Despite lingering snow and early sunsets on Goodman Campus, the Lehigh track and field team remains as focused as it has been all season long.
The Mountain Hawks have their eyes set on one thing: the Patriot League Championships.
Set to take place on Feb. 17-19 at Boston University, the meet will be the final indoor competition of the season.
With the event approaching, both the men’s and women’s teams have dialed in to prepare and make the most of their remaining practices before the championships begin. It helps to heighten the intensity in the weeks and days leading up to a meet like this, even though it has been the team’s priority since the beginning.
“We’ve been preparing for this all along,” coach Matt Utesch said. “This is the culmination of the season,”
Utesch said he predicts top five finishes for both the men’s and women’s teams.
Only 32 runners from each team get to compete. Based on individual performances, the coaching staff must decide who will give the team the best numbers come the day of the competition.
“If you’re not scoring, you’re not going,” Utesch said.
Senior shot putter Lucas Warning will be among those making the trip to Boston.
Warning, who broke his own school record in the shot put last week, has been a vital part of this Mountain Hawk team all season long and expects he can outdo his previous efforts yet again.
“I don’t think I’ve reached my potential yet, and I think that’s going to come out this weekend,” Warning said. “As a whole, the team is feeling confident in its ability to improve at each outing, as it has all season.”
Bucknell came off of a narrow victory over Lehigh last Friday and is a team to watch out for at the meet. Senior All-American Courtney Avery is not going to let that deter the Mountain Hawks’ performance.
“We definitely have to pay attention to what (Bucknell is) doing, but in the end it’s going to come down to the numbers we put up,” Avery said.
Bucknell proved to be a quality opponent throughout the season due to the depth of their back-up runners, which could be affected by limits placed on the rosters of competing teams in the championships.
Utesch emphasized that these few remaining days are vital to the team’s success at championships, especially when it’s not always about who is coming in with the best record, but rather who has prepared strategically enough to reach the pinnacle of a team’s performance and carry that into competition day.
“One of the things that is difficult about the training we do is that we’re trying to peak specifically for this weekend, and be at our very best performances,” Utesch said.
While it can’t hurt to put up high caliber numbers and break school and league records over the course of the season, ideally, everything should only get better as time progresses and in competitions with more at stake.
Especially at what could be the most important meet of the season, nerves might become a factor. Avery said there will always be pre-race jitters, but in a sport like track, it is sometimes that extra adrenaline that propels an athlete to the next level.