Category Archives: Bronco Women’s Cross Country

Bronco XC signs two Roswell runners

Local high school grads Sierra Walker (seated left) and Kayla Sisneros (seated right) sign their intent to run for the Bronco women’s cross-country team at the New Mexico Military Institute next season. Walker has run for the NMMI Colts for four years and Sisneros is a five-year Lady Rocket athlete.


NMMI Sports Press

After several years with mostly foreign runners on the Bronco cross country team, NMMI coach Jan Olesinski has recruited two Roswell athletes: Colt runner Sierra Walker and Goddard’s Kayla Sisneros.

“I’m kind of lucky that I was able to recruit two local girls,” Olesinski said. “They are both great runners. Sierra, I know her better because I had a chance to coach her for the last four years when she was a Colt cadet. Karla I met last year. I saw her during local races and she’s very athletic.”

Walker has run for NMMI since she was a freshman, with her senior year a literal runaway, as she won six straight races, including the district title, and finished fourth in Class 4A at state in 19:54.05.

“I decided to come back because I enjoyed running for coach Jan for the past four years,” Walker said. “I think he’s just an awesome coach. I also think I want to do the ROTC program and I’m able to do ROTC and run cross country at the same time. And I did want to run in college as well. So I’m able to do both here.”

Sisneros was the top Rocket runner as a senior, coming in 45th at state in 22:17.80 after running for Goddard for five years. She’s excited about the military aspect of NMMI, as she hopes to go on to a four-year military school.

“I’ve been running cross country for the last five years, and it’s always been my dream to hopefully become a college athlete,” Sisneros said. “So when I found the opportunity here at NMMI, I figured it would be a good idea to continue my education and running career here in preparation for hopefully going to the Air Force Academy.”

With three of his four runners graduating this year — all moving on to four-year schools — and the lone freshman opting not to come back, Walker and Sisneros will be part of an all-freshman squad. But that, Olesinski said, is OK.

“I’m mostly looking for girls who have goals in their lives, who have a vision,” he said. “Here, athletics is part of the life; it’s a very important part that teaches them how to deal with life in the future.”

And the future is what both signees are looking towards. While Walker isn’t sure what she’s going to major in — she said law school is in the back of her mind — she hopes she can go to Texas Tech after her two years as a Bronco. There, she can continue with ROTC and running.

Sisneros wants to study aerospace engineering at the Air Force Academy.

Both know Olesinski will help them improve in their chosen sport. For Sisneros, cross country is perfect for what she said is her strength.

“Endurance is definitely my strongest suit,” she said. “And then I’d say I’m more mentally tough than physically, but I’d say good at both.”

Walker said she’s definitely improved as a runner since she was a freshman, with Olesinski instilling a never-quit attitude.

“I’ve learned to just push through, even when I’m experiencing pain,” she said. “I think I’ve done a little bit better every year since my freshman year. Whenever I come to a wall, I’ve just got to try to learn to get over the wall, with anything.”

Both will have two more years with “Coach O” to improve, and hopefully help the Broncos to more success on the national level.

Broncos runners will race for four-year schools

Left to right: NMMI Athletic Director Jose Barron, Valeriia Uvarova, Katarzyna Rosikon, and Head Bronc Cross Country Coach Jan Olesinski.

Left to right: NMMI Athletic Director Jose Barron, Valeriia Uvarova, Katarzyna Rosikon, and Head Bronc Cross Country Coach Jan Olesinski.


Karen Boehler

NMMI Sports Press

Katarzyna Rosikon

Katarzyna Rosikon

Two NMMI cadets will be racing for the finish at four-year colleges next year.

Bronco cross country runners Katarzyna Rosikon and Valeriia Uvarova have signed their paperwork to run at the next level, and coach Jan Olesinski couldn’t be prouder.

“This is a good example of what NMMI is about,” he said. “We got these two girls, and from the first day they were focused. They had goals. They had a vision and look what happened. They are not the greatest runners; they are very good runners, but if you add the training; the habits; the discipline; adopting everything here, you see they turned out to be two very successful girls.”

Rosikon will be joining several other NMMI grads — including three volleyball players — at Delaware State University, a DI school in Dover, Del.

Valeriia Uvarova

Valeriia Uvarova

“It’s going to be five NMMI people over there, so I was like, ‘Wow!” Rosikon said. “I’m really excited.”

DSU has both cross country and indoor and outdoor track programs, and Rosikon will be competing in all three. She said their current focus is on recruiting distance runners — meaning she’ll fit in well — but that another factor in her decision was the quality of the overall athletic program.

The Polish national also sounds very impressed with coaches Damion Drummond and Gwen Davis, who coach all three teams.

“From what I see, they’re both not only really good coaches, but they also approach the athletes personally,” she said. “They’re just amazing.”

Katarzyna Rosikon working hard to stay in front down the final stretch at the 2016 NJCAA National Championships.

Katarzyna Rosikon working hard to stay in front down the final stretch at the 2016 NJCAA National Championships.

Add in a top-of-the-line nursing program — Rosikon is hoping to graduate with her nursing degree in two years — and the Hornets are a perfect fit.

And while Delaware State is a tough school — “It’s really competitive, but coach says we’re going to do just fine,” Rosikon said — she knows what she learned at NMMI will take her far.

“The things that I learned here at NMMI are just incredible,” the cadet captain and Troop commander said. “Starting from responsibilities as a student-athlete. Dealing with academics during the cross country season. Having these huge amount of responsibilities and dealing with them on a daily basis really taught me a lot. Also discipline. I think every cadet would tell you discipline,” she laughed.

With about a third of course remaining at Nationals, Valeriia Uvarova begins to make her move from the middle the pack .

With about a third of course remaining at Nationals, Valeriia Uvarova begins to make her move from the middle the pack.

“Waking up early every single day, having the right uniform on, leadership, leadership styles: what we learned in the corps will help us with teams in the future. Everything applies. That’s what NMMI teaches us and what we appreciate.”

Uvarova is also going to a school with the initials DSU, but in her case, it’s Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

A DII school in the Gulf South Conference, Uvarova was also impressed with her new coach, Doug Pinkerton.

“I really like the coach,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really good experience to work with that coach, and also I think I’m going to get along with my future team.”

Uvarova will only run cross country, but is considering walking on to the swim team, and will be studying either physical therapy or nursing.

An Executive Officer with 62 members in her troop, the native of the Kyrgyz Republic also praised the Institute.

“NMMI gave me big opportunities,” she said, “as well as friendship, discipline and all these things I’m going to carry all my life. I feel it was the best decision in my life that I came to this school. I’m really grateful to all the staff, teachers and coaches that you guys were around me these two years. I’m excited to go to the next school, but for sure I’m going to miss NMMI a lot. I will try to visit as much as I can.”

Both girls laughed when asked what Olesinski taught them, but family was the key to the two seasons.

“It was really like a family on the cross country team, and I really appreciate what the coach did for me these past two years,” Uvarova said. “Im really thankful and grateful for him, because he is wonderful to give me this opportunity to start here.”

For Rosikon, those family ties were even closer. The two come from the same home town in Poland, and despite their age difference, were both coached by the same man.

Olesinski has no doubt both runners will succeed at their new schools.

“No question about it,” he said. “They will be the best students there. They work so hard. You have to understand, they came from a different country. They didn’t speak English well. Kasha spoke better. Valeriia’s English wasn’t the best, but from the very first they tried and look at them now. They speak almost better than I do.”

The NMMI coach spoke with both their new coaches, telling them they wouldn’t be disappointed.

“They won’t be your No. 1, 2 or 3 runners, but they’ll be your No. 4 runner and great teammates and the best students on your team,” he said.

As far as replacing them on the national-caliber Bronco team, Olesinski said that’s not possible.

“Everybody who comes to the Institute and goes through the program is special,” he said. “You can’t say you replace them; somebody always comes after them and somebody always comes before them and I will remember them forever. Because they are special.”

Szpott brings success to NMMI from across the pond

Szpott at the start of the nationals race in El Dorado, Kansas

Szpott at the start of the nationals race in El Dorado, Kansas


Karen Boehler

NMMI Sports Press

Sandra Szpott shows her third place medal, won at the 2016 NJCAA National Cross Country Championships.

Sandra Szpott shows her third place medal, won at the 2016 NJCAA National Cross Country Championships.

For Bronco Sandra Szpott, running is not just an athletic activity.

It’s in her genes.

Szpott’s mother ran cross country, her father and grandfather track; and her grandmother the 5K. The Polish native — she hails from Wyrzysk, a small town in northwestern Poland that also lays claim to rocket pioneer Werner von Braun — began running as a 10-year old and quickly began winning local races. (Although if you ask her, she says she only won a few bronze medals. NMMI coach Jan Olesinski is quick to point out those are Polish national medals she’s talking about.)

Halfway through the race, Sandra Szpott running behind first place finisher Leanne Pompeani from Iowa Western CC and ahead of fifth place finisher Shalet Mitei from El Paso CC.

Halfway through the race, Sandra Szpott running behind first place finisher Leanne Pompeani from Iowa Western CC and ahead of fifth place finisher Shalet Mitei from El Paso CC.

This year, the 20-year-old freshman brought some of the highest athletic honors ever achieved by a cadet to NMMI: she finished third at the NJCAA cross-country national meet, getting to stand on a stage with athletes from Australia (Iowa Central) and Kenya (Monroe College.)

She was typically unassuming after the victory, noting simply that she was “excited” and “in shock.” But just because she downplays her results doesn’t mean she doesn’t have grander plans.

Sandra Szpott runs past head coach Jan Olesinski at the Region V Championships in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Sandra Szpott runs past head coach Jan Olesinski at the Region V Championships in Hobbs, New Mexico.

This summer, she said, she hopes to win the Polish U23 national championship and qualify for the European championships, which Poland will host. If she does make it to the European meet, she might miss a week of two at the start of school — the meet is in mid August — but, Olesinski said, they’ll manage.

“If she qualifies we’ll wait a week or two for her to come back. If she was a new cadet, it’d be tough, but she’ll be a sophomore.”

And when she comes back to NMMI as a sophomore, “Hopefully, coach will have a team and we’ll compete as a team,” she said, with a goal of winning not only an individual gold medal but a team medal as well.

Szpott seems to be always training. Catch her on campus and she’s in running attire, making her way from place to place by foot.

“I practice almost every single day, and even in the off-season I train,” she said.

Asked how far and how long she runs, she said its six to seven miles every day, for two hours.

“She basically runs to Walmart and back every day,” Olesinski said.

Szpott likes training in Roswell, the elevation and temperatures in particular.

“It’s a good environment to prepare for nationals. This is a big, big sports camp for me,” she said.

But when she first got here, she was — like many of the foreign students who attend NMMI — a bit of a fish out of water.

Teammate Katarzyna Rosikon, also from Poland, made the initial contact after Olesinski had picked Szpott as a possible runner for NMMI.

“I sent Sandra a message that the coach is looking for girls. We were really interested in her because she had really good results in Poland,” she said. “I started talking to her and explained how everything was as NMMI after one year. I told her what she had to be prepared for. How everything’s going, like uniforms and the military discipline. She had to be ready for that.”

And, Szpott said, she was. Sort of.

“My first impression was really good; what the school looks like and everything,” she said, “But I was really surprised about the uniforms and everything. RAT week was really hard for me.”

Add in the fact her English was not strong — her interviews are done with Olesinski and Rosikon translating — and she was training and competing while she was learning the NMMI ropes, it could have been hard.

“The first two, three months were tough for her. Everything was new,” Olesinski said.

But she not only got through it, she took third place out of the over 300 runners who qualified and competed for the NJCAA National Championships. And, Rosikon said, Szpott is getting more used to the NMMI, and U.S., way of life.

“She’s getting more confident,” Rosikon said. “It’s all about confidence. I know from my experience. When I came here, it was the same. When you first come here, you don’t want to speak too much. It’s better to listen, listen, listen and get used to the language, then slowly, slowly adapt and start to talk. I see that now. She’s getting better. More confident. And with this confidence, she’ll talk more.”

And, as a sophomore next season, hopefully bring in more Polish runners — she’s been in touch with several as Rosikon did with her — she can be the leader of a team that will look to touch even greater heights.

Szpott takes third at NJCAA national XC meet

Sandra Szpott shows off the medal she won as the third-place finisher at the NJCAA Division I cross country championships.

Sandra Szpott shows off the medal she won as the third-place finisher at the NJCAA Division I cross country championships.

Karen Boehler
NMMI Sports Press

Sandra Szpott made it look easy as she finished in third place at nationals.

Sandra Szpott made it look easy as she finished in third place at nationals.

EL DORADO, Kans. — The course at the Prairie Trails golf course was uphill at the start and uphill at the finish, but that didn’t faze Bronco runner Sandra Szpott, who finished third at the national cross country meet in Kansas Saturday.

Szpott not only came home with a bronze medal, but she did it by running more than a minute faster than she had all year, finishing in 17:45.97.

“And this is a 5K course because it’s nationals,” said coach Jan Olesinski. “So it’s a certified course. And it’s not easy. It’s up and down. The finish is up. She ran an awesome race.”

Katarzyna Rosikon gave it everything she has as she cross the finish line in 19:07, 20 seconds faster than last year.

Katarzyna Rosikon gave it everything she has as she crosses the finish line in 19:07, 20 seconds faster than last year.

“I feel very good,” Szpott said after the finish. “I am very excited and I am in shock because it was a very, very hard course. But I am happy.”

To add to the excitement, the Bronco freshman beat both El Paso Community College runners who finished ahead of her at the regional meet a week ago.

“I’m very glad because they are very good runners,” Szpott said. “I didn’t think I could do it because they beat me in previous races.”

“She beat the two girls from El Paso three weeks ago during a meet, and she lost last week,” Olesinski said. “But I thought she just needed a little more rest. So after last week we got more rest. Had more fun. Had easy practices and it paid off.”

Valeriia Uvarova pushes her way to the finish line.

Valeriia Uvarova pushes her way to the finish line.

That it did.

The day was perfect for a cross country meet, cool but not cold and the course wound up and down on grassy fairways at the golf course. And Szpott wasn’t the only NMMI runner who had a good day. Although the places weren’t as good as last year, the times were better.

“We were closer together,” said sophomore Katarzyna Rosikon, who finished 34th. “You can see the times are really close. I was shocked. When my coach told me at the finish line I got 19:07, I was like, ‘What!?’ and I felt really good on the course.”

Amy Farfan Aguilar came intoi the fnish in a crowd of runners.

Amy Farfan Aguilar came into the finish in a crowd of runners.

Last year, Rosikon finished 25th with a slower time of 19:27.

“That’s why I’m really, really, really, really, really excited,” she said. “I’m really happy.”

Valeriia Uvarova was 93rd in 20:13.02 and Amy Farfan Aguilar was 137th in 20:47.66. That’s out of a field of 314 runners from all across the country.

“We all did really well,” Rosikon said. “Sandra, our hero, she got third place in the nation. It’s like crazy. She’s just a freshman in college and she’s a great runner. Valeriia and Amy did a really good job. We were really prepared for this race. We worked hard all season. We came here prepared and we did great. I bet coach is pretty proud of us.”

He is.

“Everybody ran good times. Everybody tried their best,” Olesinski said.

And while Rosikon, Uvarova and Aguilar will graduate, Szpott will be back next year, this time looking for gold.

“Next year will be better,” she said.

“I hope she stays for one more year,” Olesinski said. “(Colt runner) Sierra (Walker) is coming and maybe we’ll get some more girls. Who knows?”

NMMI results at the NJCAA national meet

Individuals — 3, Sandra Szpott, 17:45.97; 34, Katarzyna Rosikon, 19:07.16; 93, Valeriia Uvarova, 20:13.02; 137, Amy Farfan Aguilar, 20:47.66

Szpott gets third in Region V cross country

Sandra Szpott took third at the Region V cross country meet in Hobbs Saturday. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Sandra Szpott took third at the Region V cross country meet in Hobbs Saturday, finishing with a time of 18:54. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

NMMI Sports Press

Sandra Szpott received her third-place medal from New Mexico Junior College AD Deron Clark. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Sandra Szpott received her third-place medal from New Mexico Junior College AD Deron Clark. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

HOBBS — Sandra Szpott didn’t come home with a title, but she did finish third at the Region V cross country championships in Hobbs Saturday, with two other Bronco runners finishing in the top 20.

Coach Jan Olesinski wasn’t disappointed the Bronco didn’t get the crown.

“There were two very good girls from Kenya ahead of her and they ran well,” he said. “Sandra had her best race today, she did her best so it’s not bad leading into nationals.”

The runners who beat her were both from El Paso Community College, which won the team title with an impressive 25 points. Shalet Mitei took first while Rose Jebet, finished second.

Szpott crossed the line in 18:54.8, her best time of the season.

Valeriia Uvarova, left, and Katarzyna Rosikon are just behind NMJC runner Cynthia Kipserem early in the race. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Valeriia Uvarova, left, and Katarzyna Rosikon are just behind NMJC runner Cynthia Kipserem early in the race. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Katarzyna Rosikon finished 11th and Valeria Uvarova 17th, each with good times.

“They all improved their times from the last time they ran over there, so it was great,” Olesinski said.

The year’s final meet for the Broncos is the NJCAA National Championships in El Dorado, Kans., Nov. 12.

NMMI results at the Region V meet

Individuals — 3, Sandra Szpott, 18:54.8; 11, Katarzyna Rosikon, :20:16.0; 17, Valeriia Uvarova, :21:09.03

Complete Region V results

Katarzina Rosikon keeps pace with New Mexico Junior College runner Teresa Jacobs. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Katarzina Rosikon keeps pace with New Mexico Junior College runner Teresa Jacobs. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Valeriia Uvarova on the course at the Region V XC meet. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun

Valeriia Uvarova on the course at the Region V XC meet. Photo courtesy Jason Farmer, Hobbs News-Sun