The women’s track and field team will travel to Annapolis, Maryland, to compete in the two-day Patriot League Indoor Championships hosted by the Naval Academy this upcoming weekend.
The team’s goal is the same every year — to return to Bethlehem as Patriot League champions — and this year is no different.
Seniors Kaitlyn Toman and Maura Henderson serve as the team’s leaders and have made major contributions to the program throughout their careers as Mountain Hawks. Toman broke the school record in pole vault last year after securing a 3.95 meter (12′ 11.5″) vault. Henderson shattered two Lehigh indoor records during her sophomore campaign before battling injury the following season. She ran a school-best in the 3,000 meter with a time of 9:27.43 and the 5,000 meters with a time of 16:41.56.
“Individual accomplishments are amazing for me and obviously feel really good, but nothing in the world could feel as good as winning with my team, and I would love that for every girl and every senior on our team,” Henderson said.
The strength of this year’s team relies heavily in the sprint and mid-distance group. This crew is led by senior Clare Severe and juniors Sophie Antonioli and Brooke Schaeffer. Severe recorded the fastest mile-time of the year at 4:45.41 during the Patriot League this season at the Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invitational on Feb. 2.
Head coach Matt Utesch said the sprinters and mid-distance group is “the backbone of this program.”
The high jump group is also familiar with success this season as both junior Jordan Otto and sophomore Noa Levy have the two highest high jumps in the Patriot League. Otto secured a 1.68 meter jump, which remains the score to beat in the League this indoor season.
In prior years, Lehigh has relied on performances from upperclassmen to carry the team during the Patriot League Championship. This year, however, the underclassmen have been contributing to the team’s season-long successes.
“We have been preparing them since the second week of school and our goal is just to compete,” Utesch said. “It doesn’t matter who you are competing against, so I think you are going to see good stuff from freshmen and seniors. They are just going to lay it all on the track.”
The Mountain Hawks have tough competition in their path to a championship. Bucknell has won the league championship three times in the past four seasons, and host Navy is a strong contender as well.
“I think the key to winning The Patriot League title is having strengths across the wide range of events, and it is important to know that no one event group can do it alone,” Antonioli said.
Utesch has some important decisions to make this week as it is a Patriot League rule that only 32 athletes are allowed to participate in the Patriot League Championship.
“One of the best problems I have all year is deciding who gets to go to this meet and it is a hard problem to deal with,” Utesch said. “We have a roster of only 32 women that can go, so we have to work pretty tirelessly to figure out who will maximize our points.”