For two months, Temple’s focus had been on the American Athletic Conference Championship meet. Every race and practice had been in preparation for the conference meet, beginning with the Duquesne Duals on Sept. 3.
Neither team finished exactly where it wanted last week — the men’s team finished fifth and the women’s team finished eighth — but Temple now has its sights on an even bigger race.
The men’s and women’s teams will travel to Penn State on Friday to compete at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.
“It’s tough to turn yourself from the emotional high of the conference race and then step back to get ready for the second most important race of the year,” coach James Snyder said. “I’ve been pushing to them that we have to stay on the gas, we have to stay excited.”
The men’s and women’s teams each faced one team ranked in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association’s Top 30 at the conference championships last week.
Temple will race against a total of six nationally ranked teams during Friday’s meet.
The ranked men’s teams are No. 22 Georgetown University and No. 28 University of Pennsylvania. The women will race against four nationally ranked teams: No. 9 Penn State, No. 21 Villanova, No. 24 Penn and No. 27 West Virginia University.
Last season, the men’s team finished 15th out of 25 teams at the regional meet. Temple’s highest finisher was Matt Kacyon in 29th.
Snyder is looking to men’s graduate student Marc Steinsberger to finish in the Top 25, and be the second man named to the all-regional team since Snyder joined the program in 2013. Temple’s last man to be named to the all-regional team was Kacyon in 2014.
“Mark has an outside shot of qualifying,” Snyder said. “We have talked about expectations and goals. Where Mark is right now, I think he has put himself in that conversation.”
Blanca Fernandez won the Mid-Atlantic regional championship for the women and was the first Owl to run at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship last year.
Even with Fernandez’s strong individual outing, Temple finished 23rd out of 30 teams at the 2015 meet.
Sophomore Katie Leisher’s name has been in the mix of those who could possibly lead the team and earn an all-regional honor this year.
“To be able to get into the top 25 will take a great day,” Snyder said. “It will come down to how bad Katie wants it.”
Steinsberger and Leisher are two of the runners that will be making up the seven-man roster for the men’s and women’s teams.
The rosters were cut from nine at the conference championship to only seven at the regional championship.
“This makes every person that much more valuable because you don’t have that extra person to rely on if something doesn’t go right,” Snyder said. “It is really an incentive to have the people that you are going to put on the line ready to go.”
Steinsberger will be joined by sophomore Johnathan Condly, freshmen Zach Seiger, Kevin Lapsansky and Donovan Mears.
Leisher and freshman Millie Howard are the only members of the women’s team who have officially been named to the roster.
“I’m really excited about this race,” Howard said. “I know my strength is in my finish because I have speed. I just tell myself to keep going and stay strong because I know I can have a push at the end.”
For Lapsansky, there is also some personal competition.
“A lot of people I know and ran against in high school will be there,” Lapsansky said. “I think it will help motivate me a little bit more. If I’m going throughout the race and I’m struggling and I see someone I used to race, I see that they are doing it, then I’ll tell myself that I can do it.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at email@example.com.