turn Bruzewski’s hobby into passion

CROSS COUNTRY WAS A WAY for Paula Bruzewski to get in shape for basketball. Now she’s part of a nationally ranked team at Mesa State.

Paula Bruzewski ran on her high school cross country team to get in shape for basketball.

Now, the Mesa State College junior is running cross country to win.

“Basketball was the only reason I ran,” Bruzewski admitted.

Basketball led her to college.

She took a scholarship offer from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. There, she developed blood clots in her left arm. She could practice with the team, but couldn’t participate in any contact drills because of a blood thinner she was taking. She didn’t play a single game.

After the first year, she transferred to Otero Junior College and finally got to play.

“That went well,” Bruzewski said. “I made all-region and the all-tournament team.”

She earned her associates degree and transferred to Metro State College to continue playing basketball.

The first week of school in 2006, the blood clots returned, requiring her to have surgery to remove a rib that was pinching a vein against muscle.

“When it happened at Fort Scott, they did an angioplasty,” Bruzewski said. “They told me if it comes back, I’d have to have a rib removed.”

Bruzewski returned to Metro’s basketball team and saw limited action, but by then, she admittedly had lost the passion for basketball.

About that time, she was asked to join the new Metro State track program.

“All I could do is run,” Bruzewski said. “If I didn’t have this, I might have stayed in Kansas and played basketball.”

It went well enough that she was going to receive scholarship money, but her boyfriend, whom she met at Otero, Kyle Hogue, transferred to Mesa State.

“She always loved to run,” Mesa State coach Gig Leadbetter said. “The Metro (track) coach asked her to run with them. They needed one more runner. Then she followed her boyfriend here, but had to take a year off.

She trained, and trained without running with us. She came back (this year) with a fire in her eye.

“She’s proved to be an incredible competitor. She plans and sticks to her plan. If she plans on going under 19 minutes in a 5K, she’ll do it. She runs from the heart.”

Now, Bruzewski, who is engaged to Hogue, is helping the No. 23-ranked Mavericks build a successful program.

“It’s exciting to be a on a team again,” Bruzewski said. “Cross country is so different (than basketball). There are some things I miss about basketball, but in ways, I like cross country better. It all happened for a reason.”

Bruzewski and the Mavericks host the RMAC Championships on Saturday in the desert west of Grand Junction Regional Airport, but it will be difficult to knock off No. 1 Adams State and No. 5 Western State. The women’s race begins at 9:15 a.m., with the men’s race at 10:15 a.m.

The Grizzlies’ women’s team has won six consecutive RMAC titles and five consecutive Division II national titles. Adams State and Western State have won all 16 national titles in the history of Division II women’s cross country.

“We’re hoping for second,” Leadbetter said. “Adams has an incredible team; Western does also. We’re realistically shooting for third place, but you never know. You may have some sick runners. Everyone on the team is psyched.”


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