Skarda leads Mesa runners

Alexis Skarda ,right, and Paula Hogue runners from the Mesa St College Cross Country team run a practice run.

She had a record-setting season as a freshman.

Alexis Skarda did things no other Mesa State College cross country runner has done before, qualifying for nationals and placing 19th in the NCAA Division II Championships.

The returning All-American is ready for more this season. Mesa opens the season Saturday in the Joe Vigil Invitational in Alamosa.

“Now, I know what to expect,” Skarda said. “I’m more ready this year.

“I want to be better than last year.”

The rest of the team, which finished sixth in the NCAA Central Region, returns this season with the goal of joining Skarda at the national championships in November in
Evansville, Ind.

“They all look good,” Mesa coach Gig Leadbetter said.

The Mavericks are ranked 21st in the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association Division II poll. It is their first preseason national ranking under Leadbetter.

“It is exciting,” senior Paula (Bruzewski) Hogue said. “Now, we have experience. We know how to train better. We’re more comfortable with each other and know how to push each other. That will help close the gap and help scoring wise.”

The top six teams in the Central Region qualify for nationals, Leadbetter said. Mesa is ranked fifth in the region behind defending national and RMAC champion Adams State, Augustana (S.D.), Western State and Minnesota-Duluth. The Grizzlies lost their top two runners, but return the rest of the national championship team.

“Adams is so way above everybody else,” Leadbetter said. “Their top five runners are under 17 (minutes). We are working our way toward them. We’re staring down Metro and have our eye on competing with Western. With some good luck in recruiting, we’ll more be more successful.”

Skarda didn’t run for a few months last spring and summer because of a leg injury.

She started running near 100 percent in July.

“I’m trying to get back to where I was last year,” Skarda said. “It’s a matter of getting a better background.”

Esmeralda Martinez-Ramos is back and running well. The senior beat Skarda in a time trial run last week.

Sophomore Kelsey Follett, who missed most of last season with injuries, took third in time trials, moving ahead of Hogue.

Freshman Callie Osborne is competing with sophomores Ali Poppe and Brooke Bosman for the fifth and final scoring spot.

“I’d like them all to be within one to one and a half minutes of each other,” Leadbetter said. “Osborne looks good. She is going to do nothing but get stronger.”


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