Redshirt senior Travis Mahoney returned for a final year of cross country this season with two goals in mind: win the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship and win the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. No Temple Owl had ever accomplished either of those feats, but Mahoney has now completed both.
Mahoney dominated the field at the regional event held at Penn State on Nov. 9, placing first by 10 seconds and besting second-place finisher junior Sam McEntee of Villanova and third-place finisher junior Chris Bendtsen of Princeton. Mahoney’s final race time in the 10K event was 30 minutes, 24 seconds, leading his team to a 12th-place finish out of the 25 that ran.
“I tried to stay as calm as I could,” Mahoney said. “I got to about mile four-and-a-half and that’s when I started opening it up, the pack got thinner. I kind of just responded to every move that was made up until the last move.”
“It was me and two other kids, and as I was turning at the top of the hill I decided I’d make a push there and see what happens,” Mahoney added. “If that were to fail I had another move because it was still a deep distance away, about 600 meters. But after I made that move, no one responded and I kind of kept that tempo up and just rolled into the finish.”
The victory qualifies Mahoney for the NCAA Championships, an event that no Owl has ever participated in program history. For first-year coach Adam Bray, who earlier this season called Mahoney the team’s “one key ingredient,” watching one of his student-athletes succeed in the way Mahoney has the past few weeks has been nothing short of incredible, he said.
“Looking at what he did, it shows how talented a guy he is,” Bray said. “He puts in a lot of hard work. It’s tremendous, a tremendous accomplishment.”
Mahoney last raced in regionals as a junior during the 2010 season and placed 66th.
“You’re developing, and it’s been two years of hard work,” Mahoney said. “There’s no secrets about it, it’s just two years of dedication and a lot of hard races and experiences. I really wasn’t that much two years ago in [cross country], when I took [66th place].”
“But I developed the end of my junior year and was running big races, and it’s kind of been rolling ever since,” Mahoney added. “I hadn’t had a great season in [cross country], and that’s the reason I wanted to come back for one last year of cross country.”
Mahoney has spent his career slashing records in both cross country and track & field, where he is a two-time All-American. He said, however, that the records are not his focus.
“I’m just out there running,” Mahoney said. “I’m not worried about whose record this is. Records are out there, they’re meant to be broken and I tried to stay away from looking at predictions for the races. In general, I just try to keep my mind clear.”
The national event will be held in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 19, with the men’s team’s Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championship race held two days before that. Regionals marked the final time Mahoney would race with his teammates.
“I’m doing charges with the guys and I’m realizing it’s my last race with the team for my college career, it’s my last race with my teammates. I just wanted to go out there and run my ass off and just represent the guys well that I train with day in and day out for the past years.”
Junior Will Kellar placed 27th at regionals and sophomore Matt Kacyon placed 37th. Although Mahoney’s time is coming to an end with the team, he is confident the group he’s leaving behind has a bright future ahead.
“Now this opens a whole new chapter in the books for the cross country team,” Mahoney said. “The guys are talented that are coming up. I’ve always been in the spotlight the past two years but it’s hard to not acknowledge the guys behind me. [Kellar and Kacyon] are well ahead of where I was at two years ago. These guys have been tearing it up as well and they’re talented. They’ll make something of it, if they want to.”
Bray said he’s not sure how to predict what placement Mahoney will get at nationals, but becoming an All-American, something Mahoney himself voiced a desire for achieving, is a definite possibility.
“I don’t think Top 15 is out of the question if he races like he [did] today,” Bray said. “I think he’s one of the top guys in the country and, to be honest with you, he’s kind of flown under the radar this season because in the past he hasn’t been a true cross country guy. He’s turning into that, before our eyes.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.