BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After falling to Lafayette in dramatic fashion last Saturday, the Lehigh men’s track and field team will split its squad this weekend when it travels to New York City for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Friday, February 1, while the Mountain Hawks will also host the 21st John Covert Classic inside Rauch Fieldhouse on Saturday, February 2.
"When we split up the team, it puts a little stress on the staff and that sometimes follows to the team, but the goal of this weekend is seed times," said Lehigh head coach Matt Utesch. "We’re aiming to run fast, jump high and throw far so that we pick up some good qualifying marks for the Patriot League Championships."
Senior Lyle O’Brien made a gutsy decision to overtake the lead early in the 3000 meter run and managed to hold off the Leopards for the impressive and spirited victory to give Lehigh an 83-81 lead late in the meet against archrival Lafayette. After the Mountain Hawks were clipped in the 4x400 meter relay, the two teams squared off for a winner-take-all in the 4x800 meter relay in the 17th and final event of the day.
"I think the guys got a wake-up call last weekend and I think they will answer that call," said Utesch. "They are going to come back with a vengeance at the Patriot League Championships. There were a lot of guys that fought real hard last weekend and I think they’re still prepared and ready to do exactly what we need them to do."
After trading leads several times, Lafayette was able to best Lehigh by one second in the 4x800 to earn a dramatic 91-89 victory over the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh put forth an extraordinary effort on the day, but were edged by the rival Leopards.
The Mountain Hawks posted seven victories out of the 17 events on the day, including a one-two finish in the long jump by sophomore Derek Gaul (7.02m) and junior Ryan Paquin (6.77m) and the 200 meter dash by senior Devin Monroe (22.55) and junior Martin Otieno (22.59).
Now the Mountain Hawks will set their sights on a split-squad weekend as the team will travel to New York City for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Friday and host the John Covert Classic on Saturday.
"We’re three weeks from the Championships and are starting to peak," said Utesch. "This is the first weekend of lightening training and doing more speed work. We’re all expecting faster times and better marks."
Last year, Lehigh’s competition in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational was intense as No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Texas were all in attendance at the NYC Armory.
"The Armory is built as one of the fastest tracks in the world so hopefully the atmosphere, energy and competition will help us to some solid times," said Utesch.
This year, the men’s side of the New Balance Collegiate Invitational will include 10 of the top 25 teams of the latest USTFCCCA rankings, highlighted by No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 4 Oregon and No. 6 LSU.
Also on Saturday, Lehigh will host the 21st John Covert Classic inside Rauch Fieldhouse beginning at 10 a.m. The John Covert Classic will include Moravian, Muhlenberg, Delaware, Shippensburg, Alvernia, West Chester, Kutztown and Messiah along with the Mountain Hawks.
At last year’s Classic, the Mountain Hawks shined in the high jump, taking the top three spots with Adelou Adesida claiming the victory with a jump of 1.95m.
After Saturday’s action is completed, Lehigh will have just one meet remaining before the Patriot League Championships. The Mountain Hawks will take part in the Lafayette Rider Winter Games on February 8 before the Patriot League Championships take place in West Point, N.Y. on February 15.