Mesa’s Skarda hopes to have company at XC nationals
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.