On her last lap of the race, sophomore Katie Leisher could hear coach James Snyder yelling “14, 15,” letting her know what place she was in. That was all the motivation she needed to pick up her pace and finish well.
Leisher was Temple’s top runner, finishing 14th overall at the American Athletic Conference Championship at the University of Cincinnati on Saturday. She secured a spot on the all-conference team.
Graduate student Marc Steinsberger joined her on the all-conference squad on the men’s side. The all-conference awards go to the Top 15 runners in both the men’s and women’s races.
Steinsberger was the men’s top runner and finished ninth overall. He was the only Owl to finish in the Top 10. He was also the third Owl in three years to be named to the all-conference team.
The men’s team, which finished sixth in 2014 and fourth last year, came in fifth at The American’s championship this year.
The women’s team came in eighth place, their highest finish ever at the championship.
“It’s not where I thought we could have been, I was really gunning for the fifth or sixth spot, but us not finishing business held us back from reaching full potential,” Snyder said.
Also keeping the women from reaching full potential was the unforeseen injury of freshman Grace Moore, one of Temple’s top three runners.
“We had a bit of an unfortunate situation with Grace Moore where she actually passed out about 200 [meters] before the finish,” Snyder said. “That had a pretty drastic effect on our performance. But it’s nobody’s fault, just the bad luck that sometimes happens in championship racing.”
Moore ended up finishing 72nd overall and came in fifth for Temple.
Freshman Millie Howard finished 20th overall. Sophomore Ashton Dunkley and senior Megan Schneider finished 62nd and 70th, respectively, to fill out the remaining spots of the women’s team’s top five.
This was Howard’s first conference championship meet.
“I really think Millie, somebody who is still getting acclimated to a 6,000-meter race from being more of a middle-distance runner, raced like a veteran today which was fun to see,” Snyder said.
The men’s team also saw success due to their younger members stepping up and racing like veterans.
Temple’s top five runners finished in the Top 50. Steinsberger and sophomore Johnathan Condly, who finished 21st overall, were the only non-freshmen among the group.
Freshmen Kevin Lapsansky finished 22nd overall, Zach Seiger finished 27th overall, and walk-on Donovan Mears finished 43rd overall.
“I talked to John, Kevin and Zach about trying to progress through the race and to move to the field and to close it up really well and I thought they did a great job of that,” Snyder said. “Donovan, a walk-on, is a guy who every week and every race continues to step up. He ended being our number five guy when we needed him, so that was really important too.”
Steinsberger was also satisfied with the underclassmen’s performance.
“John and Kevin did a really great job today,” Steinsberger said. “We hoped we could finish in the top three, but if you consider how young our team is, I am really satisfied with how we did.”
The Owls are already looking forward to their next race, the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, which will take place at Penn State on Nov. 11.
Snyder said he doesn’t know who will compete on the seven-man rosters, but it will depend on who is still coming forward and training well in the next two weeks.
“Our goal at regionals is to give it our all,” Leisher said. “It could be our last race. We will just continue to train and get better.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.