Elizabeth Weiler leads women’s cross country

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Elizabeth Weiler (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

She set the record for fastest time for a woman in Lehigh history at the Paul Short Run. That’s the legacy of cross country runner Elizabeth Weiler.

And she’s still getting better.

Weiler, or “Biz,” as many people call her, is a junior from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. And she wasn’t always the top runner at Lehigh.

“When I first got here my freshman year, I really struggled to adjust, and I really thought my athletic performance would not get too much better than it was in high school,” she said.

The women’s cross country head coach, Deborah Utesch, agreed that she struggled a bit during her first year.

“Her freshman year was a typical freshman year, getting used to things out there,” Utesch said.

But Weiler didn’t stop trying just because of her early struggles. She came back the next year and had a much stronger performance overall.

“Sophomore year, I had a huge turnaround in cross country season; it felt really good,” Weiler said.

Utesch agreed, saying she could clearly see Weiler’s improvement.

“She really started to develop a greater confidence in her ability,” Utesch said. “She’s stepped up to a new level.”

For Weiler, who was Second Team All-Patriot League last year, it’s all been about improvement over the years. In the all-important Lehigh-Lafayette annual dual meet, she has finished in a higher place each consecutive year. She had an eighth-place finish as a freshman, then finished seventh, and finally finished first this year.

Senior Shannon Wright, a leader on the team, recognizes Weiler’s outstanding talent as a runner, as well as her excellent work ethic.

“She’s a tough runner who knows how to expect and endure the pain that accompanies running fast, and she runs really fast,” Wright said.

Weiler is another clear leader on the team, but she does so in a more quiet way. She prefers to lead by example, Wright said.

“She’s not often outspoken, but her presence is felt profoundly on our team,” Wright said. “She gets stuff done, and that’s that. She’s not flashy; she’s intrinsically motivated and quietly confident.”

Utesch added that she’s very respectful and that she knows that she’s just a junior in that she doesn’t try to step on the toes of the team’s senior leaders. She said she has a great deal of confidence in her teammates and is a great behind-the-scenes motivator.

“All of this makes her even more of a lovable person,” Utesch said.

The Paul Short Run was arguably Weiler’s best performance of her career. Even though the team struggled overall by finishing in just 29th place out of 38 teams, Weiler had a career day.

“It was obviously a really cool thing,” Weiler said. “I actually wasn’t sure what the time was before the race went off, but I knew it was just under 21 minutes, and time-wise that was my goal. I was kind of hoping in the back of my mind that I would get it.”

Wright also recognized Weiler’s great performance in the run, saying that she had an amazing race.

“I know she had her sights set higher in terms of place, but it’s a huge race with amazing talent coming in from all over the country, and you can’t control how other people race,” Wright said. “She’s had a great season so far, but that race really solidified her status as a national-level competitor.”

Weiler finished in 17th place overall at the event with a time of 20:28, which was also a personal best. She also finished ahead of all other Patriot League runners in the race.

Weiler said that Lehigh first contacted her with a letter by one of the coaches, and after that, it was mostly phone-based communication back and forth. Lehigh always seemed to be in her sights after that.

“The real recruiting process started when I did an official visit where I stayed over and stayed with someone on the team,” Weiler said.

She also said that since she runs track in the spring, she was recruited for both running teams. Because her track times were a little bit better than her cross country times in high school, she said she thinks she may have been recruited more for track.

Either way, Weiler has clear team and personal goals for the rest of the season.

“As a team, we want to win the Patriot League,” Weiler said. “Last year, we were the runners-up, so there’s kind of only one place to go with that. Individually, I really want to make it to nationals.”

She also clearly has a positive reputation on her team.

“Biz is one of the coolest people I know,” Wright said. “She knows what she’s capable of and intends to achieve it, no matter the cost. And her attitude inspires the performance of the rest of the team.”

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