Ryan Mahalsky runs during the Lehigh men's cross country practice at Rauch Field House on Wednesday October 15th 2014. Ryan is currently a Junior from Hillsborough New Jersey. (Andrew Garrison/B&W staff)

Ambition leads Lehigh’s Ryan Mahalsky to success

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After compiling numerous awards, honors and titles in an already illustrious collegiate career, it’s difficult to imagine what is left for senior cross country runner Ryan Mahalsky to accomplish. However, he has big goals for himself and for the cross country team in his final year as a Mountain Hawk.

The Patriot League Championships coming up in a few weeks are hugely important to Mahalsky.

“My goal is to give my team the best chance to win the title by scoring as low as I can,” Mahalsky said. “My hope is to win the individual Patriot League Championship and therefore put the team in a strong position to win the overall title.”

In fact, Mahalsky’s individual success helps the entire cross country team run its best.

“He definitely motivates those around him with his performances,” senior teammate Simon Voorhees said. “He inspires others to perform at a higher level so that the whole team can enjoy success.”

Mahalsky believes that the team is poised to recapture the title after winning it for the first time in program history in 2012.

“Our team tends to run its best later in the season,” Mahalsky said. “Runners, particularly the younger guys, continue to improve throughout the season, and hopefully that’ll put us in the best possible position come time for the Patriot League Championships.”

The fact that the Patriot League Championships are being held at Lehigh this year adds to Mahalsky’s motivation, since his second goal for the season is to set the Lehigh course record. Mahalsky came within just one second of the school record by earning a time of 23:59 in the Men’s College Gold 8K race when Lehigh hosted the annual Paul Short Run on Oct. 4. His last chance to break the course record will come when Lehigh hosts the Patriot League Championship on Nov. 1.

Following the Patriot League Championships, Mahalsky’s focus will shift toward individual goals at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, where he placed 16th and narrowly missed a chance to go to the national championship last year.

“My goal for this year at the Mid-Atlantic Regional is to finish in the top four or five places and advance to nationals,” said Mahalsky. “My ultimate goal is to do well at nationals and hopefully finish in the top 40 and become an All-American.”

These might seem like lofty goals, but a look at Mahalsky’s career and his progression through his first three years at Lehigh make it seem like he is well-positioned to achieve them.

As a freshman, Mahalsky’s ninth place finish in the Lehigh Invitational earned him Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors, and he placed in the top 10 in two other races as well. However, Mahalsky credits a big jump in improvement between his freshman and sophomore years for bringing him tremendous success over his sophomore and junior seasons.

“I stepped up my work ethic and made running my main focus,” Mahalsky said. “Sophomore year I started really taking care of myself, eating right, and tried to put in the extra mile to truly get better.”

Mahalsky’s improvement and diligent work ethic was also noticed and appreciated by his teammates.

“Ryan’s success has come entirely through hard work,” fifth-year senior James Miller said. “He has made more of himself than any runner I know. He wants to be great and elevates his workload to get to that level every day.”

The extra work certainly paid off when Mahalsky ran his way to a fifth place finish at the Patriot League Championships, was named the cross country team’s Athlete of the Year and garnered first team All-Patriot League honors in his sophomore season.

As a junior, Mahalsky placed first at the Lehigh Invitational to earn Patriot League Runner of the Week honors, finished third at Patriot League Championships and was named a Division I All-Region Honoree for his 16th place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. He also picked up first team All-Patriot League honors for the second consecutive season, was named to the Patriot League Men’s Cross Country Academic Honor Roll and was presented with the team Coaches Award.

So far this season, Mahalsky has already captured two individual titles by finishing first in the annual dual meet against Lafayette College and by placing first out of 119 runners at the Main Line Invitational. These recent results gave him Patriot League Male Runner of the Week honors for the second time in his career.

Looking beyond his goals for the rest of the season, Mahalsky, a political science major and earth and environmental studies minor, will apply to graduate schools and hopes to eventually have a career in environmental policy. Immediately following graduation, however, Mahalsky is aiming to continue running at a high level post-collegiately. He hopes to join the New Jersey*New York Track Club, which is known for training professional runners for the highest level of competition. In fact, Mahalsky is hoping to test the waters for the 2016 Olympic trials.

For now, Mahalsky still has much to strive for in his senior year at Lehigh, and perhaps some history will be made along the way.

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