Melissa Cunningham, '25, poses during a practice in the Philip Rauch Fieldhouse on Feb. 7. Cunningham is a member of Lehigh women's track and field team's sprints squad. (Xiang Fan/B&W staff)

Meet the freshman: Melissa Cunningham, track and field


On Jan. 22 at the Villanova Invitational, the third meet of her collegiate career, freshman sprinter Melissa Cunningham broke two Lehigh school records.  

Breaking the records for the 60m (7.74) and the 200m (25.47) earned Cunningham a Patriot League honorable mention for the week.

The 60m record was previously held by Brooke Astor, now an assistant coach on the team.

Astor said she has been amazed with Cunningham’s work ethic.

Freshman Melissa Cunningham, right, practices in the Philip Rauch Fieldhouse on Feb. 7. Cunningham is a member of the women’s track and field team’s sprints squad. (Xiang Fan/B&W staff)

“As a person she continues to amaze me on a daily basis, she just works her tail off,” Astor said. “Sometimes we have to hold her back a little bit and keep an eye on the amount of reps she’s doing and we have to time her out in the weight room.” 

Cunningham is from Bethpage, New York, and ran on her high school track at St. Anthony’s in Long Island. 

Cunningham said that she originally struggled with the college transition.

“At first it was very difficult for me, especially leaving the state. I really haven’t traveled much, so it really was my first time leaving home, going to a new state and experiencing that,” Cunningham said. “I would say I really didn’t start to settle in (until) January. The first semester was really difficult for me.”

One thing Cunningham said she has enjoyed about running track at Lehigh was the true team-feel of a collegiate team.

Cunningham said high school track would get lonely because she and her coach would travel to meets without the rest of her teammates. However, at Lehigh, her teammates are always at the meets cheering her on.   

Cunningham said this environment has been a priority for the team, which the  upperclassmen have helped to foster. 

Senior Hetty McMillan has been one the seniors facilitating this environment. 

McMillan said she has focused on leading the underclassmen on the field and has been trying to help smooth the transition to college for some of the freshmen.

“I feel like I’ve been able to be a great leader in terms of academics, athletics and socially. Being outgoing and making people feel really welcome is something that I’ve really prioritized as an upperclassman,” McMillan said.

McMillan said when Cunningham arrived on campus, the team knew it had an elite sprinter based on her times in high school, but her work ethic has caught the eye of both her coaches and teammates. 

While Cunningham has already begun breaking school records, her coaches see tweaks she can make in her form to improve her times. 

Astor said even though Cunningham runs short races, there are many things the coaching staff can work on with her. 

“We can step back and say that was really fast, literally the fastest anyone has ever ran at Lehigh before, but there’s still so much room for improvement, which is really promising,” Astor said.

Cunningham said her sights are set on the Patriot League Tournament and she is determined to perform on her team’s biggest stage. 

“My main goal is to place in the top three at the Patriot League Championship meet, or even to win the Patriot League in the 60m or the 200m. That would be a really great accomplishment,” Cunningham said.

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply