BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s cross country team will split up its squad as it has two races in two days. One group of Mountain Hawks will travel to the Penn State National Invitational on Friday and the other to the Lafayette Invitational on Saturday. Friday’s meet in University Park, Pa. will commence at 10 a.m. while the competition the following day in Easton will begin at 10 a.m. Lehigh will be running on fresh legs after 13 days without competition following the Paul Short Run on September 30th.
“I think the guys are ready to race again,” said head coach Todd Etters. “I feel like at Penn State we can compete well. I think we should be able to go in and be a Top 5 team in the meet. The guys have been looking great all season long and I think they are ready to step it up a notch at Penn State and Lafayette.”
Lehigh placed 17th out of 27 teams at the Penn State National Invitational last season which draws some tough competition. Evans Kosgei led the way for the Mountain Hawks crossing the finish line 43rd out of 266 runners with a 5.2M time of 26:13.
The course at Penn State is 5.2 miles which is a little longer than the usual five mile 8K course. But despite the small added distance, Etters doesn’t think it will have any effect on his team.
“We train everyone to run 10K so for us, it’s a nice opportunity to go a little longer than we are accustomed to,” said Etters. “The guys probably won’t even notice it when they are out there racing.”
Host Penn State is currently receiving votes in the National Poll and the race will also feature Grand Valley State which currently stands No. 3 in Division II. The race will also give Lehigh – which ranks No. 8 in the Mid-Atlantic Region – a good look at other ranked regional teams. Penn State is No. 4, Duquesne is No. 9, just one spot behind the Mountain Haws, and Penn is No. 12.
The last time Lehigh took the course two weeks ago at the Paul Short Run presented by Brooks, the Mountain Hawks placed 20th out of 45 teams in the men’s Gold 8K race. Lehigh was led by Kosgei who placed 10th overall out of 402 runners. Kosgei’s time of 24:25 was the second fastest ever on the new 8K Goodman Cross Country Course. For his effort, he was named the Patriot League Runner of the Week.
While Lehigh’s top seven runners will head to Penn State Friday, another group of eight Lehigh runners will be running at Lafayette Saturday. Last year, the Mountain Hawks placed sixth out of nine teams and were led by Russ Vignali who placed 39th out of 110 runners with a time of 27:25.1.
“I want to see a nice solid pick and see the guys work together and compete well,” said Etters. “Out of the eight guys running, five are going to earn spots into our Top 12 to complete our Patriot League Championship roster.”
The weekend’s races will be the final ones of the season before the Patriot League Champions which Lehigh will host on the Goodman Campus Course Saturday, October 29th at 11:00 a.m. The Mountain Hawks will look to improve on their fifth-place finish last year.