5 Mountain Hawks learn from U.S. national team tryouts

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This summer, five current and former Lehigh athletes were given the chance to represent the United States in their respective sports after being selected to try out for the national team. While some of them had the opportunity in the form of an Olympic trial and others were called in to try out for non-Olympic sports, ultimately none of them were selected. However, they were able to take back valuable experiences. Here are their stories:

 Gina Lewandowski Photo(Courtesy of Karsten Lauer) Gina Lewandowski, arguably the most successful alumna of Lehigh women’s soccer, was given another chance to represent her country with a call-up for the Olympic team. However, she was unable to play on the team this time after not making the cut. Previously, she played for the U.S. National team in a tryout stage in 2015 for their World Cup victory tour, playing in one of the team’s friendly matches against Brazil. In trying out for the Olympics, the current FC Bayern Munich defender was the only player competing overseas to receive an Olympic invite. “It is always an honor to get called up to the national team and to train with the best of the best. Because of the timing of things and my little experience with the team, it obviously makes it a bit harder to make the squad right before a big tournament, like the Olympics.”

“The team is pretty much set and has been playing together most of the year. However, I tried to still go into the two camps with a open and positive outlook that no matter what happened it is still a great experience for me to take with me. The feedback was good and there may possibly be a chance after the Olympics to come into the team again.”

 Junior attacker Allison LaBeau cradles the ball in a game against Rutgers University on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at the Ulrich Sports Complex. LaBeau leads the team with 57 points (31 goals, 26 assists) this season. (Austin Vitelli/B&W Staff)

(Austin Vitelli/B&W Staff)

Allison LaBeau is a senior on the Lehigh women’s lacrosse team and has already built an illustrious resume in brown and white. The reigning Patriot League Attacker of the Year was recently invited to try out for the 2017 U.S. Women’s Lacrosse National Team that will compete in the Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup in Guildford, England, next summer. LaBeau was one of 105 players to take part in a three-day camp on the campus of Georgetown University. This marked her second time trying out for the team as she was invited to try out her freshman year at Lehigh. Although LaBeau was not selected to the final roster, she’ll look to build off the experience going into her final season at Lehigh. “Having been given the opportunity to try out for the US Lacrosse Women’s National Team was an honor and a great experience. It was a competitive weekend where I was able to learn from the best players in the world and challenge my abilities.”

“The talent level among the group was really impressive and I’m so glad I was able to participate and represent Lehigh at a national level along with the other schools.”

 Jamal Willis Lehigh Sports Photo

(Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Jamal Willis has asserted himself as one of the top male swimmers in the Patriot League. The senior is a three-time Second Team All-Patriot League selection and owns school records in the 50-meter freestyle, 200-meter medley relay and the 400-meter freestyle relay. The Philadelphia native qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials along with three other Lehigh swimmers. Willis placed 98th in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 23.38. “It meant a great deal to be given the opportunity to compete at Olympic Trials. It was worth all the hours that were dedicated over the years to be able to compete with some of the best athletes in the world.”

“My family, friends and the Lehigh community supported me through the entire journey and without this support system none of it would be possible.”

 Junior freestyler Kaitlyn Ruffing does drills during practice in Taylor Gym on Monday, Feb. 1, 2015. Ruffing, the school record holder for the 50 and 100 Free is currently preparing for Olympic time trials this summer. (Chris Barry/B&W Staff)

(Chris Barry/B&W Staff)

When Kaitlyn Ruffing completes her final swim in brown and white this school year, she will go down as one of the most decorated Lehigh female swimmers of all-time. Ruffing owns school records in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter medley relay, 400-meter medley relay, 200-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter freestyle relay. She is a two-time First Team All-Patriot League honoree and a 2016 All-Academic Patriot League selection. Ruffing was the 2014 Patriot League champion in the 100-meter freestyle and followed that up with a Patriot League title in the 50-meter freestyle in 2015. The Biology major competed in the Olympic Trials and placed 124th in the 50-meter freestyle in Omaha, Nebraska. “Though I really wasn’t in the position to make the Olympic team, it was truly an honor to compete against some of the best athletes in the world.”

“Seeing the athletes race that will represent our country in the Olympics was surreal. It will be exciting watching the Olympics on TV knowing that my Lehigh teammates and I were there when they qualified.”

 Justin White Lehigh Sports Photo

(Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

In his time at Lehigh, senior Justin White has shown continuous growth in the pool. For the past two years, White has been selected to the All-Patriot League Second Team and has improved his times in his individual events every year. His hard work and improvement eventually culminated into qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle at the U.S. Winter Nationals. White finished tied for 124th in the 50-meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials with a time of 23.56. “It was such a dream to compete with my club and under the Lehigh banner for a spot to represent our country at the Rio Olympics.”

“Competing in Omaha was the best experience I’ve ever had and it truly was an honor to share the pool with my teammates and the best swimmers in the world.”

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