Skyhawks’ runners ‘just happy to be involved’

The Fort Lewis College women’s cross country team will run a 5-kilometer race tonight at its annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run, just one part of the Southwestern Cross Country Challenge. “This is really more about the high school runners. This is really more for them,” FLC and former Durango High School cross country coach Mark Dutro said. “We’re just happy to be involved.” Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

The Fort Lewis College women’s cross country team will run a 5-kilometer race tonight at its annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run, just one part of the Southwestern Cross Country Challenge. “This is really more about the high school runners. This is really more for them,” FLC and former Durango High School cross country coach Mark Dutro said. “We’re just happy to be involved.”

When new coach Mark Dutro sends the Fort Lewis College runners out to their first home meet today, he’ll be on familiar footing.

Dutro, the longtime Durango High School cross country and track coach, took over this year as the FLC cross country coach. But for years, Dutro has been an instructor in Fort Lewis’ exercise physiology program.

His office in Whalen Gymnasium is but a few hundred yards from the start of today’s Tom Strandt Memorial Run at FLC, part of a day-long Southwestern Cross Country Challenge.

“It’s a smaller field for us,” Dutro said of the collegiate lineup for the Friday-night races, which will start on the east side of the campus near the new soccer fields.

“We’ll probably run everyone we can,” he said of the Skyhawks, who’ll host Colorado Christian University and Diné College of Tsaile, Ariz.

“We’ll approach it like a workout ... a good workout,” Dutro said.

The collegiate women will run 5 kilometers at 5 p.m. today, while the collegiate men will run an 8K at 5:30 p.m.

“This is really more about the high school runners. This is really more for them,” Dutro said. “We’re just happy to be involved.”

This year, FLC worked in cooperation with Bayfield and Durango High School to produce the first Southwestern Cross Country Challenge.

“It’ll be really good to see the (high school runners) again,” said Dutro, who saw many of his former Demons last weekend at the Joe I. Vigil Invitational in Alamosa, a meet that also features collegiate and high school divisions such as the new Southwestern Challenge.

“It’ll be good to see the parents and the coaches,” said Dutro, who will get a close look at the prep field from his new perspective as a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference coach.

Plus, he said, he’s always excited to get high school students on the FLC campus, particularly those participating in extracurricular activities.

Dutro said the Skyhawks will have an opportunity to build on their performances last weekend in Alamosa.

The FLC women’s team effectively grouped, and its top four runners – all from Colorado – finished under 20 minutes on the 5-kilometer course.

“We started out slow, but our mentality was to peak,” Dutro said. “It worked out well.”

Maddie Kruger led the way for DHS, finishing 24th in 19 minutes, 31 seconds.

Alexis Work, Alyssa Carman and Kat Medici of the Skyhawks bunched together at 31-32-34 to help the FLC women to a fifth-place finish in Alamosa.

The FLC men, led by Kenyan Kip Mutai, finished a solid third behind national powerhouses Adams State and Western State, the top-two ranked teams in the country.

The pack finishes again helped the Skyhawks, Dutro said.

Mutai finished 22nd in the 8K and was followed by teammates Jimmy Mohrbacher (29), Garrett Sapakoff (39) and Joe Brenner (41).

All will run today in the annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run.

dstrode@durangoherald.com

The Fort Lewis College womens cross country team will run a 5K at 5 p.m. Friday night at the Skyhawks’ annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run. The men will run an 8K at 5:30 p.m. The middle school races for the Southwestern Challenge will start at 2:30 p.m., the junior varsity high school races at 3 p.m. and the varsity at 4 p.m. Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

The Fort Lewis College womens cross country team will run a 5K at 5 p.m. Friday night at the Skyhawks’ annual Tom Strandt Memorial Run. The men will run an 8K at 5:30 p.m. The middle school races for the Southwestern Challenge will start at 2:30 p.m., the junior varsity high school races at 3 p.m. and the varsity at 4 p.m.