Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country prepares for race against rival Lafayette

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The men’s and women’s cross country teams hope to continue their success this Saturday morning when they race against Lafayette at Goodman Campus.

It has been nine years since a Lehigh cross country team lost to Lafayette in a dual meet. The women’s team has won 10 of its last 11 meets against Lafayette, with its last loss in 2004. The men’s team has won an impressive 15 straight meets against the school. Senior and 2013 All-Patriot League selection Ryan Mahalsky looks to help his team continue with the wins.

“The goal for this meet is to win our 16th straight dual meet against rival Lafayette,” said Mahalsky. “We would like to run together as a team for as long as we can until the race strings out and put as many people in front of Lafayette’s first runner as we can.”

Coach Todd Etters echoed his senior runner’s game plan. He said running strong as a pack will be crucial for this dual meet and throughout the season until the Mountain Hawks host the Patriot League Championships in November. In order to keep the streak alive, Coach Etters expects his veteran runners to lead the way.

“Our program relies on the upperclassmen to provide the biggest impact in our races because freshmen have a lot of adjustments to make, and that often requires patience,” Etters said. He pointed out that the program might not need to wait too long, as the freshmen and some other younger runners displayed their talent after winning the Lehigh Invitational.

The women’s cross country team is looking for its 10th consecutive victory over the Leopards. Coach Debbie Utesch is optimistic about her team after coming off of a second-place finish at the Lehigh Invitational. She expects to have most of her lineup ready after holding out some runners in the invitational in order to prevent potential injuries. Coach Utesch expects a strong showing from her upperclassmen.

“Our seniors have done an excellent job creating unity within the team,” Utesch said. “They have set the tone for the younger girls and want to leave their mark on the program going forward.”

Junior Elizabeth Weiler was the individual winner of the Lehigh Invitational and was awarded Patriot League Runner of the Week.

Weiler and other experienced runners like senior Ingrid Simon and junior Jennifer Markham are leading the way for the program’s newcomers. Coach Utesch has high hopes for freshman Hannah Leskow and sophomore Amanda Rushel, who are both making their collegiate debuts.

The Lafayette women’s cross country team returns the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, sophomore Alexa Deemer, as well as this year’s Monmouth Kickoff winner, junior Stephanie Benko. The Lafayette men’s team brings back junior Thomas Day, the fourth-place finisher at the kickoff, and senior Andrew Warshauer, who took eighth place at the meet.

Head-to-head meets between teams aren’t all that common in collegiate cross country. For Lehigh-Lafayette, many alumni return to watch the races, creating a special feeling of pride for Lehigh’s program.

“It builds a lot of camaraderie and passion for the team, as it is truly a spirited rivalry that we look forward to,” Mahalsky said.

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