BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In the midst of one of their best seasons in history, the Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams will seek to build on their Patriot League Championships performances as the Mountain Hawks will compete in this Friday’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifiers in University Park, Pa. at 12 p.m. The men will be running in hopes for a return to Louisville, Ky., while the women will be seeking their first trip to the Bluegrass state for a chance to compete at the NCAA Championships.
In their last race, the Lehigh men’s cross country team captured its first Patriot League championship in program history on the Harry H. Lang course in Hamilton, N.Y. as it pulled out a narrow two-point victory over Navy. Lehigh finished three runners inside the top 10, led by junior co-captain Jimmy Miller’s fourth-place finish in 25:41.3. Joining Miller in the top 10 were sophomore Ryan Mahalsky in fifth (25:42.8) and junior co-captain Tyler Mueller in seventh (25:47.1). Mueller’s seventh-place finish was the first time he was not the Mountain Hawks’ top performer this season, while Miller’s fourth-place finish was his best placement of the year.
The closest Lehigh had come to a championship prior to this year’s squad was a second-place finish in 1992 when the Mountain Hawks were defeated by the Bison of Bucknell by 21 points. The Mountain Hawks are currently ranked seventh in the latest USTFCCCA poll released on October 29 as Saint Joseph’s leaped over Lehigh and La Salle into fifth in the Mid-Atlantic rankings.
Last season, Lehigh finished 11th at the Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers in Princess Anne, Md. behind a 13th-place finish by graduated senior Evans Kosgei. Miller will look to build upon his finish of 57th at last year’s event and ride the momentum from his impressive finish at the Patriot League Championships into a possible appearance at the NCAA Championships. Mueller will also be a mainstay in Lehigh’s pack, as the aggressive runner did not run at last year’s qualifiers, but will be looking to extend his stellar 2012 campaign.
The last Lehigh runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships was Kosgei in 2010. Prior to his 2010 appearance, Lehigh had gone through a five-year drought as Jen Schappert competed in the 2005 NCAA Championships. If any Lehigh runner should qualify for the NCAA Championships, it would be the brown and white’s second trip to Louisville, Ky. this season as the men raced at the Pre-Nationals on the campus of the University of Louisville in October.
For the women, Lehigh will compete at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifiers on the campus of Penn State University after a fourth-place finish at the Patriot League Championships. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to ride the momentum from their best finish at the Patriot League Championships since notching third place in 2008 race.
Senior Julia Perry finished fourth at the league race, running the Harry H. Lang course in Hamilton, N.Y. in 22:41.4 to become Lehigh’s top performer for the third time this season. Sophomore Ingrid Simon was Lehigh’s next athlete to cross the line, finishing 11th with a time of 23:22.0. Junior Jessica Kendzor was a 14th-place finisher at the event, crossing in 23:35.3. Perry earned first team All-Patriot League honors after finishing in the top seven, while Simon and Kendzor each received second team All-Patriot League honors for their top 14 performances. The three All-Patriot League team recipients were the most by a Lehigh team since the 1993 squad, which also had three All-Patriot League performers. The only time a Lehigh team had more athletes on the All-Patriot League team was in 1992 when four from the only women’s championship team were named.
The women are hoping to ride their recent surge of success into this Friday’s Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers race and earn a trip to Louisville, Ky. Last year’s squad finished 17th out of 29 competing teams at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers with 457 points. The top returning runner from that race is Kendzor who finished 69th with a time of 23:49.0 in Princess Anne, Md. Kendzor will be looking to ride her strong performance at the Patriot League Championships and improve on the 69th-place finish in last year’s qualifiers for a chance to compete at the NCAA Championships. Along with Kendzor, Perry will also be searching to continue her impressive 2012 campaign with a strong showing at the Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers.
All of Friday’s action is set to begin at 12 p.m. on the campus of Penn State University in University Park, Pa. The top two finishing teams will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships in Louisville, while the remaining teams will seek "at-large" bids based on current season performances.