Posted: 08/31/2011 | Last updated: August 31, 2011 at 01:50 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s cross country team will kick off its 2011 season when it hosts the Lehigh Invitational on Friday at the Goodman Campus Course at 5:30 p.m. The Mountain Hawks will look to defend their first-place finish from last year’s race in which the team placed five runners in the Top 10 including Evan Flach who coasted to a first-place finish with a time of 18:36.0.
"The race is a 6k so it’s a little shorter on the guys," said head coach Todd Etters. "What I’m looking for is just a nice tight pack and breakaways the last mile of the rice. If we can execute that, I think we will be fine in this meet."
Sophomores Tyler Mueller and Jimmy Miller will look to have another impressive start to their season as the duo finished third (18:46.6) and fifth (18:51.1) respectively in last year’s race. Junior Lyle O’Brian placed tenth with a time of 19:22.1.
"If those guys can just replicate what they did last year, I think they’ll be stronger to hold on the rest of the year whereas they faded a little towards the end," said Etters. "If they can start right where they did at the race last year, I’ll be happy with that."
The men’s team recorded a score of 25 for the meet while Rider finished a distant second with a score of 72. Muhlenberg took third, Lafayette placed fourth, DeSales finished fifth, Widener took sixth and Moravian and Kutztown placed seven and eighth, respectively.
But in this year’s race, regional power LaSalle will be joining the mix. LaSalle was picked first in the Atlantic-10 preseason poll and they ranked ninth in the Mid-Atlantic Region preseason regional rankings.
"LaSalle is consistently a Top 10 team in the region for at least the last decade," said Etters. "They are a team we are always shooting for so this will be a nice test for us."
While Lehigh is a young team, it returns its top two runners from 2010. Senior co-captains Flach and Evans Kosgei will look to get the team off on the right foot in 2011 on their home course.
"Any time you host, it’s a big help," said Etters. "We get to see the course every day, but racing is different so these guys have to experience that pain of racing."
It’s the team’s first race in four months so Etters is looking forward to his team knocking off some rust and getting back out there.
But it will be the first collegiate meet for the nine freshmen on the team.
"I am sure they will be a little nervous and have some pre-race jitters," said Etters. "I’m hoping they can use this race to see where they can start to fit in with the team. I am hoping a few can be high impact this year, but there is no pressure on them to do so."