Freshman Connor Malinger is part of the Lehigh's men's cross country team. He brings his experiences from home in Honolulu, Hawaii, with him to Lehigh. (Courtesy of Connor Malinger)

Freshman runner joins men’s cross country from Hawaii


Freshman Connor Malinger said he has spent his whole life running across his home state of Hawaii. 

A new member of Lehigh’s cross country team, Malinger said he has brought his experiences of running on the island to Lehigh. 

Before becoming involved with cross country, Malinger said he tried soccer, basketball and baseball, yet nothing stuck.

It wasn’t until middle school that he tried running cross country for the first time. Malinger said he realized then that this was something he could pursue, both collegiately and miles away from home. 

“Most people hate running, and it’s not like there is anything special about me,” Malinger said. “Once you do it enough, it’s a love-hate relationship. Some days are great and some days aren’t but when the good days come it makes it all worth it.”

Malinger said the trails where he grew up were not well suited for running, so when he got to Lehigh, he enjoyed the running paths the university offers. 

“I was looking for schools that I could run at and be competitive and, also, a school that had a high academic caliber,” Malinger said. “Lehigh just kept coming up.” 

Freshman Adam Barbato said learning about Malinger’s life in Hawaii has been interesting.

“He is a pretty creative, laid-back person,” Barbato said. “He’s always smiling. It’s his nature.”

Malinger said the conversations he had with coach Todd Etters is what initially attracted him to Lehigh. 

“The first thing that stands out when we recruit anyone is their athletic ability, and then as you dig a little deeper you see that he is absolutely an academic fit at Lehigh,” Etters said. “Then, from a personality standpoint and everything that we look for, he was a great fit for our program.” 

Etters said Malinger showed interest in the program from the start, and initiated the conversation of being recruited.

In his first few weeks on the team, senior Kerem Ayhan said Malinger has been a great addition and brings in a different experience and perspective. 

He said Malinger has had a positive mindset after dealing with a knee injury at the beginning of the season.

“His ability to be very disciplined is crucial to our team’s success,” Ayhan said. “I think the others can follow his ways.”

In Lehigh’s first competition of the fall, the Lehigh Invitational, the Mountain Hawks placed fourth overall, coming in behind Villanova, Temple and St. Joseph’s. 

Malinger finished 76th out of more than 150 competitors with a time of 19:42.7 in the 6k race. In the Lehigh Lafayette dual meet, an 8k race, Malinger placed 15th out of 25 runners with a time of 26:46.30.

Malinger and the rest of the men’s cross country team will next compete in the Paul Short Run on Sept. 30.

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