Mesa’s Skarda hopes to have company at XC nationals

Alexis Skarda is Colorado Mesa’s top cross country runner, placing in the top 20 at nationals in two of the past three years. This year, Skarda hopes some of her terammates will join her at nationals.


Mav Watch


Holiday Inn Crossroads Classic: Thursday-Saturday, The Maverick Center

Notes: Tournament volleyball returns to Colorado Mesa, with the Mavericks and Western State co-hosting the eight-team field. Matches start at 7 tonight with CMU playing Dixie State, and run through Saturday at 6 p.m. at Brownson Arena and the Hamilton Recreation Center. All of Mesa’s matches will be at Brownson.

“We have a great atmosphere with Grand Junction and Mesa State ... Colorado Mesa ... students,” coach Dave Fleming said. “Actually, I don’t know about Colorado Mesa students, but the Mesa State students did a great job supporting us. The more times we can get our kids in front of that environment the better.”

The Mavericks (1-3) lost senior setter Krista Ubersox for the season when she ruptured an Achilles’ tendon Friday in the second match of the Oredigger Classic in Golden.

Ubersox had surgery Sunday and will mentor freshman Jordyn Moody, the only other true setter on the roster. Sophomore Sunni Rae Baird will remain a defensive specialist and can set in an emergency, as can sophomore outside hitters Haleigh Higgins and Rebecca Sellers.

“We don’t need to pump her up, she’s putting enough pressure on herself,” Fleming said of Moody, who started in the Mavs’ win over Southwestern Oklahoma. “She knows she’s the starting setter. If anything, we need to convince her we can win with her as our setter.”


Dixie State at CMU: 7 p.m. Friday, Walker Field

Adams State at CMU: 3 p.m. Sunday, Walker Field

Notes: The Mavericks (0-2) scored only one goal in their trip to California last weekend and were out-shot 25-10. Mesa is 2-1 all-time against Dixie, winning last season 2-0 after splitting games the previous two seasons. The match against Adams State is a non-RMAC game. Mesa won both meetings in 2010, outscoring the Grizzlies 9-2.


Dixie State at CMU: 7 p.m. Thursday, Walker Field

Grand Canyon at CMU: 7 p.m. Saturday, Walker Field

Notes: After back-to-back 2-1 losses, the Mavericks are hoping to get the offense turned around at home. As was the case last season, Mesa is averaging five more shots a game than its opponents, but has had trouble finding the back of the net. Dixie has won the past two meetings, 2-1 last season and 5-1 in 2008. Grand Canyon won the only meeting against Mesa, 1-0 in 2009.


CMU at Pueblo: Friday, Saturday at City Park, Pueblo Central, Centennial high schools

Notes: The fall season opens Friday with the women’s team playing Fort Hays State and Emporia State and the men facing Metro State and CSU-Pueblo. Saturday, the men face Nebraska-Omaha and the women Metro State.

Alexis Skarda has made a lot of individual cross country history.

Now, the Colorado Mesa University senior wants to make some team history.

The returning two-time All-American is looking for her teammates to join her at the NCAA Division II national championships later this season.

She’s also hoping Colorado Mesa’s first men’s cross country team can make that trip.

“It’s cool to have such a big team with the guys,” Skarda said. “The team motivator is going to be a huge factor. Hopefully we can get everyone to nationals. We’ve been so close.”

Skarda is one of three returning runners expected to score for the Mavericks this season, along with seniors Brooke Bosman and Kelsey Follett. Follett is nursing a foot injury, but is expected to compete.

“We have a lot of depth on the women’s side,” Mesa coach Gig Leadbetter said.

The seniors will be joined by Hartnell (Calif.) Junior College transfers Sused Cabrera and Mayra Garcia and freshmen Melissa Bauer and Shannon Emery.

Garcia didn’t start running until her senior year of high school and is just beginning to discover her potential.

Skarda has recovered from an injury last spring that forced her to pull out of the 5,000-meter run in the NCAA Division II outdoor track & field championships.

“I’m really excited,” Skarda said. “I did a lot of cross-training in the summer, so I’m hoping I didn’t lose too much endurance.”

Skarda placed seventh at the national cross country championships last fall after an injury derailed her sophomore season.

“I’m happy with it,” Skarda said. “I was hoping to do better. A lot of the competition I was going back and forth with finished ahead of me at nationals. Hopefully this year, I’ll be further up.

“It’s hard to say where I’m at right now. I just want to improve from last year.”

Skarda placed 19th at nationals as a freshman, becoming the Mavericks’ first All-American cross-country runner.

The men’s team will join the women’s team in the annual Joe Vigil Invitational on Saturday in Alamosa for their first varsity event in school history.

The team wasn’t official until this summer, so Leadbetter had to build the team with students already enrolled, and found 11 runners.

Sophomore Shane Niksic, who will run the 800 meters in track, is the leading runner for the cross country team.

“I talked to the coaches and they thought they’d get it this year or last year,” Niksic said. “This is also why I came here, to be on the first team here. I wanted to help build the base (of the program).”

Junior Edgar Hernandez and senior Casey Vaughn could score points for the Mavericks. Vaughn is an experienced triathlete.

Hernandez transferred from Hartnell (Calif.) Junior College after his coach there told him Mesa was adding the program.

“I figured I’d redshirt because I didn’t expect them to have a team this year,” Hernandez said.

Both said they would have sought to transfer if Mesa didn’t add cross country this fall.

“I love to run,” Hernandez said. “I wouldn’t come here without (cross country and track).”

Brent Alumbaugh, the assistant director of the Monfort Family Human Performance Lab, is assisting Leadbetter with the men’s team.


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