BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s cross country team is seeking to win the Lehigh Invitational for the third consecutive year when it hosts the event on Friday. The Mountain Hawks took the first five places for a perfect score of 15 points last year, including a first place finish by 2012 junior co-captain Jimmy Miller (18:45.80).
“The first thing we always look for is a strong and solid pack,” said head coach Todd Etters. “Last year we went one through five in the meet but we had about 10 guys in that pack for most of the race. This year we really want the same story and that is to be able to have about 12 guys racing together through at least a mile and a half of this meet.”
Along with Miller, two other returning runners placed in the top five at last year’s race. Junior Sam Bernitt (18.52.50) and 2012 junior co-captain Tyler Mueller (18.52.80) will seek to build on their previous success as the duo finished fourth and fifth respectively. Sophomore Ryan Mahalsky crossed the line in ninth place with a time of 19.04.20 and sophomore Casey Gilboy placed 16th (19.20.20).
Etters is hoping his experienced runners can follow-up their performances of not only last year’s Lehigh Invitational, but also the success they enjoyed throughout the 2011 season.
“I think those guys (Miller, Bernitt, and Mueller) followed up that early season success with what they did all of last year so I’m hoping that they can really pick up where they left off,” said Etters. “Hopefully we see the emergence of a few younger guys just like we did out of them last year.”
This year, Lehigh will welcome Mount Saint Mary’s into the competition. The Mount was picked to finish fourth in the Northeast Conference this year and will add another Division I competitor to go along with rival Lafayette.
No additional pressure comes from having to defend the title but Etters does believe that there could be a few nerves this Friday.
“There’s not really added pressure because we won it two times in-a-row,” said Etters. “I think the added pressure comes because this is the first competition of the year so people are a little bit more amped up and anxious about that more than anything else.”
“Our focus is really on us,” said Etters. “So I think the biggest challenge is that we just take care of business and if we do that we should be able to win it again.”
Lehigh was picked to finish third in the Patriot League’s Preseason Poll released Thursday, receiving 72 points and one first place vote. Navy was predicted to finish first (13 first place votes), followed by American (2), Lehigh (1), Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Lafayette and Holy Cross.
The Lehigh Invitational will be held on Friday, Aug. 31 at the Goodman Campus Course at 5:30 p.m.