The date was Oct. 27, 2006.
Will Kellar was a freshman running for West Chester Henderson High School when he first journeyed to Lehigh University’s 5K course. Since that day, the Temple cross country senior has returned to the Lehigh course time and time again throughout his high school and collegiate cross country careers.
As he stood in Temple’s designated starting block staring out at the familiar course lying ahead just before the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship meet at Lehigh on Nov. 15 kicked off, Kellar knew this one would be his last.
“It was a weird feeling,” Kellar said. “It’s a little surreal because I’ve been doing this forever. So coming to terms with that I won’t be doing it next year is a little weird. It definitely crossed my mind that this was my last big meet at Lehigh and it was a weird feeling.”
Kellar paced the men’s squad just as he has all season with a 31-minute, 15-second finish on the 10K course, good for a 42nd place finish.
“Will did a really good job [Friday],” distance coach James Snyder said. “He was out there by himself, stuck himself out in the mix and he did what he had to do.”
Temple last ran at Lehigh for the Paul Short Invitational on a steamy day in early October. With an additional five weeks of training and a 30-degree difference in temperature on his side, Kellar felt his individual performance surpassed that of his race at Paul Short.
“It went way better,” Kellar said. “I was in way better shape and a lot stronger.”
The senior said his hopes to earn All-Region honors were dashed when the front packs of the race didn’t drop back like he’d seen in years past.
“Compared to last year, I was really surprised by the competition,” Kellar said. “I feel like Villanova and some Penn State guys were really coming out hard. I wasn’t expecting them to go out and race that hard in the beginning, so I kind of held back and was hoping I’d eventually catch some of the group and that they would die and they never did. I felt good, but it’s hard to beat guys who are breaking 30 [minutes] in the 10K.”
The captain led a men’s squad that saw sophomores Ryan DeBarberie and Owen Glatts finish behind Kellar at 33:17 and 33:20, respectively. Redshirt-sophomore Alex Izewski and sophomore Will Maltin followed, while freshman David Maldonado rounded out the squad.
The regional meet marked the first 10K race for much of Temple’s men’s side, reflecting its team-wide youth in a transitional season.
“We were a pretty small team this year,” DeBarberie said. “There were only seven of us and we had two freshmen. We had a lot of inexperience, we only had one senior and one junior, and it was definitely a little different than last year with Kellar and [2012 alumnus] Travis Mahoney and some other leadership guys that we had.”
“This year it was a bunch of younger guys,” DeBarberie added. “It was a little different and I thought we challenged hard and worked hard in practice. With time, we’ll see what we can do.”
DeBarberie and Glatts both stepped up as Temple’s No. 2 and No. 3 runners for much of the season, helping supplement the loss of junior transfer Cullen Davis, who went to Pittsburgh, and senior Philip Fanz, who opted not to return to the team for his senior season.
After Friday’s match drew to a close, Snyder reflected on who he thought was the biggest surprise of the men’s season.
“[DeBarberie], no doubt about it,” Snyder said. “Ryan and Owen have a bright future. It’s just going to be a matter of putting together the days, weeks, months and years of uninterrupted training. I’m excited of their excitement, if that’s makes sense. They want to be good and they want to be better, and when you have that taken care of, everything else falls in place.”
“I thought I’d be the fourth or fifth guy [for us] coming into the season,” DeBarberie said. “But Glatts and I have gotten better every week and we put ourselves in pretty good positions this year.”
Although the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championship meet on Saturday marks the Owls’ last scheduled competition of the cross country season, the team may opt to forgo the meet and take advantage of the extra time to rest up before the indoor season.
Kellar and DeBarberie said the team will decide on its status for the meet sometime this week.
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @daParent93.