BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s cross country team will be in search of its eighth consecutive dual meet victory over rival Lafayette when the Mountain Hawks host the Leopards on Friday, Sept. 14 at 5:45 p.m. The Mountain Hawks finished second in the Lehigh Invitational on Aug. 31, falling just 24 points shy of Delaware, but placed three runners inside the top 10.
"One of the premiere benchmarks of our program every season is how we stack up against the Leopards," said head coach Debbie Utesch. "We’re really looking to keep a tight pack together. We’ve talked about the course and where we want to make some moves and how we want to work together through different portions of our course."
Last year Lehigh knocked off Lafayette 20-39 and finished four of the top five runners including returnees Shannon Nelson (22.58.70) and Samantha Andersen (23:03.10), who placed fourth and fifth, respectively. The Mountain Hawks will return five of the seven Lehigh runners that finished in the top 10 of last year’s dual meet with Lafayette. Along with Nelson and Andersen, Amanda Gosselin (23:09.00), Jessica Kendzor (23:09.60) and Marissa Galante (23:17.00) finished eighth through 10th, respectively.
Lehigh’s top finisher at the 2012 Lehigh Invitational was junior Hannah Pierce, crossing the line in sixth place (22:57.91). Pierce will be looking to ride that momentum and improve on her 15th place finish (23:42.00) in last year’s dual with Lafayette, while freshman Jennifer Markham (23:11.83) finished ninth in her first collegiate race at the 2012 Lehigh Invitational, providing a youthful spark to the Lehigh line-up.
"On the other side, I think they’re fired up to be the team that stops the streak so they’re going to bring it and we’re going to be ready," said Utesch. "We feel it’s our responsibility every year as the first sport to go against Lafayette in the Lehigh-Lafayette series to start everything off with a ‘W.’"
Lafayette finished sixth at the Lehigh Invitational after recording an overall team score of 148 points. The top finisher for the Leopards was Rose Willey, who placed 12th with a time of 23:24.42. Willey was the first Lafayette runner to finish in last year’s dual meet, crossing the line in third place at 22:55.50. She will be the only returning Lafayette runner to finish inside the top 10 from last season’s dual meet.
"We’re very proud of the streak that we’ve been able to maintain over the course of the last few years," said Utesch. "We’re not going to take them lightly. We know that with the dual meet and the pride, tradition and alumni watching that they will bring everything they have and we have to lay it on the line and get it done again."
After the meet with Lafayette, Lehigh will be back in action when it hosts the 39th Annual Paul Short Run, presented by Brooks, on Sept. 28 on the Goodman Campus. The all-day event will begin at 10 a.m. will college open races and the women’s Gold 6K will take place at 11:45 a.m.