Competition on the Bronco women’s cross country squad will be stiff this year. Not only will the NMMI juco team be able to field a full team this year, they’ll be six other runners pushing to break into that top four.
“We have 10 girls this year. That’s the highest number, I can’t say ever, but at least in the last few years,” said head coach Jan Olesinski. “I kind of have a new team. Everybody is a freshman and my hope is to build this team for next year. I hope these freshman girls will get strong and develop so next year the can really compete on the national level.”
And while Olesinski thinks this year is just a possibility on the national level, the fact he says his “alternate” runner, Esther Boran, from Papua, New Guinea, is “a strong, very smart runner,” says the team may just have a solid showing.
While the team is loaded with freshman, at least one name should be familiar to NMMI fans.
Sierra Walker, a Roswell native, ran for the high school Colts the last four years, wrapping up her senior year with a fourth-place state finish before moving on to the Broncos.
“She’s doing great so far, but she’s also involved with ROTC, so she has to split on both fronts,” Olesinski said. “So it’s a little harder for her to participate in both cross country and ROTC.”
Still, expect a strong effort from the fifth-year cadet.
Another name that might be familiar to Roswell residents is Kayla Sisneros, a former Goddard runner, who made her time count last summer.
“She did an outstanding job, working with me all summer to be ready for the season,” the coach said. “And I can tell you she made great progress and she looks very strong.”
Olesinski always recruits a strong contingent from overseas, and this year is no exception.
Urszula Olejniczak is a Polish national youth division triathlon champion, and her coach is looking for good things from her.
“Cross country is a little different from triathlon running, but I think she has the potential to be a great runner,” he said.
Also from Eastern Europe is Anna Zimovjanova, from the Czech Republic.
“She’s a pentathlete but also a solid runner,” Olesinski said.
Rounding out the squad are Amanda Seay, an ROTC cadet from Trinity, Fla.; Air Force Academy preps Claire Van Houten, Jaffrey, NH, and Mackenzie Morgan, Lusby, MD; Niajah Johnson, an Alamogordo High grad; and the team’s lone sophomore, Lily Pickard, Albuquerque, NM.
The team competed at the Lubbock Rust Buster last weekend, a pre-season relay that sees each runner go 2.5 kilometers. Saturday will be the only chance for fans to see the Broncos in action in Roswell as they’ll run their first full 5K in the Turtle Marathon, a city-organized race that draws top runners from around the region.
They’ll officially start the season Sept. 16 at the Western Texas Invitational in Snyder, Texas, then travel to Hobbs and Levelland, Texas twice each before making the trip to nationals in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Whether any Broncos will be able show well in Iowa is still a question mark that will be answered as the season progresses.
“It’s very hard to tell,” Olesinski said. “Our school is in a very specific place. They come here. They have RAT week; they do all the training; all the marching. So it takes a little bit longer to adapt than other schools. On top of all that, it’s been almost 100 degrees here every day, with higher than normal humidity. Plus we have about 1,000 meters in altitude and most of the girls come from sea level. So it’ll take a little bit of time before they adapt to everything: the routine, my training. the weather. I’m hoping they run well this year but I’m looking forward to next year.”
But no matter their finishes, the coach is happy with this year’s squad.
“I think so far it’s a great group of girls. They’re all hard working. They’re all great students, which I think is most important, that they do well in school. I hope they will stay motivated and continue working like this the rest of the season.”