BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s cross country returns to campus as it begins its preseason training in preparation for the 2011 season. While the team is young, the Mountain Hawks return their top two runners from 2010 - seniors and co-captains Evan Flach and Evans Kosgei. The duo will be relied on to lead the pack throughout a 2011 season in which the team has set its goals high. To reach those, they are making sure they put in the necessary preseason work.
"At this point, it’s just making sure everyone is taking care of themselves," said Kosgei. "The younger guys are learning to get their recovery runs in and that you just don’t pound hard every day. We have to make sure they are stretching, taking care of themselves and eating well."
Head coach Todd Etters agrees that staying healthy is goal number one right now and is happy with what he’s seen so far during preseason training.
"I’m pleased with how we came in to camp," he said. "Everyone’s in shape and we’re just focusing on staying healthy and getting in quality runs."
Kosgei has a lot of quality runs to his name and is looking to set the bar even higher for 2011. He is coming off a 2010 season in which he became the first ever Lehigh men’s cross country runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the current format. He finished 112th out of 246 runners, with a time of 31:17.8, within seconds of cracking the top 100. Kosgei was selected as an at-large qualifier for the NCAA Championships after finishing 13th at the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Meet with a time of 30:33. While there, he helped lead the Mountain Hawks to a 15th place finish. He was also runner-up in the Patriot League Championships for the second straight year, and earned his second-straight All-League honor.
Kosgei has an opportunity to put together a magical 2011 slate in which he hopes to win the Patriot League Championship en route to becoming an NCAA All-American.
"This year is his chance to put his stamp on the program as the best distant runner to ever come through Lehigh," said Etters.
Along with Kosgei, Flach will look for a breakout year after a great 2010 in which he placed first overall at the Lehigh Invitational with a time of 18:36, leading Lehigh to a first-place finish at the event. For his efforts, he was named the Patriot League Male Runner of the Week on September 7. Flach also finished 123rd in the regionals with a time of 33:24.
Flach is not only a leader by actions, however, as he will be looked upon to mentor the younger guys on and off the course.
"Evan is probably one of our more vocal leaders," said Etters. "He is very disciplined in his approach to everything that he does and that rubs off on the guys."
Other returners who placed in last year’s regionals and will be looking to make an impact again this year are sophomores Jimmy Miller (who finished 104th, 32:59), Sam Bernitt (146th, 34:16) and Tyler Mueller (154th, 34:41).
The Mountain Hawks are a young group with 18 underclassmen – half of those freshmen - and Etters has liked what he has seen from the newcomers so far.
"They’ve come in and fit in well and getting to see what we are all about," he said. "We are a little light on the junior and senior class, but that’s where we have high impact guys."
Lehigh will try to set the tone for its season when it takes the course for the first race on Friday, September 2nd at the Lehigh Invitational on the Goodman Campus at 5:30 p.m.