UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s cross country team finished fourth while the women’s team finished 13th at the Penn State National Invitational Friday morning. Senior Evans Kosgei finished second overall in the men’s race with a time of 26:18 while senior Katherine Pierce led the way for the Mountain Hawks in the women’s race with a 32nd-place finish and a time of 22:24 while freshman Savanna Plombon placed 54th with a time of 22:58.
“Evans did exactly what I would hope he would do,” said head coach Todd Etters. “He is still undefeated in the region and I think he will be able to build a lot of confidence from this race.”
“They [Pierce and Plombon] continue to be solid front runners for us,” said head coach Debbie Utesch. "We went out really hard to start the race but I think we faded a little. We succumbed to the conditions a little as four of our 10 girls went down during the race.”
After Kosgei, the Mountain Hawks placed four more runners inside the Top 50. Freshman Casey Gilboy finished 30th (27:25), sophomore Jimmy Miller was 32nd (27:28), sophomore Tyler Mueller was 37th (27:31) and senior Evan Flach was 42nd (27:34). Sophomore Sam Bernitt and junior Lyle O’Brien rounded out the group with a 62nd and 81st finish respectively.
“I was very happy, our pack did a great job of doing disciplined and running a smart race,” said Etters. “The conditions were really tough with rain and mud but they did an outstanding job figuring out where they should be.”
Host Penn State won the race with 47 points as it placed five runners inside the Top 20. Grand Valley State took second with 55 points and Duquesne finished third with 77 points.
Ryan Blood was the overall winner of the race with a time of 26:13. Blood is a post-collegian and ran as an unattached runner as he is training to make the Olympic trials.
The race gave Lehigh a good look at some of the other ranked teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Entering the race Penn State was No. 4, Lehigh was No. 8, Duquesne was No. 9 and Penn was No. 12. While Penn State and Duquesne finished ahead of Lehigh, Etters knows his team can compete at that highest level.
“I think we were right there with them,” he said. “I think Duquesne’s pack was slightly ahead of us but we beat them at Paul Short. Penn State has been in and out of the National Rankings but it was nice to see that we matched up quite well. We aren’t that far from being that type of caliber team ourselves.”
On the women’s side after Pierce and Plombon, sophomore Jessica Kendzor finished 97th with a time of 23:49. Kendzor was one of those four who fell, but considering the tough conditions she recovered nicely.
“Jessica had an amazing race going and then fell in the second half,” said Utesch. “The result on paper wasn’t where she was racing before that fall happened, but I really think she is on the verge of busting out.”
After Kendzor, senior Amanda Gosselin placed 103rd (23:53), freshman Shannon Wright was right behind her in 104th (23:54), sophomore Marissa Galante was 111th (23:59) and freshman Shannon Nelson was 119th (23:59). Other Mountain Hawks that competed were junior Samantha Anderson who tied Nelson in 119th place, sophomore Hannah Pierce (131st – 24:30) and senior Carolyn Morse (134th – 24:34).
West Virginia, which was nationally ranked No. 19 entering the race, took first place with 45 points and four runners inside the Top 11. UConn placed second with 70 points edging out host Penn State which finished third with 77 points.
West Virginia senior Kate Harrison won the race with a time of 20:50.
The race gave Lehigh a good chance to see where they matched up against a pair of Patriot League opponents. Bucknell finished in 11th place while Cogate was in 14th.
“Bucknell squeaked by us and we just squeaked by Colgate,” said Utesch. “But we beat Colgate back at the Paul Short Run so the Patriot League Championship is really setting up to be a battle.”
While both Lehigh men’s and women’s team split up its squads this weekend, the other group of runners will race at the Lafayette Invitational Saturday. The men’s race will begin at 10 a.m. and the women’s race is set to start at 10:45 a.m.
It will be the final race of the season before the Patriot League Championship which Lehigh will host on the Goodman Campus Course Saturday, October 29th as the men’s race will begin at 11:00 a.m. while the women’s race is at noon.