For the first time in five years, coach Eric Mobley will open up the track & field indoor season with six full-time coaches.
“It has been phenomenal to have all these additional coaches, and it pulls a lot of stress off of my plate,” Mobley said. “In previous years, we had two full-time coaches and a football-size program. So I am every thankful to Kevin Clark and the administration.”
The full-time assistant coaching staff now includes James Snyder, Tamara Burns, Aaron Watson, Shameka Marshall, Marquise Stancil and Mark Johnson. Snyder and Watson oversee the cross country and distance athletes. Burns, who now manages the throws, was hired over the summer, as were Snyder and Watson. Stancil, an alumnus of the program, was promoted to full-time status after working as a volunteer coach for three years in the sprints and hurdles. Marshall and Johnson have been longtime assistants in the program.
The additional coaches came at a pivotal point in Mobley’s tenure as both teams look to make the transition from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the American Athletic Conference.
“This new conference is tough,” Mobley said. “My expectations are always high. I always think we can be Top 5 in the conference. We just have to get our athletes to believe in that and recognize the different level of competition in the conference. In our previous conference, you would get four, five or six kids to the NCAA from the conference on a yearly basis. Our new conference, every [school] on multiple basis, are sending their teams to NCAA. Four from every team are going to the NCAA and have a shot at being All-Americans.”
Last season, Central Florida’s women’s team was consistently ranked within the Top 25 in the nation. Olympic legend Carl Lewis joined the University of Houston as a volunteer coach for this upcoming season. Last summer, individual athletes from the University of Louisville and Southern Methodist University competed in the International Association of Athletics Federations Track & Field World Championships in Moscow.
Along with new coaches came a new training regime ahead of the teams’ inaugural season in The American.
“We have sheets this year, and we can actually write down what we did and how much we did from the big exercises to the little exercises and the abs afterwards,” senior jumper Dylan Pensyl said. “It’s a little personal push, and then you have to show it to the weightlifting coach and they will see if you were slacking for the day.”
“We have to do strategic workouts every single day,” freshman sprinter Simone Brownlee said. “We have been doing a lot of workouts outside, even though it’s cold.”
The Owls will begin the indoor season with a young roster on both sides. On the women’s team, 21 out of the 37 student-athletes are freshmen and sophomores. There are 32 student-athletes on the men’s side, and 21 of those athletes are freshmen and sophomores.
“The expectations for the seniors are extremely high,” Mobley said. “You have been here for four years, you know what the coaches’ expectations are for you, so hopefully your goals are close to where ours as coaches are. Sometimes you even wish they were higher, that they have goals of winning conference championships and moving on to NCAAs.”
The coaching staffs are looking for steady improvements from some athletes, including senior sprinter Ambrosia Iwugo. Last year, she ran the closest to all of Temple’s sprint records. She was seven hundredths of a second from breaking the 60-meter dash record. Junior Margo Britton is coming off a record-setting season, as she holds Temple’s shot put record. Britton, along with junior sprinter/thrower Kiersten LaRoche, is expected to compete at a higher level in the new conference.
On the men’s side, Pensyl and junior Matthew Kacyon, along with others, are expected to be team leaders. Pensyl is returning from injury. Kacyon, a distance runner, is returning this season after a stellar year that ended at the NCAA regionals. However, there are a couple of events in which the Owls could use some more help.
“On the throws, we definitely need a lot more depth for the women,” Mobley said. “In the men, maybe, in the distances we can use a lot more depth.”
“Hopefully some people can fill in and step up in their position,” Mobley added. “Those are the great surprises that you would like to have as a coach, but overall we have a really solid team and really good individuals in some events.”
The men’s and women’s teams will start their indoor season at the annual Jack Pyrah Invitational on Saturday.
Danielle Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Dan_Nels.