Mavs intent on reaching cross-country nationals
They won a meet earlier this season and had a program-best third-place finish in the RMAC championships.
Now, the Mesa State College women’s cross country team is looking to make more history Saturday in the NCAA Central Region championships in Kearney, Neb.
“We’re real excited,” Mesa junior Esmeralda Martinez-Ramos said. “I think we’ll make it to nationals. Metro was close to us, but I’m confident we’re going to make it.
“We’ve always had a really tough team. Now, we have more girls and are a stronger team. Everyone pushed themselves this year.”
The No. 22-ranked Mavericks, ranked fifth in the region, are hoping to qualify for Division II national championships for the first time in school history. The top five teams and two runners on non-qualifying teams will compete in nationals Nov. 22 in Slippery Rock, Pa.
“We had the most improvement at the RMAC championships, but Metro was right there with us,” Mesa State coach Gig Leadbetter said. “We’ve been tapering for regionals. We want our personal bests.
“The girls are so psyched about regionals. I want them to get (to nationals) and see what to strive for in the future. We want to make the top 10 in nationals.”
Top-ranked and five-time national champion Adams State is favored to win the regional title again. Western State, Augustana (S.D.) and Minnesota-Duluth are ranked ahead of Mesa State in the region.
The Mavericks will have to hold off Metro State, Minnesota State-Mankato and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs to achieve their goal.
“We’re going to be fighting with Mankato and Metro,” Leadbetter said. “I’ve done the numbers and it is going to be close. Metro is also a team to look at. It will be tough.”
Mesa State is led by freshman Alexis Skarda, who finished sixth in the RMAC championships two weeks ago. Martinez-Ramos finished ninth.
“Alexis is a fighter,” Leadbetter said. “She survived a cold during RMAC and finished sixth. Ese is doing great and is running strong.”
The Mavericks will look to their depth, though, to get a top-five finish needed to qualify for nationals and this year. Leadbetter believes he has it even without their seventh-best runner in Alison Poppe.
The freshman from Fort Collins has a possible stress fracture, Leadbetter said, and will not compete.
After Skarda and Martinez-Ramos are junior Paula Bruzewski, freshmen Kelsey Follett and Brooke Bosman and junior Samantha Hentosh.
“We have great depth,” Leadbetter said. “Paula gets better and better every race. Kelsey surprised everybody in her first race in the RMAC. Brooke is doing great and Sam is feeling better after running with the flu last week.”