Freshman sprinter Tom Underwood starts in the Men's 200 meter final section 2 at the Lehigh Games on Saturday, April 30, 2016. The track team will compete in the Patriot League Championship on May 6-7. (Shiyue Shao/B&W Staff)

Lehigh track teams will compete in Patriot League Championships on Friday

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As the Lehigh men’s and women’s track and field teams prepare for the Patriot League Championship this weekend, both teams aim to finish better than their seeded standings and gain some individual titles as well.

Both teams are only allowed to take 35 athletes to represent for the Mountain Hawks, which are ranked third in the league on the women’s side and fifth in the league for the men. The women’s team has 55 members and the men’s team has 53 members.

“We’re seeded third going into Patriots, but we received some first place votes so we’re not counting ourselves out,” junior Sarah Cassidy said. “Bucknell (University) and Boston University are our biggest competition but Patriots is so special in that anything could happen.”

Most of Lehigh’s success has come from the athletes they have in the field events. However, the teams’ distance runners, multis and sprint-middle-distance women and men have been large contributors as well.

The women’s team has made the most noise in the high jump with five athletes ranked in the top nine. Junior Courtney Avery leads the Patriot League (1.78m), followed by senior Gabrielle Wardle (1.73m) and Le Jouan (1.67m). Freshman Olivia Reinold ranks tied for sixth (1.60m) and Cassidy is tied for ninth (1.59m).

In 2015, Avery was the league champ in women’s high jump for both the indoor and outdoor seasons. She was crowned champ for the third time this year for her performance at the indoor championship meet jumping 1.81m, a new meet record. She was also named the Patriot League’s Most Outstanding Female Field Athlete of the Meet and became a First Team All-League selection.

“We’re pretty stacked in high jump with (Avery) and the rest of the girls, and they can probably sweep the event,” senior jumper Cody Israel said. “We have a bunch of guys and girls seeded within the top 10 and top 15 in the Patriot League as well as numerous top 10 all-time athletes for on the women’s side so, I think they are more than prepared to possibly bring home a trophy this weekend.”

As for the men’s team, though they are picked to finish fifth, they want to finish in the top three.
Navy and Army West Point are the biggest competitors for the men, but they plan on scoring a fair amount of points in the multi events and some of the distance races to keep up with the other teams.

“Sophomore multi Trevor Knowles is going for his fourth consecutive Patriot League title,” assistant coach Jeff Pflaubaum said. “I think the men can do well, and I think the women have a legitimate shot of winning. It will take some heroic performances, but we are certainly in contention for a title.”

Knowles started off his career at Lehigh winning both the indoor heptathlon and outdoor decathlon in 2015. He repeated this year at the indoor championship, winning the heptathlon and scoring a new school record of 5,224 points, over 300 more than his score last year. The men’s team will rely on Knowles to score big again in the decathlon this weekend.

In terms of preparation for the Patriot League Championships, the practices this week for both the men and women have been especially light. Athletes in field events are working solely on maintaining and fixing technique rather than heavy volume jumping or throwing.

“Captains have been working to remind us of what our team goals are as well as pushing us to find our personal goals and mentally prepare to race,” junior sprinter Soraya Theard said. “Patriots is about who shows up. Anything could happen, so it’s important to step on the line with no fear and believing that you’re going to win, no matter what the seed times or places say.”

The team’s motto going into Patriots is “run free,” to compete without fear of failing or any sort of inhibition, to trust in all the work that they have put into the season thus far.

The meet is set to begin Friday with the field events at 9:30 a.m.

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