Skarda finishes 19th at cross-country nationals

Alexis Skarda was the first woman to finish the Mesa St College Cross Country race.

Alexis Skarda didn’t post her best time, but she got the result she wanted.

The Mesa State College freshman from Boulder placed 19th on Saturday in the NCAA Division II cross country national championships in 22 minutes, 16. By placing in the top 30, Skarda earns All-America honors.

“It was a tough run for sure,” she said. “It feels really good. We were expecting to be in the top 25.

I’m real excited to be up there.”

Adams State won its sixth consecutive national team title with 79 points, led by Heather Wood’s fourth-place finish in 21:37. Grand Valley State (Mich.) placed second with 102 points and Western State took third with 183. Metro State finished 19th with 441.

University of Colorado-Colorado Springs senior Shannon Payne, the other individual national qualifier with Skarda from the Central Region, took third in 21:29.

Skarda was hoping to finish the 6K course in under 22 minutes, but was pleased with her time considering the weather and course conditions in Slippery Rock, Pa.

“It was a pretty hilly course,” Skarda said. “It started snowing the last mile and it was pretty cold.”
Mesa State cross country coach Gig Leadbetter said Skarda ran a great race.

“It was just amazing,” Leadbetter said. “At one point, Alexis was 24th or 25th and made her way up to 17th and finished strong. ”

Skarda was so excited to race, she had trouble sleeping Friday night.

“I was nervous,” Skarda said. “I couldn’t sleep well. Every time I woke up, I looked at the clock to see if it was time to be up.”

Those nerves subsided because of her father, Dan Skarda, a former U.S. Olympic Trial runner, was at the race.

“It was nice having my dad there,” she said. “He had the right things to say.”

The 188 runners faced a hill early in the race and several more along the course.

“At the beginning of the race, there was a huge hill,” Skarda said. “The back of the pack took it easy.

I kept passing people after the first hill. I tried to stay in the top 20.”

Skarda had the third-best time among freshmen.

“Next year, we’ll see how much further (to the front) I can get and get the team here, of course,”
Skarda said. “It’s really awesome being here with all the top runners. It’s really exciting.”


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