Lehigh meets Olympic medalist during training week
Posted: 10/22/2012 | Last updated: October 22, 2012 at 08:39 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – During an off-week between meets, the Lehigh women’s cross country team was able to meet Olympic medalist Shalene Flanagan at the Sand Island Park where the 2008 Bronze medal award winner was making an appearance to take pictures, sign autographs and connect with fans. The team was thrilled to meet Flanagan as she exemplifies one of the best in her sport.
"I’ve been excited about this for a long time," said Megan Hetzel, a reporter for Runner’s World and a former Lehigh women’s cross country and track and field athlete that was assigned to be Flanagan’s assistant during her stay. "It was really neat that I got to be her assistant all weekend and that just blows my mind that this is my job now."
Flanagan won two national cross country titles while at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, including the first individual championship in the sport in school history. Throughout her professional career, she has set the American 5000 meter record (14:44.80) and after winning the 10000 meter event at the summer Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, earned an automatic spot on the United States Olympic team for the 2008 Games in Beijing. Flanagan earned the bronze medal in the 10000 meter race that year, becoming just the second American women to receive a medal in the 10000 meter event in history.
Many of the Mountain Hawks were able to get their picture taken with Flanagan, as well as receive autographs and chat with the superstar. Being able to meet one of the sport’s finest athletes gave the Lehigh athletes a shot of adrenaline that could prove valuable for this weekend’s meet.
"That was so awesome and I actually got a picture with her," said freshman Carlie Skellington. "It gives me hope that I can improve and strive for something like her. This visit really pumped us all up and we were all so excited to be there. One of the best parts was when she asked us about our race that is coming up and talked about it for a while."
Meeting the Olympic medalist could provide a spark and possibly some extra motivation to the Lehigh team, as it will compete in the Patriot League Championships that will be held this Saturday in Hamilton, N.Y.