Sports

Owls aim to surprise at NCAA East Regional

Temple’s Gabe Pickett and Matt Kaycon will represent the Owls in the NCAA East Regional this weekend.

For many of the contestants in this year’s NCAA East Region preliminaries on May 29 to 31, the goal will be to win their respective contests.

For Temple representatives Gabe Pickett and Matt Kacyon, this weekend’s festivities present another type of opportunity.

“I think we just want to be able to show everybody that, ‘Hey, we can still compete at a high level,’” Kacyon, a junior, said.

Pickett, a senior, holds similar thinking that even without all the proper facilities and standardized equipment typically found in a Division One program, track & field is still able to compete with the best schools.

This is the second year in a row that Kacyon and Pickett will be qualifying for the NCAA Division One Championships together. Last year, Kacyon posted a nine-minute, seven-second mark in the steeplechase, while Pickett took 21st place in the triple jump.

“It will be nice, because we do not always see each other a lot when we’re training,” Pickett said.

For Kacyon, this is his second trip while Pickett is enjoying his third taste of Region competition. The lure of the NCAA preliminaries has not faded for Pickett, but he treats it as a definite instead of a possibility.

“It doesn’t really lose its wow factor, but I think by this point it is all about meeting expectations,” Pickett said. “You work hard throughout the season so you kind of expect to get here.”

Kacyon qualified for the NCAA East Regional preliminaries when he took third in the steeplechase competition with an 8:51.53 mark at the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of Amateur Athletes Championships on May 16. Pickett qualified for the event with his season-best triple jump of 15.16 meters in the American Athletic Conference Outdoor championships.

The competition will take place at the University of North Florida and the top 12 competitors in each event will move on to the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore.

Kacyon is ranked 16th among the East qualifiers, while Pickett ranks 47th among his peers. Both men have outside shots of reaching the Championships on paper, but they have no plan of having their seasons end this weekend.

Kacyon started the season off right by taking second place in the Haverford Holiday Meet in his first action of the season. After having meniscus surgery in the fall, Pickett made his season debut two months later and posted a 13.85 mark in the triple jump.

Pickett first looked like his old self at the North Carolina relays where he won the triple jump on March 22. The event marked the first time Pickett had competed in the outdoor events since last spring.

A week later, he topped his distance at the Fred Harvey Invitational where he came in second. One the second day of the invitational, Pickett topped the previous day’s performance when he swiped the long jump title.

“Of course you always have some small doubts about returning to where you were before, but my coaches and teammates have helped me reach that form,” Pickett said.

At the Colonial Relays, Kacyon claimed second place in the 3,000-meter steeple chase while Pickett finished ninth in the long jump. Pickett then took sixth in the triple jump on the second day of the event.

The team’s first home event since the 1970s featured Pickett winning both the triple jump and long jump, while Kacyon won the 1,500-meter race.

Pickett continued his hot streak by placing fifth in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the Penn Relays, as well as posting a fourth-place performance in the triple jump on the final day of the American Championships.

Kacyon would also impress in the conference meet, as he finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and fourth in the 5,000-meter run.

“This year, I am coming in with a lot more strength,” Kacyon said. “I think last year I wasn’t weak, but my conditioning was not ready for the long season.”

Stephen Godwin can be reached at sgjrsportz@gmail.com.

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