BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Competing against an immensely talent field of competition, the Lehigh men’s and women’s cross country teams took home eighth and 15th, respectively, at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Qualifiers in University Park, Pa. The top finishers for the Mountain Hawks on the day were sophomore Ryan Mahalsky (31:31) in 54th and senior Julia Perry (22:14) in 62nd.
Two weeks after winning the Patriot League Championships, the Lehigh men’s cross country team finished eighth out of 25 teams on Friday afternoon. The Mountain Hawks combined to score 254 points as Mahalsky finished as the top performer for the first time this season in the 10K race. The eighth-place finish is the best for the men’s team since tying with Penn State in 2005 for the same position when Lehigh hosted the event.
Behind Mahalsky, junior co-captain Tyler Mueller was the next Mountain Hawk to cross the finish line as he placed 48th with a time of 31:33. Sophomore Casey Gilboy (31:47), junior Sam Bernitt (31:48) and junior co-captain Jimmy Miller (31:53) all finished in the top 60 as they took home 52nd, 53rd and 56th, respectively, as part of the tight Lehigh pack. Junior Russ Vignali (33:04) and senior Lyle O’Brien (34:08) rounded out the team score for Lehigh as they cross the line in 101st and 129th, respectively.
Georgetown was the winner of the event as it finished five runners inside the top 15 and six inside the top 20 for a narrow one-point victory over Villanova. The Wildcats finished with two runners inside the top 10, but fell one point short of the Hoyas. Host Penn State finished fifth on the day, as the Nittany Lions placed two athletes inside the top 25.
For the women, Lehigh finished 15th out of 31 competing squads as the Mountain Hawks recorded a combined score of 457 points, finishing just six points behind Loyola (Md.). Senior Julia Perry was Lehigh’s top performing runner, taking 62nd after crossing the line in 22:14 on the 6K course.
"I have a mixed reaction to today’s race," said head coach Debbie Utesch. "I think we could have run better as a team, but we did hit our goal of finishing in the top 15 in the region. If we would have run as well as we did at the Patriot League Championships, I think we could have been closer to 10th."
Along with Perry, sophomore Ingrid Simon was Lehigh’s second finisher, placing 93rd after running the race in 22:54. Finishing just two seconds behind her was junior Hannah Pierce who took home 99th with a time of 22:56. Senior co-captain Tori Berard was the fourth Mountain Hawk to cross the finish line, taking 101st (22:58), while senior Amanda Gosselin finished one place behind her with a time of 22:59. Junior Jessica Kendzor (23:04) and freshman Carlie Skellington (25:30) rounded out the Lehigh runners as they finished 109th and 194th, respectively.
"We knew the first mile of the course was very fast and we were happy that the girls were able to get out aggressively, but they just couldn’t keep that pace through the last mile," said Utesch. "We had a lot of first timers at this level of the competition and we reached our goal of the top 15 in the Region, but we are going to build on that goal for the future."
Host Penn State won the race, finishing three runners inside the top 10 for an overall score of 61 points to edge Georgetown (63), while Villanova took third with 96 points. The individual winner was Nicky Akande, a junior from Villanova, who finished the 6K race in 20:14, beating La Salle senior Meghan McGlinchey by nine seconds.
"Some of the top teams in the region ran today including Penn State on their home course," said Utesch. "All of the competition is prepared to race at the highest level when you get to these national meets and you can’t take anything for granted with the top teams in the region competing."