BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Now that the regular season has concluded, the Lehigh men’s and women’s track and field teams will travel to West Point, N.Y. for the Patriot League Championships inside Army’s Gillis Field House. Friday’s action will begin with the pentathlon at 12 p.m. and the heptathlon at 12:15 p.m. as the three-day meet will span from Friday, February 15 to Sunday, February 17.
Lehigh will be making its second trip to Gillis Field House after both the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth out of six at the Army six-way meet on January 12. Though it will be Lehigh’s second trip to the facility, the Mountain Hawks understand they will need to bring their best in order to come out on top.
"You have to fast whether you know the facility or not and that’s what we’re going to be looking to do," said Lehigh head coach Matt Utesch. "Everybody is amped and ready to go. They’ve been waiting for this and talking about it all year long. Our squad is anxious to get out there and ready to execute."
Last year, the Mountain Hawk men scored 65 points en route to a fourth place finish at the championships which were held inside Gerhard Fieldhouse on the campus of Bucknell University. Stephen Tutunjian was the lone Lehigh first team All-Patriot League member after winning the long jump and triple jump. His performance also earned him the distinction of the Male Field Athlete of the Meet.
Also earning All-League recognition was Kyle Forrest after finishing second in the heptathlon. The Mountain Hawks have since lost both Forrest and Tutunjian to graduation, but a new crop of athletes will get their chance at competing not only for the All-League recognition, but also to bring home the championship for the first time in program history.
Lehigh will compete for the second time this season inside Gillis Field House after taking part in the Army six-way meet on January 12. In that meet, the Mountain Hawks finished fourth out of the six competing teams as sophomore Derek Gaul led the way with a victory in the long jump.
The Mountain Hawks also turned in three other second place finishes with junior Martin Otieno in the 60 meter dash (7.01) and the 200 meter dash (22.66), coupled with sophomore Ryan Mahalsky in the 5000 meter run (15:19.54).
Sophomore Adeolu Adesida tied with three other athletes in the high jump for the first place finish after posting a height of 1.99m, while junior Patrick Ciez took fifth with a jump of 1.94m.
Adesida and junior Ryan Paquin own top marks in the Patriot League this season, Adesida holding the high jump with a height of 2.04 and Paquin in the heptathlon with a score of 4763.
For the women, the 2012 Mountain Hawks finished third for the second consecutive season after scoring 108 points throughout the weekend. Lehigh posted 14 athletes on the All-League squads, 10 earning first team accolades, but the stellar showing wasn’t enough to take down host Bucknell, which won the event with 164 points.
Junior Jessica Kendzor broke out at the championships a season ago, winning three events (800m, 4x800m relay and DMR) to lead the Mountain Hawks. Senior Julia Perry broke the school record in the mile, which stood for six years, with a time of 4:54.72 for a second place finish, while junior Brooke Astor placed first in the pentathlon for yet another All-League performance.
"I would say we are seasoned, but we’re ready to move beyond the past and do something great," said Utesch. "It’s time for us to get better and move into the top of the Patriot League."
The Mountain Hawks will be making their second trip to Gillis Field House this season after competing in the Army six-way meet on January 12. The team finished fourth out of six that day, scoring 111 points behind first place finishes by Perry and senior E’Lana Lemon.
Perry won the 1000 meter run with a time of 2:57.56, while Lemon continued her impressive streak of improvement, tossing the weight 17.66m for the victory and later earning her the nod as the Patriot League’s Female Field Athlete of the Week for the second time on the season, which began a streak of four consecutive weekly awards which tied Marjorie Grap’s league record from the 2006-07 season.
"They are definitely our anchors and go to athletes, we look to them to be our impact people," said Utesch. "They’re going to do what they do, but our depth is what is going to make the difference this weekend. Those kids are going to make the big difference on where we end up at the end of the day and that’s what makes track and field a true team sport."
Two Mountain Hawks hold three different top marks among Patriot League opponents this season as Astor has the top time in the 60m hurdles (8.78), which has broken a 2003 school record, and the heptathlon (3259). Lemon has continued to impress all season long, finishing the regular season with a Patriot League-best 18.16m in the weight throw.
After Sunday, those that have qualified from the Mountain Hawks’ squad will compete at the IC4A/ECAC Championships in Boston, Mass. for a chance to advance to the NCAA Indoor Championships. The IC4A/ECAC’s will be held on March 1, while the NCAA Indoor Championships will take place on March 8 to conclude the indoor season.