The Lehigh men’s cross country team started the season with a first place finish at the Lehigh Invitational on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Seven Mountain Hawks placed in the top 10 at the Goodman Cross Country Course. (Courtesy of Don Paul)

Men’s cross country claims first victory at Lehigh Invitational

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The Lehigh men’s cross-country team kicked off its season with a win at the Lehigh Invitational on Friday, Aug. 30.

Seven Mountain Hawks placed in the top 10 at the meet, which included a first-place win by senior Jeffrey Kirshenbaum and a second-place finish by junior Seth Slavin.

Though thrilled about his team’s results at the meet, coach Todd Etters said the invitational was just a warmup, and his focus remains fixed on the rest of the season.

“It’s hard not to be excited about what happened early in the season,” Etters said. “We’re going to handle it week by week and try not to get too excited about when we do well or too down when we don’t. We’re just trying to be patient and focus on the end of the year.”

Etters said focus will be critical as the season progresses, especially when the team faces tougher competition later in the year.

Kirshenbaum agreed with Etters. He said one of the most difficult parts of the season will be finding a balance between academics and athletics.

“It’s really easy to be a committed athlete in preseason when that’s your only job, but once the semester starts, especially for the freshmen, you just have so many more stresses on your shoulders,” Kirshenbaum said. “I think we just have to stay positive, stay confident, but also make sure that we’re compartmentalizing.”

Kirshenbaum added that the athletes need to make sure they get their schoolwork done, sleep correctly and maintain good social relationships. He said this is important so the members of the team are happy with everything in their lives and can stay focused on what they have to do on the course.

Senior Matt Kravitz said the team’s balance has already improved dramatically from last season. The Mountain Hawks implemented several new team rules to facilitate greater accountability across the board.

“One surprise when we came back here is seeing how focused we are as a team,” Kravtiz said. “We have penalties if someone’s late, and we have to do extra workouts, so it’s more regimented. We focus now on perfecting the little things because they make a big difference in the long run.”

Etters, Kirshenbaum and Kravitz all pointed to a strong social chemistry as one of the main contributors to the team’s success at both the invitational and in practice.

Kirshenbaum said the team fosters cohesion through a combination of upperclassmen leadership and underclassmen initiative.

“One thing that’s pretty exciting is that a lot of the younger guys are really stepping up,” Kirshenbaum said. “The junior class, even though they’re only juniors and are kind of new at the whole leadership thing, are doing a fantastic job being leaders on the team. When you have a team that’s a cohesive family and you’re like that at practice, outside of practice and in meets, it’s probably the biggest component to success as a cross country team.”

Kirshenbaum said above all else, the Mountain Hawks are eager to go out and be the team that its been talking about being.

The team will look to continue its success at the 46th annual Paul Short Run on Oct. 5. The run, which brings together hundreds of high school and college teams on Lehigh’s campus, provides ample opportunities for high-level competition.

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