BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s cross country team finished second in Friday night’s Lehigh Invitational after finishing three runners in the top 10. The Mountain Hawks top finisher, Hannah Pierce, crossed the line in sixth place with a time of 22:57.91. Lehigh was clipped by Delaware after finishing with an overall team score of 50.
“I think I got a good look at what we have,” said head coach Debbie Utesch. “I’m really pleased that we smashed both of the goals we set out for which were our one through five and one through seven splits. I think with the dynamic of the team we have now, instead of a single front runner that will emerge we have a pack of runners that will get to move forward together and that’s a pretty exciting dynamic to have.”
Pierce was followed by sophomore Shannon Nelson (23:08.34) who finished in eighth place and freshman Jennifer Markham (23:11.83) who placed ninth. Pierce and Nelson have different racing styles but the end result was equally as impressive.
“They both ran very different races,” said Utesch. “Shannon is a very aggressive racer and she went out a little bit harder and Hannah ran a little bit more patiently, whereas she started towards the middle of the Lehigh pack and worked her way up.”
Also finishing inside the top 15 were senior Tori Berard (23:26.85) and freshman Arielle Weiner (23:31.26) who finished 14th and 15th, respectively. Utesch was happy with her team’s showing and is excited to see what some of her underclassmen can do the rest of the season to challenge the experienced upperclassmen.
After overcoming her nerves at the start of the race, Utesch was pleased with her team’s overall performance even though the Mountain Hawks did not retain the title. She knows that the performance of her freshmen is a bright spot for a team that has changed its dynamic from a single front-runner to a pack effort.
“I found myself at about five o’clock with the pre-race butterflies in my stomach because I really didn’t know what I was going to see here today but I am definitely relieved,” said Utesch.
“Looking at some of the teams that we beat in the line-up, I’m happy with that,” said Utesch. “I think we have a good core to work with and move forward. I’m very pleased with our freshmen. We had some immediate impact with them so that young blood coming in will keep the upperclassmen honest.”
The Mountain Hawks’ next meet will take place when Lehigh hosts Lafayette in a dual meet. The Mountain Hawks have won seven consecutive dual meets over the Leopards and will look to continue that on Sept. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Goodman Campus Course.
Utesch knows that even though her squad has had previous success against the Leopards, they may have not shown their hand in the season’s opener tonight.
“We’re going to do a little more research and make sure they had everyone in their line-up because I know we had a couple of people that we held out,” said Utesch.