Eric Mobley wants an Atlantic 10 Conference championship.
After guiding the Temple women to the conference title a year ago, the fifth-year coach wants the men’s team to follow suit in its final A-10 season.
“Our goal every year is to win the conference meet,” Mobley said. “We do everything in our power to try to win the conference. We’ve gotten second on the men’s side before, and we got third last year.”
The men’s team has never secured an A-10 title in its 30-year affiliation with the conference, and will have its final opportunity to do so in May after taking third place a year ago.
Not only is Mobley set on winning the conference title this spring, it’s a goal that has been drilled into Temple runners time and time again.
“Our team is always looking to win the [conference title],” sophomore middle-distance runner Cullen Davis said. “We always compare ourselves to what the A-10 meet is going to be like in these early meets, and if we’re ever behind where we’re supposed to be, we know we have to step up our game. We have enough talent on this team to win the conference meet. We have really good individuals with every event, and we have strength in 5k and 10k [distance] races. I think we have a good shot at winning as long as we keep our confidence and do what we have to.”
Sporting a mix of young talent with veteran leadership, the Owls will have a little more than a month to fine-tune times and relay combinations in preparation for championship season, which starts with the two-day conference meet May 4.
“I want to see continued progress in our training,” Mobley said. “We have to keep working hard and we’ll continue to work to get better throughout the season.”
“I want improvements throughout the whole entire year,” Mobley added. “I just want us to get better and better toward the end of the season. That progress will show we’re training, and that we’re trying to get better later on down in the year.”
The men will look to a young distance group for clutch points. Sophomores Davis and University of Florida transfer Alex Izewski head a young core of distance runners that features five freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors.
For Mobley, performances such as sophomore Matt Kacyon’s winning mark of 9 minutes, 25.77 seconds in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and a fourth-place, 4:04.29 performance in the 1500-meter run from Davis in the Weems Baskin invitational March 22-23 is a taste of what to expect from his mixed team of youth and elders.
“Hopefully our senior guys can inspire our younger guys to push [themselves],” Mobley said. “That’s what tends to happen. The young guys start training with the older guys and they see them take it to the next level and so the younger guys think, ‘Hey, I can take it to that level too.’”
“We always want freshmen to come in and contribute and they definitely can,” Mobley added. “That’s what we’re looking for. We’re trying to bring in better and better freshmen every year, and that way our team will continue to get better and better.”
The women’s team will be looking to repeat as A-10 champs in its final season in the conference.
“That’s always what we focus on and what [Mobley] has us focused on,” sophomore middle-distance runner Jenna Dubrow said. “If we all come together and run our best, I definitely think we have a shot.”
In their latest campaign, the women will be highlighted by sophomore Margo Britton, a winner of three conference shot put titles – two indoor, one outdoor – and an A-10 title in the discus throw a year ago, along with top distance runners junior Anna Pavone, sophomore Jenna Dubrow and senior Tonnie Smith, among others.
For both the men’s and women’s sides, individual talent mixed with the camaraderie of a close team could yield success a month down the road.
“I can’t say this team is definitely better than last year, but we’re pretty much like a family,” Davis said. “We’re really close. Everyone knows each other. A lot of track teams get split up into event groups, but I think we’re a lot closer of a team than anyone out there in the conference.”
“Whenever there’s a problem, the team leaders will set up meetings with each other, which we did this past winter when we weren’t running well,” Davis added. “I think we have a pretty good attitude and a lot of great leaders on this team that help make this year’s team pretty good.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.