|Title:||Women's Cross Country Head Coach|
Assistant Track and Field Coach
Debbie Utesch is in her 16th year with the Lehigh cross country and track and field programs, having served as the head cross country and distance coach from 1996 through 2007. Utesch then became Lehigh’s women’s cross country coach prior to the start of the 2008 season, while her former runner Todd Etters ’02 was appointed head coach of the men. Utesch also serves as Lehigh’s Recruiting Coordinator for the Cross Country and Track and Field programs.
In 2008, Utesch guided the Mountain Hawk women to a number-11 ranking in the Mid-Atlantic Region, their fourth consecutive victory over archrival Lafayette in the annual dual meet, a top-ten finish at the prestigious Iona Meet of Champions, and their second top-three finish at the Patriot League Championship in the past four seasons. Utesch also placed a pair of her student-athletes in Shannon Alejandro and Alexis Weiner on the All-Patriot League teams.
During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Lehigh’s men’s and women’s programs were both ranked in the top-15 regionally and produced back-to-back top-20 finishes at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Qualifying race. During that time, Utesch mentored three All-Patriot League selections, one All-Region selection and the 2006 Patriot League Rookie of the Year (Lehigh’s first-ever).
In 2005, Utesch had one of her most successful seasons, as both the Lehigh men and women finished the season ranked within the top-ten of the Mid-Atlantic Region, and produced top-ten finishes at the Iona Meet of Champions, as well as third (women) and fourth (men) place finishes at the Patriot League Championships. Four Mountain Hawks were named to the All-League teams, including Jen Schappert, who finished second overall for the second consecutive season. Schappert then went onto earn her second straight All-Region and Academic All-American honors. To top it off, Schappert became the first runner in school history to qualify for the NCAA National Championships.
In 2004, Utesch led the men to a number-eight ranking in the Mid-Atlantic Region; the highest ever in her reign at Lehigh, as the Mountain Hawks finished in the top-ten of every race they ran in, except the nationally known Paul Short Run, where they placed 11th. The men placed fourth and the women sixth at the 2004 Patriot League Championships, while three Lehigh runners were named to the All-Patriot League teams.
Utesch's accolades at Lehigh include having coached 22 All-Patriot League selections in cross country, an ECAC champion (Steve Gourley-1999), two Patriot League runner-ups in cross country (Alex L'Heureux and Schappert), the 2002 men’s Patriot League champion and school record holder in the 3000-meter steeplechase (Alex L' Heureux - 8:54.72) and three consecutive women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase Patriot League champions in Claudin Hull (2001), Lucinda Hull (2002) and Edann Brady (2003). Lucinda Hull is also the school record holder in the event with a time of 10:41.09.
Utesch's 1999 men's team finished third at the Patriot League Championships, the highest during her tenure. Overall, her male athletes have broken five school records including the indoor 1000-meters and the mile, which had stood for nearly 30 years.
The 2000 Patriot League Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year, Utesch led the Mountain Hawk women to a second place finish at the league championships that same season, the highest in her time. In addition, Utesch has coached a Lehigh woman to at least a top-three finish at the Patriot League Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase in every year since its inception, but three. Utesch’s female athletes have broken an impressive ten school records in indoor and outdoor track during her time at Lehigh.
Seven times during her Lehigh career, the Mountain Hawk women have been regionally ranked, including each of the past five seasons.
The success of Utesch’s teams does not stop on the trail or track however, as evidenced by the men’s cross country team earning USTFCCCA Academic All-American Team honors six times while she was the head coach, and the women earning the same distinction five consecutive years. In addition, Schappert was named the 2006 Patriot League Women’s Cross Country Scholar Athlete of the Year as well as an Academic All-American.
Utesch came to Lehigh after serving as associate head cross country coach and assistant track coach at Millersville University from 1994-96. During her tenure there, she coached nationally ranked Division II track and cross-country teams. The Millersville men’s track & field team earned a ranking as high as 13th in 1996 while the women’s track and field team ranked 18th that same year.
As assistant track coach, Utesch helped coach a total of five All-Americans, whose events ranged from the 3000 meters to the triple jump. In 1996, the Millersville women’s track and field team won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title. Utesch was also named to the ECAC and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) games committees during her time at Millersville.
Utesch earned her bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island in 1988, where she was a member of both the cross country and track teams. She earned her M.B.A. from St. Francis College (PA) in 2000.
Utesch and her husband Matt, the head track & field coach at Lehigh, reside in Bethlehem with their daughter Sydney and son Tyson.