Skyhawks settle their head coach’s nerves with a strong effort in Alamosa

Mark Dutro has been going to cross country races for more than two decades.

Saturday, however, marked a new start for the veteran running coach.

Dutro, the longtime track and cross country coach at Durango High School, moved up to take over the Fort Lewis College cross country program this season.

His runners took to the starting line for the first time Saturday at the Joe I. Vigil Invitational, hosted by Adams State College in Alamosa.

“To be honest, I was nervous (Saturday). This is a whole new experience for me, and it turned out really well,” Dutro said after his first meet with the Skyhawks.

“It was really good, especially for our girls ... women, actually. I’ve got to get used to that,” the former prep coach said.

“With the women, I didn’t know what to expect. I had an idea of how they had trained. But to get four girls under 20 minutes, I mean four women under 20 minutes ... that was super,” Dutro said.

Of the four, two are incoming freshmen.

Maddie Kruger of the Skyhawks finished 24th individually in 19 minutes, 31 seconds. Kruger, a former prep standout at Lewis-Palmer, transferred back to FLC this season after a year away.

Alexis Work, another Colorado Springs-area prep standout, finished 31st for FLC in 19:40. Teammate Alyssa Carman (Discovery Canyon) was 32nd (19:42).

Kat Medici, a former Pagosa Springs runner, was 34th in 19:44.

“Our mentality was to pack,” Dutro said. “We started out slow. But it worked out well. And all four of those girls are Colorado girls.”

He said the FLC coaches knew they had a solid women’s group.

“We just didn’t know it would happen this fast,” Dutro said of the fast FLC times.

Tara Richardson of Western State won the women’s race in 17:41, just ahead of Alicia Nelson of Adams State (17:41).

Western State won the women’s team title with 29 points. Adams State was second at 31. West Texas A&M finished third (87). Regis was fourth (122) and FLC fifth (128).

Kenyan Kip Mutai from FLC finished 22nd in the men’s 8K. He ran 26:47.

Kevin Batt of Adams State won (25:34). Teammate Tabor Stevens was second (25:37).

Jimmy Mohrbacker of FLC, a former Dakota Ridge prep runner, was 29th (26:53).

Garrett Sapakoff (Littleton) was 39th (27:12), and Joey Brenner (Minnesota) was 41st (27:19) for the Skyhawks, who were third in men’s team scoring.

Adams State won with 19 points. Western State was second with 42. FLC was third (100).

“Kip’s had such bad luck ... three years of injuries,” Dutro said. “Running like this will help build his confidence. (Saturday) was a step in the right direction.”

Dutro said a couple of the Skyhawks were under the weather but competed Saturday.

“Derek Laue ...he’s been sick. But for him to run through that is a positive,” Dutro said of the former Bayfield High School distance ace.

Laue was 54th (27:37) in the field of 114 runners in the men’s field.

FLC will host the annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run on campus Friday afternoon.