BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Behind a fourth-place finish by senior Julia Perry, the Lehigh women’s cross country team took fourth place in the 2012 Patriot League Championships in Hamilton N.Y. Perry was the top Lehigh performer, finishing in 22:41.4 on Harry H. Lang course, followed by sophomore Ingrid Simon who crossed the line in 23:22.0 for 11th place. The fourth-place finish is the best for the women since taking third in the 2008 Patriot League Championships.
"I was very pleased with how they handled the course," said Utesch. "It’s a slow course in general on the side of a mountain, but I think we got out and positioned ourselves well to maintain the position. They ran extremely aggressive on the downhill and that’s where our middle distance runners made up a lot of ground on the competition, capitalizing on their innate speed."
Perry was Lehigh’s top performer for the third time this season after winning the Lehigh-Lafayette Dual Meet before finishing 146th out of a field of 360 finishing runners at the 39th Annual Paul Short Run on the Goodman Campus Course in September. With the fourth-place individual finish, Perry earned first team All-Patriot League honors, while Simon and junior Jessica Kendzor, who crossed the line in 23:35.3 for 14th, earned second team All-Patriot League honors.
"The team that I saw race today was the team I was looking for all season," said Utesch. "They executed the race plan exactly. They got out there and did a really good job of navigating through the hills and terrain. We’re a young team running top half of the Patriot League, finishing only 16 points out of second. I now feel happy about where are and where we can go from here in the future.
"Julia Perry did a tremendous job," Utesch continued. "She was able to make some good, aggressive passes and earned first team All-Patriot League honors in her first year as a cross country runner. She had a specific plan to run up front and executed perfectly."
The three All-Patriot League selections of this year’s squad are the most Lehigh has had named since the second-place team of 1993 that also had three All-Patriot League performers.
Navy was the winner of the league championships, scoring 46 points behind three top 10 finishers. The Mids were followed by Bucknell in second (68), while Army took third (78). After Lehigh, host Colgate finished fifth with 147 points, while Lafayette and Holy Cross placed sixth and seventh, respectively, as they both scored 168 points. American placed eighth with 171 points.
The individual champion was sophomore Annie-Norah Beveridge of Navy with a time of 21:45.4, while Colgate’s Olivia Brackett earned Rookie of the Year honors after finishing fifth as the first freshman to cross the line on her home course.
"Coming into today we knew Navy was good, but after that, second through seventh were up for grabs," said Utesch. "We had talked about doing something different as a team in order to make a difference in the final score and finish in the top half of the Patriot League. We had to be in the top 30 at the mile mark and we finally were able to create some confidence and get out in front.
"This meet definitely created positive momentum going forward," Utesch continued. "I think getting out in front and holding onto their position will build our confidence and we have a chance to be a top 15 team in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Rankings."
Lehigh will now compete in the Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers in University Park, Pa. on November 9 for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky. later in the month.