BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After more than a month between meets, the Lehigh men’s track and field team will return to competition on January 12 at Army in West Point, N.Y. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to build on a solid foundation set in December with their first meet of 2013, as the Patriot League Championships loom just six weeks away.
"This break really scares me because you never know what kids are able to do once they go home at the location they happen to be at," said head coach Matt Utesch. "It’s an unsettling time, but we’ve had a week back to add speed to our technique. If we can do that and stay healthy, I think we’re going to be in really good shape as we head into this road trip to Army and the remainder of the season."
In its last meet, Lehigh continued its success that was evident from the Season Opener in the Fast Times Before Finals competition on December 7. The Mountain Hawks turned in several top five finishes on the day, including a second place finish for newcomer Derek Gaul in the long jump after a distance of 6.99m, just 0.03 meters shy of the IC4A qualifying mark. Gaul joined the track and field squad after concluding his second season on Lehigh’s football team.
For his efforts, Gaul is the latest Mountain Hawk to earn the Patriot League’s weekly award and is currently the reigning Patriot League Male Field Athlete of the Week. The honor is the first in Gaul’s track and field career as the sophomore is one of the more recent additions to Utesch’s brigade.
"This men’s team keeps getting better and better as we move forward," said Utesch. "They continue to surprise me and I’m excited about what we have. I’m optimistic, but I’m still cautious because it is too early to tell."
The Fast Times Before Finals meet included intense competition as Penn, Alvernia, Ursinus, West Chester, Rider, Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, DeSales, Lock Haven, Lafayette and Millersville were all present. The Mountain Hawks will now look to couple their technique with a more aggressive training regiment to improve on the already impressive performances thus far this indoor season.
"This weekend is a tough weekend because we’re trying to feel out what our kids did over the break so this meet will give us a good indicator as to what happen to our fitness over break," said Utesch. "We have to find out if we built on what we had or if we lost a step."
This weekend’s meet will feature six teams including Rider, Ramapo, Army, Monmouth and Binghamton along with the Mountain Hawks. Rider competed well at Lehigh’s Fast Times Before Finals meet, winning seven events between its two teams inside Rauch Fieldhouse on December 7.
At last year’s meet in West Point, N.Y., the Lehigh men’s team finished third out of six squads, while the women won the meet with a team score of 142 points which consisted of three event victories. Saturday’s meet will be the first on the road during the 2012-13 campaign for the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh’s first meet away from Rauch Fieldhouse a season ago was also the meet in West Point, N.Y.
"When we go on the road, we try to make the meet just like a home meet," said Utesch. "When we get to the facility at West Point, they are going to go through the same warm-up that they have all year long, the hurdles are going to be the same height. The surroundings are going to be a little different, but it comes down to it is just a track inside a building like it is at home."
"The kids get excited about going on a road trip which tends to give us a little more adrenaline, at least in the beginning," Utesch continued. "It is just a track meet and that’s what we are going to remind them. It’s six weeks to the Championships and we have to put up some times."
After Saturday’s meet, the Mountain Hawks will host the Angry Birds at Lehigh meet inside Rauch Fieldhouse on Saturday, January 19 beginning at 10 a.m.