It had been nearly two years since redshirt senior Travis Mahoney ran a cross country race for Temple. He was last with the team at the 2010 Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships, when his sixth-place finish contributed to the team winning the event for the second time in as many years.
One season, eight meets and a coaching change later, Mahoney returned to action Sept. 28 to make his final season debut with the team.
He didn’t disappoint. Mahoney placed sixth out of the 332 athletes who participated in this year’s 37-team Paul Short Invitational, leading the men’s team to a program-best 19th place finish at the annual event.
“It was a fast, very competitive race,” Mahoney said. “It was nice to get back at it. I was able to hold on and have the most impact and finish up pretty strong.”
Mahoney’s finishing time of 24 minutes and 19 seconds in one of the largest race fields in the nation was the best individual time and placement of any Temple athlete to participate in the 8k at the Paul Short Invitational in the seven years the team has participated in the race. First-year coach Adam Bray said he expects similar performances throughout the entire season from Mahoney, who he has referenced as the program’s “one key ingredient.”
“I definitely expect performances like [Friday’s race],” Bray said. “[Mahoney] has some pretty big goals, which we’ve sat down and talked about. They’re achievable. He’s a very talented individual, and he works really hard. That’s exactly what I expect of him, and more importantly that’s what [Mahoney] expects of himself.”
Mahoney sat out last cross country season to better prepare himself for spring track, while also looking ahead to the 2012 Olympic Trials held in June. Two weeks after earning his second All-American title for his fifth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Mahoney ran in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals for a chance to advance and have a shot at earning a trip to London for the Summer Olympics. He did not advance past the heat, however, as he finished last in 12th place.
“It was amazing,” Mahoney said. “It didn’t go so well for me, since I was kind of banged up from NCAAs. But just to go out there and be around the United States running, and all of those great guys and the fans. It was a great experience. It was very rewarding for me, and it shows my passion for the sport and why I do it.”
Earlier this month, Bray talked about the effect Mahoney and the experience he has built will have on the team. “[Mahoney] is a guy who is a national caliber runner,” Bray said. “So we can use him as an example for the younger guys and younger women on the team as to say, ‘Hey, you can be successful at a place like Temple.’ It takes hard work and dedication, but it’s very possible.”
“He’s been to the mountaintop and he’s seen a lot of success,” Bray added. “And he can hopefully spread that experience to them along with me injecting some new energy into the program and good things will start happening.”
The experience seems to already be spreading.
“[Mahoney] is an all-around leader,” sophomore Matt Kacyon said. “This is his fifth year, and he’s just given us a lot of tips and tricks for each race. So it’s been a really great help, this being my second year, to kind of have my freshman year to feed off of, plus have [Mahoney] to help me out.”
Mahoney has been a part of Temple’s track & field and cross country programs since his freshman year in 2008. His first ever collegiate race was a first place victory at the Monmouth Invitational. Four seasons later, and Mahoney finds his final days of running as an Owl quickly approaching.
“It’s crazy,” Mahoney said. “I can’t believe all these years have gone by so fast. I really want to put in a real solid last year, and go out the best I possibly can, to cap off my season as well as my last couple have gone.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.