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NEW YORK - The Columbia men's cross country team is back in action Friday as the Lions head to Bethlehem, Pa., to compete in Lehigh's 2011 Paul Short Run Presented by Brooks.

Friday's race will be a big test for the Lions as they prepare for the Metropolitan Championships and the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. Columbia is competing in the 8K Gold Race, which features 45 teams and all eight Ivy League schools.  Among those competing are seven teams ranked in the latest USTFCCCA NCAA Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Poll. The field includes No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 12 Princeton, No. 15 Syracuse, No. 17 Providence, No. 18 Villanova, No. 19 Virginia and No. 22 Georgetown.

The Lions will feature all of their top cross country runners in the race, including standouts such as senior Kyle Merber and junior Mark Feigen. Columbia competed in this event last year, placing seventh out of 42 teams.

Columbia already has one team win of the year - a season-opening victory in Vermont's 8K tri-meet with the Lions and Saint Michael's on Sept. 11 in Williston, Vt. First-year Ben Eversole was the top finisher, clocking a time of 25:16.6 in his first collegiate race. The Lions dominated the races with 15 of the top 16 finishers.