Posted: November 15, 2008
PRINCETON, N.J. – The Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams were in action Saturday at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers. The men wrapped up a ninth place finish, while the women walked away with an 11th place finish. Senior captain Jon Wetzel scored the top finish of the day for the Lehigh men, crossing the line in 20th place and earning a spot on the All-Region Team.
Georgetown took the overall men’s championship with a total of 27 points, scoring four of the top 10 finishers in the race and claiming the crown by 46 points over Penn State. Lehigh’s 269 points put the men in ninth place out of the 24 teams competing, and also gave the Mountain Hawks the edge over co-Patriot League champions Navy, who finished in 10th place with 298 points.
“I was extremely happy that we were able to crack the top 10,” men’s head coach Todd Etters said. “The big thing is we finished ahead of Navy, so that was nice to finally beat them.”
On the women’s side, Princeton and West Virginia split the team title with both squads scoring 51 points. Lehigh scored 368 points to finish in 11th place, a spot the Mountain Hawks are comfortable in, having spent the last five weeks ranked 11th in the Mid-Atlantic poll.
“We went in there ranked 11th and we came out ranked 11th,” women’s head coach Debbie Utesch said. “It didn’t go exactly as we had planned, but some runners really stepped up for us.”
Wetzel built off his third-place finish at the Patriot League Championships two weeks ago by cracking the top 20 on the men’s side. The senior co-captain finished the 10K race in 32:56, giving him the best time of all Patriot League men’s runners in the race.
In addition to Wetzel, Lehigh got contributions from several other runners to make the ninth-place finish possible. Evans Kosgei, who had never raced competitively before this year, continued his rapid ascent through the Lehigh ranks to be the team’s second finisher with a time of 33:40 for 38th place overall. Ben Lampi (47th) and Kenny Burgess (59th) gave the Mountain Hawks four runners in the top 100.
“Evans just keeps building with every race,” Etters said. “If we were racing next week he might give Wetzel a run for his money.”
On the women’s side, freshman Katherine Pierce was the top finisher for the Mountain Hawks, crossing the line in 56th place with a time of 23:46. With senior captain Shannon Alejandro struggling to a 72nd place finish (24:05), the freshman picked up the slack and gave one of her best performances in a Lehigh uniform.
“I think that was a tremendous job by a freshman,” Utesch said of Pierce’s performance. “She saw her captain struggling and she stepped up big time.”
Utesch was also pleased to get big contributions from other unsung heroes on the women’s team besides Pierce. Besides Alejandro and Alexis Weiner (63rd) who are mainstays at the top of the Lehigh runners, Megan Hetzel (80th) and Liz Robinson (97th) gave the Mountain Hawks five runners in the top 100.
Robinson, a senior who had not stood out from the Lehigh lineup until she became the number five runner at the Patriot League Championship really opened eyes in her final races with Lehigh.
“I’m very proud of the way she finished her career here,” Utesch said. “She’s always kind of been in the shadows, but she just really busted out in her last two races.”
The Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers conclude the season for the 2008 Mountain Hawks cross country teams. After all the hours of running and preparing for every race, the teams will now look ahead to the track and field seasons and start moving on towards 2009.
“It’s always so tough to think about all of it when you’re always looking ahead to the next race,” Etters said. “But now that I’m looking back, we really had a remarkable season. It’s great that it ended this way.”