Leisher, Moore, others to compete at American Athletic Conference championships

The American Athletic Conference championships start on Friday in Alabama.

Multis competitor Crystal Jones practices hurdles at the Temple Sports Complex in February 2017 during her sophomore season. | KAIT MOORE / TTN FILE PHOTO

With the indoor track & field season winding down, Temple is taking advantage of the handful of warm days to practice outside at the Temple Sports Complex. Warm weather means that the outdoor track & field season is on the horizon, but the Owls still have to work to do to wrap up their indoor season.

The Owls will travel to Birmingham, Alabama for the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday and Saturday. In last year’s conference championships, the Owls earned 44 team points to finish eighth out of 11 teams and attain their highest finish since joining the conference. Coach Elvis Forde’s team is looking to improve on last year’s showing and has runners capable of finishing in the top three of their events.

Sophomore distance runner Katie Leisher has asserted herself as a force in the conference. She broke her personal record in the mile at the Fastrack National Invitational on Feb. 10 and placed first in the 3,000-meter at the Penn State National on Jan. 28 and Towson Invite on Jan. 15.

Freshman distance runner Grace Moore has also emerged for the Owls. Moore finished third in the 3,000 at the Penn State National with a time of nine minutes, 52.95 seconds and won the 3,000 at the U.S. Navy Mid-Week on Jan. 19. She also set a personal best in the 1,000 at Friday’s Artie O’Connor Invitational in New York.

“Anytime an individual does well, our team does well,” Forde said. “I want to see those individuals who can score points to finish in the top three or four of the point scoring in their events.”

Though Forde has not finalized the roster, he said Leisher, Moore, sophomore multis competitor Crystal Jones, senior sprinter and jumper Bionca St. Fleur and senior sprinter Kenya Gaston will represent Temple at the conference championships.

Leisher went from only competing in four indoor meets as a freshman to earning a spot in the 3,000 and 5,000 at the conference championships. She wants to place in the top three in both events.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of miles,” Leisher said. “I’ve been putting my trust in my coach and doing everything he says.”

Gaston is used to the conference championship spotlight, as she was a member of the second-place distance medley relay and the fourth-place 4×400 relay at last year’s championship. This year, Gaston said she will compete in the 200, 400 and 4×400 relay.

Temple began its 2016-17 season with two first-place finishes at the Lehigh Season Opener on Dec. 2. The Owls have earned at least one first-place result in every meet since, except for the Fastrack National Invitational on Feb. 10. Gaston, Forde and the rest of the Owls hope for a strong showing this weekend.

“This is the meet I’ve been building towards,” Gaston said. “We train for this meet. I want to make finals, leave my mark, and go out with a bang.”

Addison Hunsicker can be reached at addison.hunsicker@temple.edu.

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