The Lehigh men’s cross country team added nine athletes to its roster this season and is looking to use the additional talent to build momentum and success.
The Mountain Hawks welcomed freshmen Joseph Cranley, Ethan Davis, Brandston Duffie, Tyler French, Thomas Leitner, Jacob Martinez, Connor Melko and Riley Williamson to the roster. Freshman Sean Campiglia also made the team after trying out after the recruiting period ended; however, his name will not officially appear on the roster until he receives medical clearance.
Coach Todd Etters said the coaching staff made solid recruiting decisions. He said the fresh athletes will bring a complexity to the team and play a major role in accumulating victories as they get more Division I experience under their belts.
“You can tell just by the results of the first meet, they are going to be contributors,” Etters said. “I am really glad to have them here after what is a long recruiting process.”
Over the past few weeks, the new athletes have been working to acclimate to the heightened intensity of competing at the collegiate level. However, their transition calls for making adjustments in areas beyond race paths.
Melko said the older players on the team have been supportive and helpful during this period of transition.
“The adjustment has been a difficult one from high school, but we are getting along well and working well together,” Melko said. “The upperclassmen have helped us a lot, from things like picking classes and where to go for food. In terms of training, they have been great leaders and lead by example.”
Etters echoed the importance of upperclassmen leadership and guidance during the early part of the season and school year. Melko said having role models to depend on alleviates some of the inevitable stress that comes with the new territory.
“I think they are just really friendly guys,” Etters said of the upperclassmen. “They are looking out for them academically, they are looking out for them athletically, they are trying to show them the ropes of what it’s like to be a student-athlete in college.”
Junior Michael Mitchell said he recognizes the importance of mentoring such a large incoming group. He said the upperclassmen have placed emphasis on assimilating the newcomers into the team dynamic to make sure they feel confident in and comfortable with their leadership. A more unified team fosters commitment and, ultimately, championships in the long term.
“We love all of the freshmen,” Mitchell said. “The bigger the class, the better. This year we have really strong leadership on the team, so because of that, the freshmen are really bought in and really committed.”
As the freshmen continue to adjust to running at the collegiate level, they will look to use their individual strengths to contribute to the team. Etters said the new recruiting class’s talent is immediately recognizable, but gaining experience at the Division I level will go a long way.
Etters also said there are a few freshmen who are stronger in track and in shorter distances, which will make their skill sets especially useful in the winter and spring seasons.
In the first meet of the season, the Mountain Hawks produced a dominant home win at the Lehigh Invitational on Aug. 30. The team finished sixth at the Harry Lang Invitational, its second meet of the season, on Saturday.
“It is always nice to start the season with a win,” Etters said. “I don’t think that necessarily changes what our end of the season goals are, but we expect to be at our best when it counts the most, and for us that’s really the Patriot League Championships.”
Etters said he looks forward to improving each week and measuring up at the end of the season.
“We are obviously looking to win a Patriot League Championship,” Mitchell said. “Right now we are definitely on the right track to get there.”
The Mountain Hawks will race at the Lafayette Dual next Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Goodman Campus Cross Country Course at 10:30 a.m.