Coach Elvis Forde decided to do things differently this year.
In previous seasons, the whole team rode the bus to the American Athletic Conference Championships. But this season, Forde is handpicking who will travel to Birmingham, Alabama for the Feb. 28 meet.
“You have to show some significant performance at the conference level,” Forde said. “Part of that is going to be judged based on where you are on the best lists.”
By “best lists,” Forde is referring to the list of the top performances in The American so far this season. Athletes that have a time or distance in the Top 15 of the conference have a better chance of scoring and are therefore almost guaranteed a spot on the traveling roster.
Freshman sprinter and hurdler Sylvia Wilson ranks in the Top 15 for both of her events. After breaking the school record in the 60-meter at the Feb. 6 Villanova Invitational, she ranks No. 11 in the 60 and No. 4 in the 60 hurdles out of all runners in The American this season.
Wilson re-broke her school record in the 60-hurdles on Friday at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational, moving to No. 4 in the event in the conference.
Junior hurdler Simone Brownlee has the conference’s 10th best time in the 60 hurdles. She set a new personal best in the Villanova Invitational, which she credits to nailing down methods in practices.
“There’s just something about the technicality of having to think about so many things at once and just have to put it all together,” Brownlee said. “Even if you don’t run as fast as the person next to you, if you have better form, then you can sometimes beat that person.”
Other Owls in the Top 15 of their events include junior sprinter and jumper Bionca St. Fleur in the 200, junior sprinter Kenya Gaston in the 400, freshman multis competitor Crystal Jones in the high jump and St. Fleur and junior sprinter and jumper Jimmia McCluskey in the long jump.
“If you can’t step up, you might not make the trip to Birmingham,” Forde said. “You don’t want to go that harsh, but this is about scoring points at the conference meet. All the other meets that we have done so far is for them to prove to us that they are worthy of going.”
Temple finished last of the 11 teams at the championships last season, but several members of the team believe they can improve their standing this year.
“I feel as though within the time conference comes around, everybody’s going to be close to their prime where they should be, as far as what coach wants us to do,” McCluskey said. “I’m really excited. I think we’ll do better than last year.”
The only idea the team has to its comparison with other teams in the conference is from the Villanova Invitational, where the Owls outscored South Florida by 16 points. Last season at the conference championships, South Florida came in 10th, besting Temple by one point.
With just more than a week to go until The American championships, the intensity of the team’s practices is increasing. The Owls are putting more emphasis on taking physical care of athletes’ bodies, and their focus in practice is shifting.
“As we got further into the season, we started having more specialty days per week,” Brownlee said. “In the beginning of the season, we were doing a lot more distance running, and now that it’s getting further along, we are having more hurdle days to make sure we are technically proficient.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com.