On home course, cross country finishes third at AAC meet

The men’s and women’s cross country teams placed third at the American Athletic Conference championship meet on Saturday at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park.

Graduate student Marc Steinsberger crosses the finish line of the men's 8,000-meter race at the 2017 Athletic American Conference cross country championships on Oct. 28 at Belmont Plateau. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / FILE PHOTO

The men’s and women’s cross country teams each took third place at the 2017 American Athletic Conference championships on Saturday at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park.

Those finishes mark the highest placement by any Temple team in the conference meet.

Tulsa won its fourth straight men’s conference title, while UConn won the women’s event.

Temple’s men had three all-conference finishers. Freshman Anton Harrsen led the way in eighth with a time of 25 minutes, 39.1 seconds. Graduate student Marc Steinsberger placed 10th, and sophomore Kevin Lapsansky placed 11th.

Junior Katie Leisher finished in seventh in the women’s 6,000-meter race with a time of 21:56.7. Freshman Lucy Jones also finished in the top 15 by placing 13th.

Coach James Snyder wanted the men to start the 8,000-meter race at a quick pace. Because the Owls raced on their home course, Snyder wanted his runners to control the race.

“I didn’t want a pedestrian pace from the start,” Snyder said. “I wanted us to get out front to show us and the other runners where we belong in this race.”

Seven men finished in the top 30 of the 83-man field. Sophomores David Fitzgerald and Zach Seiger finished 18th and 23rd, respectively. Junior captain Johnathan Condly came in 25th, while freshman Kristian Jensen was close behind in 28th.

Sophomore Millie Howard placed 21st, and senior Katie Pinson finished 1.9 seconds behind her in 22nd. Freshmen Michelle Joyce and Helene Gottlieb finished 29th and 38th, respectively.  

Belmont Plateau hosted a crowd mostly made up of Temple student-athletes, friends and family of the runners and alumni. Temple’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee provided buses to transport fans to the event.

“The atmosphere was awesome,” Leisher said. “Whenever we can get family and friends out to the race, it makes it special. But seeing people chanting our names and holding up cutouts of our faces, it makes this event something I will never forget.”

Snyder was happy with his teams’ performances, but he was disappointed that his team couldn’t claim a conference title.

“We were really confident we could win this,” Snyder said. “We obviously weren’t the favorite, but we felt like we had a good shot at winning this. We wanted to give Tulsa a scare today, and I think they noticed us and are aware of us for the future.”

Snyder is excited about the future of the program. Steinsberger and Pinson are the team’s only two graduating runners. With a young roster, Snyder only sees progression for next season.

“My first year coaching cross country here, we stunk pretty bad,” Snyder said. “We were at the bottom then, now we are in the top three. Every year I have seen improvement. Young runners such as Anton, Kristian, Michelle and Helene give me huge hope for the future.”

“We lose Marc so that is going to hurt,” said Harrsen, who placed second among freshmen. “We wanted to do better today, but it was a step in the right direction. There is a lot of potential here at Temple.”

The Owls will return to action on Nov. 10 at Lehigh University for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet.

“We are going for a run tomorrow and hit the ground running,” Snyder said. “If we want to be a nationally recognized program, we are going to have to keep this level up after an emotional weekend like this.

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