Posted: August 29, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The men’s and women’s cross country teams defended their home course in the first meet of the 2008 season on Friday afternoon. The men dominated the competition, running away with the race with just 17 points, 35 points ahead of second-place Lafayette to claim the Lehigh Valley Championship, while the women earned 27 points to edge past Kutztown which registered 32 points.
Dan McClimon won the men’s race with a time of 25:24.5, and Shannon Alejandro took the women’s championship with a time of 22:22.0, just narrowly edging out teammate Alexis Weiner, who finished at 22:23.0.
The men’s team finished with eight of the top nine times in the race, pulling out the win in Todd Etters’ first meet as head coach of the Mountain Hawks.
“My first reaction was I was pretty excited,” Etters said. “To see the guys pack up like that and be able to handle a shift in the second half of the race was exactly what we were looking for.”
McClimon pulled away from the pack during the home stretch, coasting to the victory for his team. Meanwhile, teammate Jon Wetzel gave Lehigh the second place time and Ben Lampi outsprinted Lafayette’s Ryan Stasiowski to give third place to the Mountain Hawks.
But McClimon was more excited about his overall team’s finish after the race.
“What I was more impressed with was we had seven guys under 26:16,” McClimon said. “Individually it’s nice to see fast times, but it’s more about the team.”
For the Lehigh women, it was all about showing off the depth the team brings into 2008. Alejandro and Weiner are two of the stars on the team, but the fact that other runners stepped up impressed women’s head coach Debbie Utesch.
“What a difference a year makes?” Utesch said. “This time last year we would have a single runner and then a gap, and this year we have much more depth. I saw some really exciting stuff today.”
One of the more exciting things Utesch saw was the performance from Kim Scotto, a senior who has more experience running the 800 meters in track than on the cross country course.
Scotto trained in the offseason with Alejandro and fellow captain Katie McCLernand and it paid off with a seventh-place finish on the team.
“It’s completely different,” Scotto said. “When you train for the 800 you don’t really do as much mileage, you do a lot more speed. But training with those girls really helped.”
Many of the runners left the course with ice bags around their bodies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The coaches both said they expect their student-athletes to be hurting on Saturday morning because they are working hard.
And the positive results even with the heavy legs bode well for the future of the season.
“Early in the season that’s what you want,” McClimon said. “Right now you don’t want to feel good. But it’s a confidence booster because you see guys running nice times still.”
Lehigh returns to the trail on September 13, when it hosts Lafayette on Goodman Campus at 10 a.m.