Posted: 10/27/2011 | Last updated: October 28, 2011 at 05:40 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – It’s the meet that the Lehigh men’s cross country team prepares for from Day 1. From staying in shape in the summer to the preseason work outs, the Mountain Hawks are set for their most important race of the season to-date as they host the Patriot League Championships on Goodman Campus at 11 a.m. Lehigh will be looking to improve on its fifth-place place finish in last year’s championship.
The Mountain Hawks have enjoyed a strong regular season that has included a win at the season-opening Lehigh Invitational, a convincing win in the dual meet with rival Lafayette and most recently, an impressive fourth-place finish at the Penn State National Invitation.
“There is no doubt this is the biggest race that we’ve had so far,” said head coach Todd Etters. “This year we really tried to keep it one week at a time but this race is something that is looming the whole time. We just have to get out there and compete and take care of what we can control.”
Lehigh is led by senior Evans Kosgei who was the League’s runner-up at the last two championships. Evans is undefeated in the Mid-Atlantic Region this fall. The Mioben, Kenya native finished 10th out of 402 runners at the Paul Short Run with a time of 24:25 - the best finish in that race from a Lehigh runner since 2006. Kosgei followed that up with another impressive performance finishing second out of 189 runners with a time of 26:18 at the Penn State National Invite. While Kosgei was second overall, he was the first scoring runner to cross the finish line.
Kosgei will be looking to compete for the individual title as he along with Navy’s Cody Rome and Colgate’s Chris Johnson as all three are considered the favorites.
Lehigh will look to dethrone a Navy team that has won three straight Patriot League Championships. The Mountain Hawks have a deep lineup that includes senior Evan Flach, who has been a front runner along with Kosgei all season. The duo is joined by a trio of sophomores in Jimmy Miller, Sam Bernitt and Tyler Mueller.
“They have really been consistent performers over the last two years and this is their chance with a Patriot League Championship already under their belt,” said Etters. “We really need them to step up and be where I think they can be.”
In addition to those five, it will be freshmen Ryan Mahalsky and Casey Gilboy who will look to make an impact in their first Patriot League Championship. Both have earned Patriot League Runner of the Week honors and both will be an integral part to Lehigh’s success.
“I expect our freshmen to have a big impact in this meet,” said Etters. “There is no pressure on them though. They just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing throughout the season.”
Lehigh has never won the Patriot League Championship in men’s cross country, finishing as high as second in 1992.
It will be the Mountain Hawks fourth race of the season on their home course on Goodman Campus and they will hope to use that to their advantage as they look to capture their first title.
“It’s something we don’t have to think about,” said Etters. “We can plan our strategies around specific points on the course. But everyone’s been on our course and it runs well for a championship.”