The men’s and women’s cross country teams made history earlier this afternoon at Lehigh University, as both squads earned their best placements ever at the Paul Short Annual Invitational.
Led by sixth-place finisher red-shirt senior Travis Mahoney, the men’s team placed 19 out of the 37 teams participating in the Gold 8K race. It is the program’s highest finish in the meet’s history.
On the women’s side, Jenna Dubrow’s 13th place finish also gave the team its highest finish at the Paul Short Invitational, as they finished 26th overall in the Brown 6K race. Thirty-nine schools participated in the event.
The men’s 19th place finish isn’t yet reaching the elite status that first-year head coach Adam Bray eventually hopes to achieve, but it’s a step in the right direction from seasons past.
“I felt they all ran really well,” Bray said. “Compared to last year, the guys all ran significantly faster. It’s a really good thing. It shows improvement and that we’re moving in the right direction.”
After sitting out last season, Mahoney gave his first cross country performance in almost two years.
“It was a fast and really competitive race,” Mahoney said. “It was nice getting back out there. I was able to hold on. A lot of the guys showed up and raced really well. It’s a good indicator of where we are now and what we need to work on.”
Mahoney was followed by sophomore Cullen Davis, junior Will Kellar, and sophomore Matt Kacyon, who placed 44th, 122nd, and 136th respectively.
“All of us are progressing,” Kacyon said. “That’s where we all need to be. We’ve all got to get into that mindset to progress even further.”
Villanova claimed the men’s title, led by sophomore Samuel McEntee, who placed fourth.
Temple’s women team bested its 2009 performance at the invitational, when it placed 29th as a team. For Bray, the numbers alone, both individually and as a team, say a lot.
“We talked about being aggressive and getting out there and getting after it,” Bray said. “Most of the women—I don’t want to say all, because there were a few that struggled—they ran significantly faster and placed significantly better. And in cross country, placement is more important than time.”
Dubrow has led her team in every meet in her collegiate career. Today, she broke her own record set last year of Temple’s highest placement at the Paul Short Invitational, when she came in 40th place.
“It went very well today,” Dubrow said. “I wasn’t expecting to be 13th. I wanted to get high up in the places, but 13th was a nice surprise and I felt really strong today.”
The University of Pittsburgh won the Brown 6K, while Atlantic 10 rival Rhode Island was the runner-up. Junior Victoria Davis of Bloomsburg won the individual title with her time of 21:50.
Sophomore Chelsea Carlton, in just her third cross country meet with the team, had Temple’s second-best time, but placed 100 athletes behind Dubrow at 113th place. The large gap can be explained, Bray said, by the absence of two athletes: Junior Anna Pavone, and freshman Christine Bettis, who has yet to make her debut with the team. Bray hopes to see both return to action by the next race. If they do, Bray said it will “change the dynamic of the team.”
While happy with her performance, Dubrow feels confident she can get even better in the coming weeks.
“This is the strongest I’ve felt, and the hardest I’ve been able to push myself,” Dubrow said. “But I definitely feel like there’s more to come. Hopefully next race I can dig even deeper than I did today.”
Bray feels similarly to Dubrow when looking at both teams as a whole. After his first two meets with the team, Bray wants his athletes to keep the momentum going, in order to garner even better success down the road.
“There’s still more in there. We’ve got to keep working hard and keep getting better each week, and better results will be in our future.”
Temple will continue its season on Oct. 13, when both teams will head back to the Lehigh Valley to participate in the Lafayette University-hosted Leopard Invitational.