This Halloween, the men’s and women’s cross country teams have far more in mind than costumes and candy. They’re focusing on winning a Patriot League Championship instead.
On Oct. 31, the cross country teams will travel to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where they will compete with nine other teams to be named the next Patriot League champion.
“As far as preparation goes, we’ve been putting in miles on miles since late May to get ready for this Saturday,” junior Ryan Cooney said. “We started working on some harder workouts once we got back to school. We’ve been focusing on running as a pack and keeping together during races.”
Last year, both men’s and women’s teams placed sixth out of the ten teams at the championships. For the women, Boston University took home the title with a total of 52 points while Lehigh finished with 136. For the men, Navy dominated with 30 points, with Lehigh getting 111.
“We are focused on the task at hand and prepared to be at our best this Saturday,” coach Todd Etters said. “Last year is in the past and has provided motivation up to this point, but from here on in we are simply trying to relax, focus and stay confident.”
The cross country team is currently in tapering mode, which involves lighter workouts until the big championship meet. Cooney said they’re easing up on the mileage in order to feel ready for the championships.
Senior Sean Burke said since it is late in the season, the team must focus on mental preparation and trusting one’s training is very important, especially in terms of pack-running.
“I think our team has a good shot of running well at the Patriot League Championships if we execute pack-running,” he said. “Our biggest factor is our depth so if we can run well as a pack, we can place very high as a team.”
As for Saturday, the team isn’t too concerned with Colgate’s course.
“We’re competing at Colgate and Colgate’s course is very hilly,” senior Arielle Weiner of Freehold, New Jersey, said. “We have geared our workouts to include more hill repeats. We have also done what we call the Fountain Hill run a few times this season. It begins with a long uphill and includes another major uphill.”
Weiner holds a 2014 Patriot League Championship 6K personal best record of 22:42.0.
Other top performers include sophomore Patrick Reilly who has a personal best 6K time of 18:33.8. This time placed him first in the 2015 Lehigh Invitational. He was also the highest Patriot League finisher in the 8K Paul Short Gold Race with a time of 24:35.8.
“The biggest challenge this season has been filling the void that some of the national caliber guys like Ryan Mahalsky left when they graduated,” Cooney said. “I think everyone was really motivated to prove that our program isn’t defined by one success and that we intend to be a name in the Patriot League going forward.”
Mahalsky set a new school record in the 1,500 meter race at the IC4A Championships and also won the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races at the previous championships, which earned him the name of Patriot League Track Athlete of the Meet.
“We believe we can compete well with the best teams in the Patriot League and we are looking forward to meeting that challenge,” Etters said.
The championship meet will begin this Saturday at 11 a.m.