The men’s side of Temple cross country will jump into the 2013 season without their perennial No. 1 runner of the last five years.
Former Temple standout Travis Mahoney graduated from the program last fall, bowing out in November as the first All-American in Temple cross country history. Former distance coach Adam Bray went as far as to call Mahoney “the best track & field athlete in school history” in a November interview last season.
“Losing [Mahoney] certainly is a detriment to our program,” first-year distance coach James Snyder said. “He left big shoes to fill and certainly was one of the faces of our team both in track and cross country. A guy like Travis, you don’t replace a guy like that in a year. He’s a special kind of athlete that we were glad to have come through our program.”
“We have some young guys who can step in,” Snyder said. “We don’t just need one person, but a team of eight to 10 guys working together, trying to bring the whole team along. That’s how you can make up from a loss like that, working together with the guys you have.”
The men’s squad will be without its top two runners from last season in Mahoney and junior Cullen Davis, who transferred to the University of Pittsburgh in May, the same school Bray is now coaching at.[blockquote who=”Jenna Dubrow” what=”distance runner”]As far as being a leader, because it is a young team, I guess [Pavone] and I, and the other older girls will take care of the younger girls and we’ll try to help them.[/blockquote]
Sophomore Steve Flynn, who gained some spotlight as a freshman last year, also transferred this summer to George Mason University, per his Twitter.
Davis enjoyed a breakthrough cross country season a year ago as a sophomore, when he consistently placed as the Owls’ No. 2 runner and also took the top spot in the Owls’ opening meet at the Friend Invitational. Flynn was one of the younger faces on the team, but was figured to play a role in the team’s Top 5 in 2013.
Three-year cross country veteran Philip Fanz was another departure as the would-be senior runner left the program after cross country last year.
“[Davis] was consistently our second or third guy and that’s a pretty decent loss,” senior Will Kellar said. “That’ll be hard to make up. We also lost [Flynn and Fanz]. I don’t know who will be in the Top 5 at this point or in what place, but I guess we’ll see at the start of the season.”
Kellar, and junior Matt Kacyon, who held his own as a Top 5 fixture last fall, highlight the Owls’ returnees heading into September.
Despite some heavy losses heading into this season, a new coach could make all the difference, Kellar said.
“It really depends on [Snyder] coming in,” Kellar said. “I learned last year that a good coach can do a lot to a team. We’re really relying on his judgment and his perseverance to see if he can push forward and create a team that’s competitive here. It’ll depend on the team leaders as well. For me, as a team captain and leader, I’m trying to keep a consistent approach to this season. I think we can rise to the occasion if need be and I’m looking forward to it.”
Junior Jenna Dubrow will be assuming more of a leadership role as a top runner on a relatively younger women’s squad this year as opposed to seasons past. Anna Pavone is the lone senior on the team, and figures as the team’s No. 2 runner behind Dubrow entering the season.
“As far as being a leader, because it is a young team, I guess [Pavone] and I, and the other older girls will take care of the younger girls, and we’ll try to help them,” Dubrow said. “But since we have a new coach, I think we’ll all be working together to enter this new phase of Temple running. I think it’s all going to be a group effort.”
Heading into the season, Snyder said he intends on showcasing Pavone and Dubrow as the leadership core of the team.
“My intent for them is they’re going to be our leaders of the team,” Snyder said. “I’ve been in touch with both of them this summer, and they’re both having great summers. They’re coming in healthy and that’s my big goal. Summer training is all about getting in the work, but also coming in excited to train harder throughout the fall and being ready to race. And I feel like with these ladies, that’s where we are right now. I’m excited about where we are moving forward with this group. They’re going to be a great group to work with.”
Snyder also didn’t suppress his excitement when discussing incoming-freshman Rachel Flynn, who could work her way in as a Top 5 mainstay on the team in her freshman year.
An Archbishop Carroll graduate, Flynn earned All-Delco honors twice in high school, and also finished sixth in the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 12.93 seconds) in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals meet in June.
“I’m really excited about her,” Snyder said. “She’s put in the best summer of training she’s ever had, and she’s going to be somebody we’re looking to build our program around here in the future.”
For now, though, the focus for many on the women’s squad remains fixed on getting back into the rhythm of a season and running with one another as a whole team once again, Dubrow said.
“We’re looking forward to running with each other again,” Dubrow said. “In a way, it does get hard to run by yourself all the time because cross country is such a team sport. You’re all running together in the same race all year. We’re all definitely looking forward to seeing each other, being able to run and push each other together again.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams begin their fall season in Bethlehem, Pa. this weekend as they participate in the Lehigh Invitational.
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @daParent93.