Despite her external confidence and determination to continue to compete in cross-country, senior Alexandra Lucki is regularly nervous and underestimates her capabilities.

"This year I have been more of a leader," Lucki said. "I cannot get as nervous for races because I have younger teammates who are looking up to me."

Lucki's swift abilities and increased confidence helped her become Maryland's first NCAA qualifier since 2011. She finished 163rd out of 255 competitors in the 6-kilometer race in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday with a time of 21:11.6.I"My coaches believe in me more than I believe in myself," Lucki said. "They continue to give me a lot of support, and they know that I can accomplish goals that sometimes I don't think I can."

In the Mid-Atlantic Regional race at Lehigh on Nov. 10, Lucki placed seventh — the best-ever finish in that race for a Maryland runner — to earn a bid to the NCAA Championship race.

Lucki has showcased her increased belief in herself to teammates and coaches, and the ongoing positivity has been her source of motivation throughout this season and last.

Since last year, Lucki and her coaches have increased her mileage upon each race. For the past few months, she has trained with the men's team, boosting her strength and poise.

"This has helped her to be mentally strong," coach Andrew Valmon said. "A lot of this body work that she is putting in now will show at the end."

In comparison to 2016, Valmon said Lucki has broadcasted her confidence much more. As a civil engineering major, she has a rigorous course load complemented by team commitments, so she maintains her competitiveness whether she's training or studying.

"She believes," Valmon said. "She wants to go out on top."

Valmon expects more runners to follow Lucki's path to the championships next season. Because of Lucki's leadership and determination, he predicts the program is set to improve.

"Alex leads by example," Valmon said. "She is a fearless leader that is determined to get to the next level and for her to do that, this is one of her stepping stones."