It took the Temple athletic department 20 years to reestablish the men’s cross country team to the hill and dale four years ago.
And it may take the 2008 team a little more time to realistically compete for top finishes in the Atlantic Ten Conference after finishing in 11th place last year.
“I do see us [in the top seven or eight] if we keep our recruiting going and keep the young guys developing,” said first year coach Matt Jelley, the former cross country and track coach at Toms River North High School in N.J. “I got to keep my team realizing that it’s a process, one step at a time.”
The men’s cross country team has already competed in two events so far this season with a team that is primarily made up of freshmen and sophomores.
“Both were pretty good starts, it’s a nice way to get our feet wet,” Jelley said. “We look better this year, we keep moving up and getting new recruits in.
“[We have to] take each season one at a time, improve not only performance wise, but also change the athlete’s expectations of what we can accomplish,” he said. “We want to change the atmosphere of the program; the goal is to keep improving.”
On Friday, Aug. 29 at Mt. Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., the team opened the season with a two out of three victories in the 5K duals. The runners topped Mt. Saint Mary’s (27-30) and George Washington (17-46), but fell to American (44-19), UMBC (39-20) and Maryland (32-24). Sophomore Michael May finished third out of 62 runners, finishing the course in a time of 16:13.66, falling short of first-place finisher Alex Lundy from the University of Maryland.
Sophomore Eric Conklin finished 23rd in the event, finishing with Temple’s second-best time of 17:08.41, followed by freshman Geoffrey Barletta who earned 25th place at 17:14.18.
On Saturday, in the midst of Tropical Storm Hanna’s final surge, the Owls came in second place at the Monmouth Cross Country Kickoff in Lincroft, N.J. Freshman Travis Mahoney, named the A-10 Men’s Cross Country Rookie of the Week for the week ending Sept. 8, finished in first place with a time of 19:23, while May finished second with a time of 19:28.
Conklin finished in sixth place with a time of 19:56. Temple finished with three of the top six finishers and as a team the Owls finished in second place beating Wagner (61), Monmouth (85) and Long Island (172), with a score of 48 behind Albany (44), finishing first.
The team’s next competition is the Monmouth Invitational on Friday, Sept. 19.
Tom Rowan can be reached at email@example.com.