LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Through a field of 40 teams that included multiple nationally-ranked squads, the Lehigh men’s cross country team finished 24th at the 2012 NCAA Pre-Nationals race on the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park course on Saturday. The men’s team split its squad as seven Mountain Hawks competed at Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Ky. while the rest of the team traveled to Princeton, N.J. to compete in the Princeton Invitational in which the men finished 13th out of 24 squads.
"I think it was really nice to go down and match up with some of the best teams in the country," said head coach Todd Etters of his team’s effort at Pre-Nationals. "I think we ran pretty solid but there was room for improvement."
In the Men’s Red Seeded 8K at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, the Mountain Hawks finished 24th out of a field of 40 tremendously competitive teams with an overall score of 625. Lehigh’s top finisher was junior co-captain Tyler Mueller who finished in 54th place with a time of 24:05.0. Mueller improved on his time in the 8K race by 26 seconds after crossing the line in 24:31 at the 39th Annual Paul Short Run. Sophomore Ryan Mahalsky was the next finisher for the Mountain Hawks, placing 106th with a time of 24:32.5.
"He’s (Mueller) putting himself into the discussion for an individual qualifier for Nationals," said Etters. "I’m looking forward to seeing how is going to run at the league and regional meets."
Junior Sam Bernitt was the third Mountain Hawk to cross the line, finishing 143rd (24:47.1), while junior co-captain Jimmy Miller placed 151st after finishing in 24:52.8. Senior Lyle O’Brien (25:02.2) and sophomores Casey Gilboy (25:04.3) and Nick Ward (25:42.6) rounded out the Lehigh performers, finishing 171st, 176th and 235th, respectively, out of the field of 272 runners.
"I think running at this level is something you have to get used to," said Etters. "Today was a nice step for this team and I think they looked forward to this challenge."
The rest of the Lehigh men’s cross country team competed in the Princeton Invitational on Saturday afternoon, finishing 13th out of 24 competing teams. Junior Russ Vignali was the first Mountain Hawk to cross the line in Princeton, finishing in 67th place (25:23). He was followed by freshman Evan Hardy who finished 73rd as Lehigh scored a total of 385 points en route to the 13th-place finish. Junior Ryan Knouse (25:29), freshman Sean Burke (25:33), junior Nick Molloy (25:35) and freshman Evan Ward (25:39) rounded out the Mountain Hawks to finish in the top 100 runners, crossing the line in 75th, 83rd, 87th and 92nd, respectively.
"They were pretty well packed up and ran very close-knit," said women’s cross country head coach Debbie Utesch, who was with the team at Princeton. "I think they did a nice job of getting in there and mixing it up. It gave a few different guys a chance to take control and show some leadership."
"By looking at their results, it looked like they ran like an ‘A’ squad to day and that was nice to see," said Etters.
The Mountain Hawks will now idle for two weeks before the take to the course in Hamilton, N.Y. for the Patriot League Championships hosted by Colgate on October 27. The race is slated to begin at 10 a.m.
"It’s going to be a different course than we’ve been on," said Etters of the Colgate course. "There are a lot more hills but from our end, we’re certainly going in trying to win it."