Men’s track sets sights on outdoor season

After setting a new school record of 1:50.84 in the 800-meter run, senior Kyle Burke led Lehigh men’s track and field to fourth place in the Patriot League Championships for the third consecutive year.

Lehigh had an overall strong showing, finishing with 65 points after 18 events. They finished ahead of Bucknell and just behind Boston University, Army and Navy.

Navy won the weekend with 264 points.

Lehigh had several freshman standouts in the tournament. Jonathan Bennett, who previously set the school record for 60m hurdlesbroke his own record in his first Patriot League tournament with a time of 8.07, placing in fifth place.

Later in the tournament, he recorded a time of 6.94 in the 60m race, finishing in sixth and making him second all-time in Lehigh history.

Out of all the events, the distance medley relay team had one of the strongest showings and won gold with a time of 9:59.17. The team consisted of juniors Brandtson Duffie, Jacob Martinez, Kerem Ayhan and Burke.

Freshman Jonathan Bennett practices in the Philip Rauch Fieldhouse, on Feb. 7. Bennett broke his own school record in the 60m hurdles at the Patriot League Championships. (Xiang Fan/B&W staff)

“Overall, I think it was just an amazing team effort across the board,” Martinez said. “Just in every event group, we had a really great performance. We scored in almost every event and to come home with two championship-winning performances was pretty spectacular. To be a part of one of those teams was a dream come true.”

Burke was the second member of the team to bring home one of Lehigh’s two gold medals at the tournament.

Burke said Lehigh is looking to improve more as they head into the outdoor season.

“I think we’ve got a lot of momentum,” Burke said. “We have a couple of guys that are going to be getting healthy and they’ll certainly be factoring into scoring come Patriot League Championships outdoors.”

The team had a few meets last spring, but COVID-19 restrictions didn’t allow for a traditional outdoor season, Burke said. He said he is excited to get back into the outdoor season with larger meets and a greater sense of normalcy.

The team is currently on a break period, but players are individually preparing for the upcoming outdoor season depending on their physical needs, Ayhan said.

“Preparing for outdoors includes spending about one hour working on my hips, understanding my body and trying to figure out what I need to improve in my legs in order to perform to my maximum capabilities,” Ayhan said.

He said training for the outdoor season can look different for each player.

“I think it’s so important for us athletes to understand what our bodies like and our body’s needs as everyone’s body is different,” Ayhan said. “And when you can tackle that problem, you can do anything. You can run, you can jump far and do all that.”

Lehigh men’s track and field will begin competing outside March 18 at the UCF Spring Break Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

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