Posted: 09/22/2011 | Last updated: November 29, 2011 at 08:15 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams will kick off the 2011-2012 edition of the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry when the Mountain Hawks host a dual meet Friday. The women’s team has won six straight dual meets against Lafayette while the men’s squad has prevailed in 12 consecutive dual meets. The women’s race will be at 5:30 p.m. while the men will start at 6:15 p.m.
“We take a lot of pride in being the first sport of the year to go head-to-head and start the Lehigh/Lafayette series,” said women’s cross country head coach Debbie Utesch. “We are hoping to start off with a win and set the tone for the department for the year.”
Men’s cross country head coach Todd Etters echoed those same sentiments.
“It’s an honor for us to get the rivalry started within the department,” said Etters. “Lafayette is always tough competition and we don’t take them lightly but hopefully we can make it 13 in a row this year.”
The women’s team is coming off a fifth place finish at the Iona Meet of Champions. For the second race in a row, it was freshman Savanna Plombon who had the highest finish for the Mountain Hawks, placing eighth overall with a time of 22:45.94 while Lehigh had three runners inside the Top 20. Senior Katherine Pierce finished 12th with a time of 23:02.52 while freshman Shannon Nelson placed 19th with a time of 23:11.72.
The Mountain Hawks have raced once already on their home course this season when they placed first at the Lehigh Invitational in the first race of the year. Lafayette also took part in that race as it finished in second place with 67 points.
In last year’s Lehigh/Lafayette dual meet, it was Pierce who led the way finishing second to pace seven Lehigh runners in the Top 10. The Mountain Hawks will look to use that same kind of depth to its advantage on Friday.
On the men’s side, Lehigh won the Lehigh Invitational with a perfect score of 15 in the first race of the season as the Mountain Hawks placed six runners in the top 10 including the first five spots. Sophomore Jimmy Miller led the way taking first with a time of 18:45.80 while senior Evan Flach placed second, seniors Evans Kosgei third, sophomore Sam Bernitt fourth and sophomore Tyler Mueller fifth.
Freshman Ryan Mahalsky finished ninth overall in the race with a time of 19:04.20 and was the only freshman to finish in the Top 13. For his efforts, he was named the Patriot League Rookie Runner of the Week.
Lafayette was also in that race as it finished in third place.
“We were pleased with how we matched up against them from a results standpoint, but a 10 team field is different than head-to-head,” said Etters. “We will hope to utilize our experience from that first meet and our depth which certainly counts a lot not in scoring but it can mentality wear on an opponent.”
Both coaches will look for Lehigh to extend its streak against Lafayette and set the tone for this year’s Lehigh-Lafayette series.