Lehigh men’s and women’s track and field competed in the indoor Patriot League Championships Feb. 17-18 at Bucknell University, where senior Trevor Knowles became the first male athlete in league history to win four straight heptathlon titles.
The men’s team took fourth place with 81.5 points, while the women finished at fifth with 77.5 points.
Knowles and junior pole vaulter Kaitlyn Toman were two of Lehigh’s biggest standout athletes in the meet.
Toman set school and league records for the indoor pole vault, placing second with 3.95 meters.
Knowles’ efforts at the championships earned him the title of Patriot League Men’s Outstanding Field Performer of the Meet.
Going into the meet, coach Matt Utesch said he expected Knowles to win the heptathlon, but a heel injury on the first day of the competition made a first place finish seem out-of-reach.
“(Knowles) bruised his heel badly on the first day during the preliminary round of the hurdles,” Utesch said. “It was a pretty herculean effort for him to continue competing on the second day, no less win.”
Knowles, whose goal going into the meet was to qualify for nationals, said the injury changed his perspective on what he was trying to accomplish.
“The focus for me switched from trying to qualify for nationals to just trying to win the event,” he said. “If I didn’t have my team supporting me the whole time, I’m not sure I could have done it.”
Knowles’ team’s overwhelming support and Utesch’s high expectations were what Knowles said motivated him to continue competing.
Knowles said after he won his first heptathlon during the first indoor meet of his freshman year, Utesch set a goal for him: win four indoor and four outdoor championships.
“It wasn’t a burden,” Knowles said, “but was more motivating for me to continue to get better and go against athletes from the league that were consistently getting better and better every year.”
To quality for nationals, Knowles needs to be ranked at least 16th in the country. Before the championships, he was 17th. He said national rankings will come out in March.
Not only did Toman set the school and league records for highest pole vault at 3.95 meters, but she also broke her own personal goal. She said she went into the meet with a goal height of 3.85, but the energy at the meet, the competitiveness of the other athletes and the performances of other Lehigh pole vaulters — freshman Madisyn Hawkins, who also broke the Lehigh school record with 3.85 meters, and sophomore Caity Reverand — pushed her to jump higher.
“Last year in the championships, the winning height was 3.70 meters,” Toman said. “This year, the first and second seeds in the meet were seeded at 3.75. By the end of the competition, there were six girls that had cleared 3.85. Pretty much every single girl in the competition set their personal record. The competition was more intense than I’ve ever seen.”
Utesch attributed the record-breaking performances to great team leadership by Toman. He also recognized the underclassmen who are products of the incredible talent in the women’s pole vaulting program.
Other notable accomplishments include three podium finishes from the women and five from the men.
The women’s team won its second indoor distance medley relay championship title in three years. Sophomore Hannah Bonaguidi, senior Kristen Lavallee, sophomore Brooke Schaeffer and junior Clare Severe took home the win with a time of 11:58.94.
Senior Hanna Brosky, sophomore Mary Casey, Schaeffer and Severe earned All-Patriot League Second Team honors after their second place finish in the 4×800-meter relay. Junior Tyler Bannister claimed third in her high jump.
The men’s team took home a second place finish from senior Kyle Kirk in the 800-meter run. Senior Patrick Reilly in the 5K, junior Ryan Givens in the long and high jumps, and the 4×800-meter relay of senior Ryan Grace, freshman Sean Brown, sophomore Matt Kravitz and Kirk all took home third place finishes.
As the indoor season comes to an end with the conclusion of the championships, Lehigh track and field looks toward the outdoor season that begins March 16-17 with the University of Central Florida’s Black and Gold Challenge in Orlando, Florida.