BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The men’s and women’s cross country teams completed the collective sweep over rival Lafayette on Friday night, defeating the Leopards to extend the consecutive dual meet victories to 14 and eight, respectively. For the men, junior co-captain Tyler Mueller won his second consecutive race, finishing in 24:54 in the first 8K run of 2012. Senior Julia Perry won her first collegiate meet for the women, crossing the line in 22:35.
The men’s cross country team extended its streak to 14 consecutive dual meet victories over Lafayette with a 16-47 victory over the rival Leopards. The Mountain Hawks took four of the first five places narrowly missing a perfect score.
"I thought we ran really tough," said head coach Todd Etters. "It’s a great rivalry but I thought our guys kept composed and really pushed as hard as I could have asked them to so that was great to see."
Following Mueller was junior Sam Bernitt, crossing the line in 25:02 for second place along with sophomore Ryan Mahalsky (25:06) in third and senior Lyle O’Brien (25:09) in fourth. The Mountain Hawks narrowly missed a perfect score as 2012 junior co-captain Jimmy Miller crossed the line in sixth place at 25:31.
With the win, Lehigh extended its winning streak to 14 straight dual meets over rival Lafayette. Coach Etters knew that tradition and history would be on display tonight but also realized that his team needed to stay in the moment throughout the race.
"We never try to look at it as what we have done in the past," said Etters. "We always try to look at it as what did we do today. The guys, to their credit, came in ready to race and they executed the plan perfectly."
Mueller has now won the first two meets to start the 2012 season, following up his first-place finish at the Lehigh Invitational with a win in his first 2012 8K race. The co-captain has proved he will be a driving force behind the performance of his team this fall and has shown the leadership qualities desired in a captain.
"Tyler has really shown that he is capable of being amongst some of the top guys in the league," said Etters. "A couple of times today he just looked completely comfortable and completely in control. It’s great to see a guy that works that hard and has that kind of talent, be as mentally tough as he is."
His counterpart, co-captain Jimmy Miller has also shown his ability to lead the pack and turn in consistent performances as his sixth-place finish exemplifies. For now, Lehigh will enjoy the win but with the 2012 Paul Short Run looming, Etters realizes that it will be back to work shortly.
"For them I know they’re proud to extend the streak, but now it’s on to the next meet," said Etters.
Meanwhile, the Lehigh women’s cross country team won its eighth straight dual meet against rival Lafayette by a final score of 17-46, including a win by senior Julia Perry, who crossed the line in 22:35. The Mountain Hawks finished four of the first five runners and finished nine of the top 10 athletes on the 6K course. Perry’s win was the first of her collegiate career in her first ever collegiate run, as the senior showed that inexperience can translate to dominance.
"It’s always good to walk out of this meet with a win," said head coach Debbie Utesch. "I think we did it in a pretty dominant fashion."
Through their new team dynamic, the Mountain Hawks were able to display patience and performance, exemplified by the nine top 10 finishers on Friday night. Lehigh seems to be hitting its stride which has excited Utesch immensely.
"It’s very exciting to see the women’s line-up juggling around and one of the biggest things we were excited about this year was not having that pecking order," said Utesch. "We brought some new people into the mix and they did a tremendous job as our top five and our top seven runners changed showing that we’ve got a lot of depth to work with."
Following Perry, junior Hannah Pierce finished second (22:46), while sophomores Shannon Nelson (22:47) and Ingrid Simon (22:59) placed third and fifth, respectively.
With the win, Lehigh’s streak of consecutive victories over Lafayette in dual meets reached eight. The Mountain Hawks also set the foundation for the track team as Utesch explains.
"It’s a huge part of what we set out to do every year," said Utesch. "We’re not just setting the example for our cross country team’s program and trying to extend that streak, but we’re also trying to set up our track team as some of these cross country runners will be very viable members of the indoor/outdoor track and field season in a few months."
Lehigh Hall of Fame coach John Covert was on hand for the annual dual and enjoys coming out to support not only the Mountain Hawks but the overall aspect of the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry.
"You don’t get too many situations with schools this close and similar in what they do and how they handle their students which makes for a fantastic rivalry," said Covert. "They compete tremendously against one another in college and then they get married, go into business together and they carry the successes from each institution. It’s a fabulous thing to watch."
The Mountain Hawks will now begin preparing for the 39th Annual Paul Short Run, presented by Brooks, on Sept. 28. The event will start with the college open races at 10 a.m., while the men’s Gold 8K is slated for 11 a.m. and the women’s Gold 6K is set for 11:45 a.m.