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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

In This Race, Skieresz Won't Be Going It Alone

November 22, 1998|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amy Skieresz of Arizona will enter the NCAA cross-country championships at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., on Monday with a 6-0 season record for the third year in a row.

But for the first time in her college career, the 1995 graduate of Agoura High is on a team that is a title contender.

That fact has the Wildcat senior feeling less pressure than she did a year ago when she was Arizona's only representative in the women's race.

"It was kind of lonely last year," said Skieresz, who placed second to Carrie Tollefson of Villanova. "It's a lot more fun when you're there with a team."

Skieresz, 1996 NCAA champion, led Arizona to sixth-place finishes in the 1995 and '96 national championships, but the Wildcats weren't serious title contenders either time.

They are this year after upsetting Stanford, 78-80, to win the West regional on Saturday.

By winning, Arizona vaulted to third in the national rankings behind defending champion Brigham Young and Villanova.

"Obviously, no one thought we were going to beat Stanford," Skieresz said. "We didn't think we were going to beat Stanford. But we did."

With her six victories, including a fourth consecutive Pacific 10 Conference championship and the West region title, Skieresz will be one of the favorites Monday. But she says that Tollefson, Mid-Atlantic region champion, and several others are capable of winning.

"Last year helped me better understand that it can be anybody's day," Skieresz said. "Crazy things happen in the NCAA championships."

Skieresz, who has won seven NCAA titles in cross-country and track, was heavily favored last year, but Tollefson came from behind to beat her by 10 seconds and snap her 13-race winning streak.

The race Monday will be the final cross-country competition of Skieresz's college career, but she's trying not to get too sentimental about it.

"It doesn't really feel like it's the final one because I've got track season coming up," she said. "But obviously, this is going to be my final college cross-country race so it is special in that way."

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