Mesa’s X factor: Follett could be key to reaching nationals

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Kelsey Follett of the Mesa State College cross country team runs through a karaoke drill as she warms up during practice in the desert north of town.

Kelsey Follett is discovering her potential.

The Mesa State College sophomore is finally healthy, and could be the runner who gives the 15th-ranked Mavericks the results they need Saturday in the Central Region meet in Wayne, Neb., to qualify for the NCAA Division II National Championships for the first time in school history. The top six teams, plus the top two individuals not on qualifying teams, advance to the national championships Nov. 21 in Evansville, Ind.

The Mavericks are led by returning All-American and national qualifier Alexis Skarda, but they are a deeper team with runners like Follett.

“She has an incredible personality,” Mesa State coach Gig Leadbetter said. “I’ve always felt if I found a great, bubbly personality, it would rub off on the team. I look for those type (of) people. She is contagious.”

Follett chose Mesa State over Division I programs because she wanted to go to a smaller school.

“I wasn’t sure Division I was right for me. I wanted a smaller classroom setting,” Follett said. “I looked at a couple D-I schools; I visited the University of Wyoming. What really attracted me to Mesa State, I liked Gig. He is a fun and outgoing coach.”

Follett, though, began her college career with a pulled muscle in her left thigh prior to her freshman year.

“My muscles weren’t firing correctly,” she said. “I wasn’t doing the right things to help them recover.”

She was able to in the RMAC championships and regionals last fall, but wasn’t completely healthy until last summer.

“I was really fortunate to get hooked up with a good (physical therapist) back in Fort Collins,” she said. “I was real excited coming back this season. We have a really great team. I’m excited to be healthy and actually train with them.”

Follett, who was the Mavs’ No. 4 runner last year at regionals, moved ahead of teammates Paula Hogue and Esmeralda Martinez-Ramos to become Mesa’s No. 2 runner behind Skarda in the RMAC championships 10 days ago.

“All I can say is, Alexis would be out front, with Ese (Martinez-Ramos) 15 seconds behind and Kelsey 40 seconds behind,” Leadbetter said. “Between Ese and Kelsey would be 15 to 18 runners. Now, Kelsey has passed Ese and we’re 15 to 18 points better.”

Follett is just happy to be contributing.

“I didn’t have any expectations,” she said. “Every race is a surprise to me.”


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