It was an exciting weekend all around, and not just because of the 150th meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette football at Yankee Stadium. This past Saturday, for the first time in school history, the Lehigh cross country program sent runners from both the men’s and women’s cross country teams to compete at the NCAA Division I Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Lehigh sent senior Ryan Mahalsky and junior Elizabeth Weiler to the championship. Mahalsky is the third Lehigh male runner to ever qualify, while Weiler is the second female in Lehigh’s history to qualify.
Weiler concluded her season by finishing in 38th place and becoming an All-American, a feat that no other woman in Lehigh cross-country history has ever done. She finished the 6K in 20:41.4. Some of Weiler’s standout moments this season include running the Goodman Campus cross country course with the fastest time a Lehigh female runner has ever run and having the best finish time at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional a Lehigh female runner has ever had.
To prepare herself for nationals, Weiler was most focused on feeling confident.
“I had been somewhat disappointed in my last race, but I just tried to remind myself that I was still in the midst of the best season I had ever had, and there was still an extremely exciting opportunity on the table for me,” she said. “I would say that finding this sort of confidence has been my biggest obstacle this year.”
Mahalsky ended his collegiate cross-country career by finishing in 46th place, running the championship 10-K in 31:03.7. This is the best finishing time a Lehigh male runner has ever attained at the NCAA Championship.
Mahalsky placed ahead of this year’s Patriot League champion, Stephen Schroeder of Navy.
Mahalsky also had an accomplished season, finishing with the second-fastest time a Lehigh male has ever run on the Goodman Campus cross country course, and coming in with Lehigh’s best finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Going into the weekend, Mahalsky said, “I have been focused on tapering for the championship races this season; the Patriot League Championships, the Mid-Atlantic Regional and the NCAA national championships. I have excelled in working hard and doing my best to give the team the best chance of winning and racing to my fullest on race day.”
He explained that he is physically stronger and faster than he has ever been, so recovery is what he was most focused on.
“In addition, I will be previewing the course out there on Thursday and Friday, so I can get a sense of where to make moves during the race, and getting a feel for it, and visualizing it,” Mahalsky said. “I will go over a race plan with my coach and figure out how I am going to place as high as I possibly can.”
Coach Todd Etters emphasized that “Ryan is a highly motivated young man, and he really has been the most hardworking runner I have every coached…it will take a great race, but that is typically what you get out of Ryan.”
Both runners were passionate about this race that has been at the heart of their goals all season.