Oct. 29, 2008
Note: Patriot League student-athlete spotlight stories will feature the on- and off-field achievements in all sports throughout the 2008-09 season. Stories will be released on Wednesday of each week.
by Ashley Hicks, Patriot League Media and External Relations Assistant
Lehigh senior runner Dan DeWitt hopes the final chapter of his Patriot League cross country career will end on a high note at Saturday's Cross Country Championship. DeWitt, inspired by "Running with the Buffaloes," a book that chronicled the 1998 season of the Colorado Buffaloes men's cross country team and has become a favorite read of cross country runners, is writing his own memoir of Lehigh's cross country and track seasons this year.
"It would be interesting to see what we could accomplish with something similar with Lehigh's team," the recently engaged senior said. "Running has always been a big part of my life, and I always wondered if I'd be able to keep track of what's going on. You always remember your races, but you don't always remember the day-to-day events of the season. We started cross country camp in August, so I've been able to write down almost every day where we've run, what's been going on, what we do together as a team outside of running. [I write] usually not more than five to ten minutes a day."
DeWitt is still determining what he would like to do with the final piece, but he is considering giving his record to the seniors on the team or the whole team at their end-of-the-season banquet. But before he can distribute his account of this season, DeWitt and his team have to compete in the League Championship.
"We're all really excited to have the meet on our home course," the architecture major said. "We know it very well, we run it frequently. We've been using our course to our advantage to get ready for what might happen during the race. We're excited to see what can happen, and we think we have a good shot to turn some heads and make some noise in the League."
DeWitt, a Frostburg, Md. native who runs both cross country and track at Lehigh, started running as a preteen.
"I started doing local 5ks with my dad when I was 11 or 12 years old," DeWitt remembered. "By the time I got into high school, I was interested in seeing what cross country was about. I played soccer and ran cross country together for ninth and tenth grades. Since 11th grade on, I've done cross country exclusively."
DeWitt credits a fellow runner from his hometown with helping him decide to attend Lehigh. He also said Head Coach Deb Utesch's team philosophy also factored into his decision.
"Right from the start, she stressed that Lehigh track and field and cross country programs have a family atmosphere, and that they were about academics first and athletics second," he said of Utesch. "Those are two things that are very important to me, and from the start she's been very good about understanding how close I am with my family back home. If you have any conflicts with academics, she's always really good about letting you do what you need to do to get thinks taken care of. It's very easy to be an athlete and a student here because of her."
DeWitt also believes that running in the Patriot League offers a unique opportunity for student-athletes to run, even if they do not aspire to run professionally.
"My goal coming into college was to be able to go from a high school program where I had some success to a college where I would not be right at the front automatically, but also not to a place where I would never get a chance to run," DeWitt said. "The Patriot League has given me a great chance to do that. I've grown steadily every year that I've been here, been hurt very few times, and had a good chance to be in some great competitions. It's nice that the people who are at the top of the League are able to compete at the national level, but no matter what kind of season you're having, it's also nice to know that you can probably compete at the Patriot League Championship. It has been good as a developmental tool for someone who's still dedicated to running, but not necessarily considering a professional career in track and field."
DeWitt has an exciting summer ahead of him after graduation, and said he still plans to run when his career at Lehigh is over.
"I'm moving back home and I'm getting married at the end of June," DeWitt said of his post-graduation plans. "I've got a job lined up with a company I worked for over the summer. Athletically, I plan on joining a local running club at home, the Queen City Strutters. I'm going to be doing marathon training, and hope to move up to the marathon distance after I get done with track and cross country at Lehigh."