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Publish date: Nov 17, 2011

Leading the pack: Catching up with the 1996 women’s cross country champs

By Ted Schultz

One in an occasional series featuring former NCAA student-athletes.  The Divisions I, II and III women’s cross country champions from 1996 talk about what they learned from the college experience.

Division I 



Amy Skieresz-Wilson, Arizona

Then: In addition to her 1996 NCAA cross country title, Skieresz finished runner-up in 1995, 1997 and 1998. She won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in track in 1997 and 1998, was a four-time Pac-10 cross country champ and a 10-time All-American. Skieresz also won Honda Awards for cross country in 1996-97 and track and field in 1997 and 1998 and was on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Silver Anniversary team for the 10,000.

Now: Married to high school sweetheart Ryan Wilson, a former NCAA indoor 3,000-meter champion from Arkansas, Skieresz-Wilson is a stay-at-home mom to their three kids in Palm Desert, Calif. She was previously an assistant cross country and track coach at Arizona for three years and spent a year running professionally and a year working as a sales assistant for a financial advisors firm.

In her words: “We were traveling all over the country to places I hadn’t seen. It exposes you to different ways of life and different cultures. It gives you a sense that there’s a bigger place than just you, and I want to pass that along to my kids. Being an athlete gives you a sense of giving back to something greater and ties you to the community.

“Time management and training for goals are definitely things that transfer to a workplace. Those are skills that obviously take you through the rest of your life.”

Division II 



Denise Summers, Adams State

Then: Summers was a five-time All-American in cross country and track and was a member of four national championship cross country teams, earning All-American honors in 1995, 1996 and 1997. She also earned All-American honors in the outdoor 10,000 meters in track in 1995 and 1996. Summers was a three-time Sportswomen of Colorado honoree and won the 1996 Honda Award for Outstanding Achievement in Women's Collegiate Athletics (NCAA Female Athlete of the Year).

Now: For the past three years, Summers has worked for the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont. She worked in payroll and is now the desk services and information manager. Summers previously worked as an operations manager at Community Banks of Colorado.

In her words: “My success is not based on only myself, but t he people around me. We all are working toward the same goals. We have to support and be there for each other to be successful in our careers.

“Believing in yourself and knowing what you have inside of yourself when other people don’t see it… I’ve learned through athletics to take what I believe and know myself and to prove to everyone and show them what I can do.”

Division III 



Turena Johnson-Lane, Luther

Then: Johnson was a nine-time All-American and a five-time national champion at Luther. Besides the 1996 cross country title, she won the outdoor track 10,000 meters in 1996 and the indoor 5,000 and outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 in 1997.

Now: Lane lives in Baton Rouge, La., with her husband Todd Lane, an assistant track and field coach at Louisiana State, and is a stay-at-home mom to their five-month old daughter. She ran professionally until 2008, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the marathon in 2004 and 2008, was a USA Track and Field national champion in the 20K (2004) and 25K (2006) and was the first American finisher on the 2005 World Championship team. She previously did student-teaching in Georgia and taught preschool for a couple of years and was an assistant cross country and track coach at Ball State and Georgia Southern, where Todd was the head coach.

In her words: “Certainly being a member of a team has helped in every which way since college. Whether it’s being a part of your family or work staff, it’s important for your team to function properly. Being a part of a team and all that goes along with that are values that you’re using every day.

“Things come into a little bit better focus after having a baby, with experiences you want your child to have. Some of the skills that you learn from being on a team – staying calm in a chaotic situation or staying positive when it’s easier to be negative, looking for the good in something – those are skills that you use every day.”

Ted Schultz is a freelance writer based out of Fishers, Ind.