BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams each improved on their finishes in the Patriot League Championship from a year ago, finishing in third place on both sides Saturday at Goodman Campus.
Navy ran away with the women’s team title by posting a score of 23 points, putting the Midshipmen 39 points ahead of second-place Bucknell. Navy’s Amy Watson was the first runner to break the tape in a time of 21:23.5.
Lehigh rallied behind two top-15 finishers in Shannon Alejandro and Alexis Weiner. Alejandro was the top finisher once again for the Mountain Hawks, posting a time of 21:38.8 for fifth place. Weiner grabbed 15th place with her 21:56.2 finish. The Mountain Hawks finished with 93 points to rank them third in the league – three spots ahead of where the Brown and White finished in 2007.
“I know Shannon wanted to win the race,” women’s coach Debbie Utesch said. “But it was a very solid race for her. She executed very well and she still has Regional Championships to focus on in two weeks.”
The Lehigh women were boosted on Saturday by two freshmen who finished as the third and fourth Mountain Hawks runners. Katherine Pierce pulled out a 37th-place finish in 22:19.6 and Megan Hetzel put up the 64th-best time in 22:34.5.
“I’m pleased with our performance today,” Utesch said. “I think the women held up very well, and I’m especially pleased with our freshmen. A lot of young runners get tired later in the season, but they did a tremendous job to hold on and keep the team together.”
On the men’s side, Navy and Army each finished with a total of 47 points, to tie for the Patriot League title. Jon Anderson gave Army the top finisher in the race by crossing the line at 24:19.4, nearly 18 seconds faster than Navy’s Andrew Hanko, who finished in second place.
The Mountain Hawks used three top-20 finishers to move into third place with a score of 77 points. Jon Wetzel (third), Ben Lampi (eighth) and Evans Kosgei (12th) ensured the Mountain Hawks would improve on last season’s fifth-place finish.
Wetzel had spoken publicly about his desire to finish at least third in the race, and the senior co-captain backed up his talk by crossing the line in 24:52.1 for the third-place finish. Wetzel came down the home stretch just outside of his goal position, but he turned on the gas for the strong finish.
“I think it comes down to mental strength and just believing in yourself,” Wetzel said of finishing the race. “I like to think back to all those tough workouts, and if I could do it then, I can do it now. It feels really good.”
Lampi has been a solid contributor for the Mountain Hawks, finishing consistently in the top three for Lehigh in 2008, but the senior really impressed his coaches and teammates with such a strong performance on Saturday.
“Lampi is the kind of guy who is soft spoken and kind of a grinder,” men’s coach Todd Etters said. “For him to step up and run that well in this atmosphere was pretty impressive.”
The Mountain Hawks return to action on Nov. 15 when they travel to Princeton, N.J. for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers.