After a rebuilding season, the Owls remain optimisitic.
Sophomore Will Kellar placed 16th with a time of 26 minutes and 27 seconds at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America cross country championship on Nov. 19 at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y., as the Owls closed out their season with a fifth-place team finish.
Although Kellar said he was a bit “burned out” from the earlier meets this year, he said he was pleasantly surprised by his performance.
“It went a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” Kellar said. “I was kind of tired from the rest of the season, but I managed to have one more good race. It seemed like all of us were kind of beat up so it was a good stopping point for us.”
Senior Ben Thomas, freshman Matt Kacyon, sophomore Philip Fanz and senior Geoff Barletta followed Kellar placing 23rd, 40th, 58th, and 71st, respectively.
Thomas, whose collegiate cross country career is now done, said he has enjoyed his tenure with the team.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Thomas said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’m never going to run cross country again. At the same time, it’s been a long season, and a long four years. So I’m kind of enjoying the time off.”
Thomas, Barletta and Kellar stayed at the front of the race for a period of time, something they don’t frequently get to do. Thomas said it was a “fun way to finish the season.”
Last year, Temple took top honors at the race with a first-place finish led by then senior Mike May. This year, Binghamton, Fordham and Fairfield rounded out the Top 3. The New Jersey Institute of Technology, while snatching up the last ranked spot at regionals a week earlier, was beaten out by Temple. Coach Matt Jelley said this race exemplified the true level of potential and talent on the team.
“It shows we could have ended up being one of the Top 15 teams in the region, which isn’t bad considering it’s a rebuilding year,” Jelley said. “So I thought they stepped up and did a real nice job.”
The team lost a strong senior class from last year, including May. In addition, the decision was made just before the beginning of the season to redshirt senior Travis Mahoney, who was the presumed star of the team. Kellar said that without Mahoney, the team was struggling to start the season.
“At the beginning of the year there wasn’t much leadership,” Jelley said. “It was kind of hard to figure out who was going to be at the top of the pack. On top of that, our team was really small, too. We were basically just worried about having a team at all.”
By the end, however, things had changed.
“It was a lot more of a team atmosphere, and bonding,” Jelley said. “It just worked out a lot better than I thought it would.”
“We learned to run together as a pack,” Thomas added. “At the beginning, we would get spread out throughout the race. We eventually learned to stay together and work with each other, and learn each other’s running styles. That helped a lot.”
The team began its season at the Brother Doyle Meet of Champions, where they took 13th place. They trekked through muddy courses the next two meets at the Paul Short and Penn State Invitationals, where they placed 44th and 15th, respectively. At the Atlantic Ten Conference Championships, Kellar led the team to a 10th place finish. Then at the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, Kacyon retook the top spot on the team as Temple missed a ranked spot by one place.
Although Jelley wants the team to get better, he has repeatedly reinforced the idea that this is a rebuilding year. Jelley said that philosophy made this season a success.
“We finished just two spots off of last year’s regionals finish in a rebuilding year,” Jelley said. “I think that shows the depth and stability of the program. We can still have an off year or a rebuilding year, but even then, it’s not that bad.”
Looking forward to next year, Jelley said Mahoney’s reemergence will have an enormous effect.
“This year, we would have been a lot higher up at a lot of meets [with Mahoney]. Adding that piece to the puzzle is going to have a huge impact for us,” Jelley said. “And not to mention anyone else as we add new recruits that come in. We’re going to jump back to where we were last year, if not even better.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at