BETHLEHEM, Pa. – All the work put in by the Lehigh swimming and diving teams this season will come to a head this weekend as the Mountain Hawks head to a Lewisburg, Pa. for the Patriot League Championships Thursday through Saturday at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium. The Lehigh men enter the championships following a 3-4 dual season while the women remain optimistic despite a 1-5 dual record.
Last season the Mountain Hawk men finished fourth at the league championship meet for the seventh consecutive year, while the women moved up to fifth after a sixth place finish in 2011.
Lehigh’s dual records were not nearly indicative of how well the Mountain Hawks have swum in the 2012-13 season. The men were competitive in just about every meet, while the women lost two of their five meets by a combined five points, and raced hard despite not having any divers on the roster, which put the Mountain Hawks in a 32-point hole in every meet.
Five of Lehigh’s seven All-Patriot League selections return, including both All-League performers on the women’s side in senior Emily DiDonato and sophomore Alissa Leung. DiDonato earned second-team All-League honors last year and is seeded in the top ten in both 100 and 200 yard breaststroke events, while Leung starred in backstroke last year, setting school records in the 100 and 200, and will once again be Lehigh’s top threat there.
Freshmen Courtney Patterson and Carolyn Koch are also expected to be top contenders for the Lehigh women. Patterson is seeded third in the 200 yard freestyle and will likely compete in the distance and butterfly events as well. Koch will bid to lead Lehigh in the sprint freestyle events.
On the men’s side Lehigh will once again rely on its core of sprinters, including returning All-League performers Frank Cuzzola and Chris Hoke. The Mountain Hawks have three of the top four seeds in the 50 yard freestyle, with senior Demetri Karedis (20.50) leading the way, followed by Hoke (20.69) and then Cuzzola (20.9) in fourth. Cuzzola could be a factor in the 100 and 200, while Hoke will swim the sprints and the 100 yard butterfly.
Lehigh’s other returning All-League swimmer is Danny Bennett, who will be a contender in the distance freestyle events.
Sophomore Dan Bateman will carry the torch for the diving program as he enters the championships seeded ninth in the three meter and 12th in the one meter.
A total of seven school records were broken by Lehigh swimmers and divers at last year’s championship.
Historically, Lehigh’s swimming and diving programs have combined to win five Patriot League team titles. The women have won three championships (1998, 2000, 2001), while the men have won two (1999, 2002).
Navy are the defending champions on both the men’s and women’s side. The Midshipmen will be looking to win their tenth straight men’s title and their third women’s title in the last four years.
The Patriot League Championships begin Thursday at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium and runs through Saturday. Preliminaries begin at 10:30 a.m. each day with the daily finals set for a 6 p.m. start. A video stream of the Patriot League Championships can be seen live through Patriot League All-Access.