Big-time performers move to the forefront

As a sophomore on last season’s indoor track and field team, Tynisha Gardner’s consistency helped earn her team’s most valuable player honors.

Gardner led the Owls in the women’s 400-meter dash last season, possessing the top four times on the team throughout the season. She placed first in the 400-meter dash at the Atlantic Ten Conference Championships and qualified to compete in the event at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship last March.

Now, Gardner is attempting to lead a team that she said is already showing more focus than its 2004 counterpart.

“Our intensity level is higher,” Gardner said. “This team seems more willing to learn.”

The Owls open their season Thursday at the Manhattan Opener in Riverdale, N.Y. The following day, the Owls will take part in the Haverford Invitational in Haverford, Pa.

Last season, coach Stefanie Scalessa saw the women’s squad finish in fifth place at the A-10 championships, while the men’s team finished seventh.

Along with Gardner, the women’s team returns several promising members, including sophomores Cheryl Anscombe, Shanice DePass and Shanece Pratt. Last season, DePass recorded the team’s best time in the 500, while Anscombe and Pratt finished ninth and 13th, respectively, in the 55 at the A-10 Championships.

Gardner said retaining valuable team members is important to the Owls’ progression.

“We just want to keep on improving as a program,” Gardner said. “We can only get better.”

The men’s team will benefit from the contributions of senior David Jackson, who held team-best times in the 55, 60 and 200, and the team-best long jump last season.

Other standouts on the men’s side include junior long sprinter William Wacker and sophomore middle distance runner Anthony DeJesus.

Following the Haverford Invitational, the Owls will travel to Princeton, N.J., for the New Year Invitational, the team’s final meet of the calendar year.

Gardner said starting the season with positive finishes in each of their first three meets is extremely vital to the team’s success later in the season, including a run at the A-10 title in late February.

“You want to be able to set a base,” she said. “Once the first three meets are completed, the coaches have a better feel of who is in good condition and exactly what everyone needs to accomplish before the A-10 Championships.”

Tyson McCloud can be reached at tyson@temple.edu.

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