The Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off their 2022 fall seasons with fourth and second place finishes, respectively, at the Lehigh Invitational on Sept. 2.
In preparation for this season, all members started individual training in June, sophomore Aidan Lynch said.
Junior Christina Yakaboski said not only was the physical training difficult in the summer heat, but running alone for such a long time tested everyone’s mental toughness and patience.
The teams returned the second week of August for a week of training before the start of classes, focusing specifically on bringing the first-years in to make sure the team was working as a unit, Lynch said.
“There’s just a sense of excitement and relief going from training alone to being able to run with your teammates,” Yakaboski said.
Senior runner Annalise Davis said during this week of training together, the teams focused on conditioning while placing an extra emphasis on core strength, lifting and stretching.
“Preseason is a really great chance to focus on the little things,” Davis said. “You have nothing else going on and it’s a good opportunity to get to focus on doing all of those smaller things the right way.”
Lynch said a big focus for the men’s team was getting to know the eight new first-year students and integrating them into the team.
As the first invitational approached, senior Tyler French said the goal became figuring out where everyone was fitness-wise to help the team set training paces and figure out racing groups for the rest of the season.
French said they placed an emphasis on the importance of racing in packs to have everyone finish together and ultimately minimize the team’s score. He said they made establishing these packs early one of their main priorities.
Yakaboski said over the course of the two meets, the team will be able to start setting team goals and expectations.
“I think we have really great depth,” Yakaboski said. “I think that our top seven girls can run together, so that’s going to be really exciting as we start to get into championship season.”
The women’s team used a split squad for its first meet, meaning half the roster competed last weekend and the other half will run next weekend.
Sophomore Maddie Hayes said she felt splitting the roster would be a great opportunity to see how the team functions when some members are racing and some are supporting.
Alongside the overarching focus of pack running, Davis said the women’s team is putting a particular focus on its motto for the season: be curious.
“Right now, we’re not entirely sure where we’re at and how the season’s going to go,” Davis said. “But, we want to go out there, be curious, have everyone run as hard as they can and then see what happens.”
Hayes said she thinks it’s important for all members of the team to be open-minded and listen to what the upperclassmen have to say when they share their wisdom and experience.
For the men, French placed 17th overall (18:21.9) and first for Lehigh, Lynch placed 22nd overall (18:33.6) and second for Lehigh and senior Connor Melko placed 26th overall (18:36.6) and third for Lehigh.
For the women, senior Madison Zaun placed sixth overall (22:06.3) and first for Lehigh, freshman Lucy Afanasewicz placed ninth overall (22:21.9) and second for Lehigh and sophomore Savanah Beavers placed ninth overall (22:21.9) and third for Lehigh.
“We could’ve done a little better and were a little dull when it came to the racing, but we showed a lot of promise with some new people,” senior Ethan Davis said. “The packs were solid, and we ran together better than we have in the past.”
The women’s team will compete next on Sept. 9 in the Harry Groves Invitational at Penn State, and the men’s team will compete on Sept. 16 at Lafayette College.
“We have a lot of potential, a lot of excitement and a lot of passion, so I’m really excited to see where that can take us,” Annalise Davis said.