In this September 12, 2016, file photo, the women’s cross country team completes a warm-up lap before beginning their timed lap workout. While a new class of runners gears up for their first competition season, the graduating class of seniors is preparing for their last season as Lehigh Mountain Hawks. (Isabel Standbridge/B&W Staff)

Q&A: Cross country seniors, coaches discuss career growth

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The men’s and women’s cross country teams have each competed in three meets so this season, including wins for both teams versus arch-rival Lafayette. The Brown and White sat down with two senior runners, Brian Arita and Maura Henderson, as well as coaches Todd Etters and Deb Utesch, to discuss their final seasons.

Q: How have you each grown as runners during your time at Lehigh?

Brian Arita: It’s been a long four years. Nobody really has a full four good years, so a lot of big struggles. But I’ve also been able to see some of the older and younger guys struggle and overcome that.

Maura Henderson: Coming in, I thought it was all hard work and that was basically it. But I’ve learned to do little things a lot more, (like) taking it easy instead of going hard. I’ve also just learned a lot more about myself as a runner, and what works for me in training and what doesn’t.

Q: What has been your favorite moment on the cross country team?

BA: By far my favorite memory on the team has been watching Patrick Reilly qualify for the NCAA National Championship. It was a culmination of all the hard work he’s put into the sport and (his teammates) put into the sport as he was able to put Lehigh University on the national scene for us. It was an extremely emotional day for him as well as for everyone who has run for our program.

MH: My sophomore year we placed second at (the Patriot League Championships) after being predicted to be maybe top five. And after a really hard year and finishing seventh the year before, it was a surprise to all of us and just a huge moment for us to get there as a team.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the season?

BA: Our goal is to always win the Patriot League championship, but that’s not always realistic. The military academies, Army and Navy, are really good. But our goal for the rest of this season is to make our way to the top and get as close to winning a Patriot League championship (as we can).

MH: For the rest of the season I want to try to finish higher than we’ve ever finished before as a cross country team, and ultimately finish top 25 at our regionals, and see where that takes me.

Q: What has been your favorite part of being on the cross country team?

BA: My favorite part of being on the team is that I get to be with a group of people that I wouldn’t get to know otherwise. Just coming from all these different unique backgrounds, but at the end of the day for two or three hours we all do the same thing.  

MH: It’s a really great group of girls that I’ve gotten to know, and they really make practice fun. I also have grown to appreciate getting to work with Coach (Deb Utesch), and how supportive she’s been of me in every aspect of my life.

Q: What event are you most looking forward to for the rest of your final season?

BA: The 3K, the 5K and the 10K. My goal will be to definitely get on the podium for one of those.

MH: I’m really excited for regionals. It’s back at Penn State where I’ve had one of my best races, and I’m really looking forward to that race.

Q: What has your experience been watching your senior runners grow from your first season together to now?

Deb Utesch: Once they came together as a class, it’s been pretty neat to see them. Their good seasons and their challenging individual struggle seasons have not lined up, so they’ve been a great class that has really held each other up and supported each other through good and bad times.

Todd Etters: It’s probably the best part of my job, getting to see these guys really come in as boys, and seeing them mature as runners, as men, as leaders. Without a doubt (that’s) the best part of my job.

Q: Are there any words or advice you have for the senior athletes as they continue with their final cross country season?

DU: Reflect and use the educational process that they’ve experienced the past three to four years. That’s going to help them overcome any challenges that they face going forward.

TE: I hope that they really learned a lot about themselves. We talk a lot about stepping up to the edge and taking that chance in life, and I think that running can be a metaphor for that. I think they’re going to be great people going forward.

The cross country teams are back in action on Saturday, Sept. 29 for the Paul Short Run at Goodman Campus.

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