On the eve of his Temple track & field debut, freshman Joseph Ho walked out of the Student Pavilion knowing that his first season with the Owls would also be his last.
The university’s announcement Friday that men’s track & field was among the seven intercollegiate sports being cut from the athletic department came a day before the team’s season opener at the Jack Pyrah Invitational at Haverford College.
“It was tough, knowing that I have my first meet tomorrow and how hard I’ve worked to be on this team,” Ho said. “But the simple fact of the matter was that I was very grateful to still be able to run. It puts everything into perspective.”
The timing of the announcement forced the group to put aside its emotions and place an emphasis on the challenge at hand. Ho and the Owls went about the meet as if it was business as usual.
“We have great captains,” Ho said. “They made us refocus. They sat us down and talked. They gave us the message that we have to stay focused. We had a race to run, and we needed to run it.”
“We were a team,” Ho added.
Justin Berg posted the highest finish for the team at the meet, as the junior placed third in the weight throw with a mark of 16.11 meters. Ho took fourth in the 60 meter hurdle, and freshman Jefferey Craskey also took fourth in the 800 meter run.
On the women’s team, which was not cut from the university, both junior Jenna Dubrow and senior Anna Pavone broke a 31-year old school record in the 5000 meter run. Dubrow earned a second place finish with her time of 17:26.10, while Pavone followed in third with a time of 17:31.14.
Senior Gabe Pickett did not compete in the event due to injury, but Ho said the captain was instrumental in the team’s efforts to refocus.
“It doesn’t directly affect me…but it does,” Pickett said. “Because it affects my teammates. Knowing that I was able to reap the benefits of this program for three plus years and they won’t be able to do the same thing now. Their whole lives are affected. It’s uprooted their whole lives.”
Coach Eric Mobley could not be reached for comment, but in a press release he said he was “proud” of the way both teams competed at the invitational. Pickett said Mobley was “distraught” after learning that the men’s team would be cut.
“To see him hurt shows that we have to make him proud,” Ho said. “This is his program. What he’s done for me is unreal. I can’t thank him enough. We really have to stay focused for him, and show Temple that we are a team. We are a good team.”
Members of men’s crew and the women’s rowing team, whose programs were also announced to be on the chopping block, were in attendance at the event to support the track & field program.
“It was great,” rowing coach Rebecca Grzybowski said. “It wasn’t anything that we suggested as a coaching staff. They sort of took up the banner on their own and wanted to show support for their fellow student-athletes. It speaks a lot about the culture of our team and the culture of athletics at Temple and the pride they have in each other.”
Both the men’s and women’s track & field teams will have nearly a month to prepare for their next meet on Jan. 10, the Rutgers Invitational.
Student-athletes affected by the cuts are eligible to transfer and compete immediately. Ho said he has no idea what his future plans will entail. On Saturday, though, he was an Owl.
“We’re upset,” Ho said. “But we also still have to compete. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to still work at Temple. Anything else we just have to take one day at a time.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.