Women’s cross country set to host Patriot League Championships
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - It’s the meet that the Lehigh women’s cross country team prepares for from Day 1. From staying in shape in the summer to the preseason work outs, the Mountain Hawks are set for their most important race of the season to-date as they host the Patriot League Championships on Goodman Campus at noon. Lehigh will be looking to improve on its seventh-place place finish in last year’s championship.
“We have a different team this year with different faces in the mix,” said head coach Debbie Utesch. “We are much more mentally and physically prepared for this year’s championships.”
The Mountain Hawks have enjoyed a strong regular season that has included a win at the season-opening Lehigh Invitational and a convincing win in the dual meet with rival Lafayette.
Lehigh is led by senior Katherine Pierce who finished 10th overall in last year’s race and will be in competition for the top spot this year. She will be chasing Colgate’s Elise DeRoo who is the two-time defending individual champion as she helped lead the Raiders to their first team title in League history last season.
Pierce finished 66th out of 396 runners with a time of 21:44 at the Paul Short Run this year to lead Lehigh to a 24th-place finish and most recently, Pierce finished 32nd out of 193 runners with a time of 22:24 at the Penn State National Invitational.
"Katherine is looking to be a Top 5 First Team All-Patriot League runner," said Utesch. "Her sites are on the front two so she is ready to make it happen."
Pierce has been joined all season in the front by freshman Savanna Plombon who has had a breakout rookie campaign for Lehigh. Plombon took second at the Lehigh Invitational with a time of 22:05.50 and followed that up with an eighth place finish at the Iona Meet of Champions. While Pierce took first at the Lehigh-Lafayette dual, Plombon was right behind her in second place. At the Paul Short Run, Plombon turned in another strong effort, finishing 84th with a time of 22:02, her fastest time of the year. Plombon finished first among other Patriot League freshmen and for her efforts, was named the Patriot League Rookie Runner of the Week.
Pierce and Plombon will be joined by a deep lineup that includes sophomore Jessica Kindzor, senior Amanda Gosselin, freshman Shannon Wright, sophomore Marissa Galante and others. Although no Lehigh woman has won the individual title, a Lehigh runner has placed second on five occasions, most recently Jen Schappert in 2005.
"Savannah has been very consistent in our number two slot in really helping firm up our numbers behind Katherine," said Utesch. "I think Saturday you could see anyone firming up those spots to tighen up our pack and they need be all over everyone elses no. 4 and 5 runners."
Lehigh will look to do that on its home course, a place the Mountain Hawks are very familiar with as they have raced on it three times already this season.
"It's great to be at home," said Utesch. "They are excited and know the course well. It's definitely a psychological advantage. It's nice to be able to sleep in their own bed, eat the food they are used to eating, wake up in comfortable surroundings and run in front of your home crowd."