After a successful 2013 season for both the Lehigh University women’s and men’s cross country teams, both teams are set to build on their wins from last year and move forward with the upcoming 2014 season.
The 2013 season for the women was highlighted by a second place finish at the Patriot League Championships. The Mountain Hawks worked hard last year to establish themselves as regional contenders. The team placed ninth at the NCAA Regional Championships and finished with four all-league runners. This was Lehigh’s best finish since 2000, and their ninth place result at NCAA Regionals was their third time ever in the top 10 at that race.
Lehigh will return junior Jennifer Markham, who was named a first-team All Patriot League runner last year. Markham capped off her season by finishing in fourth at the Patriot League Championships.
“This year is definitely an exciting one for our team as we had a second place finish at the Patriot League Championships and ninth place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Meet last year- we are definitely setting our sights high,” said Markham.
Lehigh will also return junior Carlie Skellington, who is coming off a strong finish from last year after setting a personal best in the 6k at 22:11 at the NCAA Regional Championships last fall.
“Last year, we both fell short and won second place,” Skellington said. “On the women’s side, we lost to Boston University. The difference between this year and last year is that we truly know now that we can win. Of course, it will not be an easy task. It will require hard work, teamwork, pushing through painful workouts, dedicating any free time to our sport, and sacrifices,” said Skellington.
“My hope is that we can continue to work together as a team to improve and use the momentum gained from our successful season last year to help motivate us to achieve even greater things this fall,” said Markham.
As for the men, they are looking to add more history to the record books. The Mountain Hawks’ 2013 campaign featured a seventh place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals, Lehigh’s highest in its history. Unfortunately, Lehigh’s bid for a Patriot League title fell just two points short behind Navy.
“I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say that the goal is to win another Patriot League Championship. It was terrible losing by two points last year, and everyone is really focused on nabbing title number two,” said sophomore Ryan Cooney.
“Over the last few years the standard of the team has really been lifted,” said senior Simon Voorhees. “Last year we finished runner up to Navy by two points at the Patriot League Championships, which definitely disappointed a lot of the guys, despite being our programs second highest placement ever. Having won Lehigh’s first-ever Patriot League Championship in program history in 2012, we really wanted to repeat in 2013 and fell just short.”
The men will try to rally after the graduation of their captain from last year, Tyler Mueller. Mueller won an individual Patriot League Championship and was named Patriot League Runner of the Year. He qualified for the NCAA National Championships after finishing eighth at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals.
The Mountain Hawks will look towards senior Ryan Mahalsky to fill that void. Last year, Mahalsky was the recipient of the Coaches Award, which recognizes those student-athletes who have made significant contributions in attitude, improvement and leadership. Mahalsky made some noteworthy strides last year by setting a personal best at the Princeton Invitational in the 8k race with a time of 24:16. Additionally, Mahalsky was named the Patriot League Male Runner of the Week for Aug. 26- Sept. 1 for his strong performance at the Lehigh Invitational. The upperclassman capped off his season with a third place finish at the Patriot League Championships, and a 16th place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals.
“This year we did lose the individual Patriot League champ in Tyler Mueller, but we also are returning the top finisher in the conference, Ryan Mahalsky. With the return of graduate student Jimmy Miller, we should look to have a really strong team up front, with a very deep pack to back them up,” Voorhees said.
“The goals and expectations are that we win the Patriot League Championships,” Mahalsky said. “We also want to have everyone run their best performances at the end of the season, and be a top five team at the regional meet with a shot at going to nationals.”
“Over the past few years our team has been in a tight battle for the Patriot League Championship and we should be right in the mix again this year. Without question, this team is determined to come out on top on Nov. 1, and we expect to have quite a few all-league finishers as well,” said Head Coach Todd Etters.