As the American Athletic Conference Championship men’s race ran its course at Madison, Conn. Saturday, Will Kellar was shocked.
The Owls’ senior has seen just about all there is to be seen as a Temple cross country runner, but was as uncertain as everybody else when it came to just how good the competition in The American conference meet would be. Judging by the conference’s inaugural championship meet, Temple wound up in a conference chock full of talent, Kellar said.
“I was pretty blown away with the competition,” Kellar said. “I had no idea what to expect because I hadn’t raced against any of those schools before. I went into it thinking I would be Top 10 and I just didn’t know, but these guys were way faster than I thought and it was really surprising.”
“It was very humbling going against competition like that,” Kellar added. “It wasn’t like the top schools like Villanova, Penn State, Syracuse or any of those schools, but there’s some really talented kids out there running pretty fast times, so it was a little intimidating.”
Kellar led a relatively young men’s squad with a 24-minute, 34.95-second mark and a 21st place finish. Set close to the shores of the Madison section of the Long Island Sound, the 8K course was among the flattest and fastest much of the team had ever raced on.
“I’ve never ran on a course like that before,” Kellar said. “That was the fastest course I’ve ever seen. There were virtually no hills and we went out really fast. My first mile was 4:37 … the leader’s first mile was around 4:25 which is ridiculous.”
Sophomores Ryan Debarberie, Owen Glatts and Will Maltin followed Kellar with respective times of 25:38.80, 25:47.23 and 25:55.69.
Although five of Temple’s seven men’s runners registered personal-best times, the Owls wound up seventh overall out of the eight-team field.
“In having looked at results, I forecasted where I thought we would end up on both [the men’s and women’s] sides, and they were at around where I thought they would be,” distance coach James Snyder said. “That’s where we are in the conference and in the program right now as far as new step, new direction and it wasn’t unexpected at all for me. I knew what we were up against.”
The women didn’t make out much better on the team scale, placing eighth out of the 10-team conference. Senior Anna Pavone (18th) and junior Jenna Dubrow (23rd) paced the Owls with finishes of 21:33.89 and 21:48.71 respectively on the women’s 6K course.
With both runners making it a clear goal to finish in the Top 15 and earn All-Conference honors, Pavone said her hesitation to stick with the faster top group derailed her hopes.
“I definitely think there should be improvement, sticking on my behalf,” Pavone said. “I wish I stuck with the front group because I know I could have, and I should have been in the Top 10 and Top 15. The coaches wanted me to, but I dropped back because I was scared I would die, but in reality at the end, I was running faster than the front group was.”
Like the men, the women are a younger team.Pavone said the Owls’ minute-and-a-half gap between Dubrow and their third runner, sophomore Janie Augustyn, played a part in Temple’s eighth-place result.
“I think everyone put out really great efforts,” Pavone said. “It seemed like everyone ran the best they could, but if I could change one thing, I’d want the gap to close between where Jenna and I finished and where [Augustyn] finished. It was a [1:33] gap and that really hurts our finish as a team. Closing that gap would be ideal. I definitely wanted to score high in the conference, but that’s something that we have to work on.”
Between them, the men’s and women’s squads feature two seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and seven freshmen. Both squads have battled through the expected growing pains a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores typically experiences.
Although both teams saw a lower team finish than they might have hoped for, Snyder said there’s still a silver lining to take out of the team’s first meet in The American.
“It’s year one, it’s step one and it’s progress in the right direction,” Snyder said. “If you look at times we ran, I think five of our seven guys ran personal bests. So, obviously we’re progressing in the right direction, everything’s getting better, we’re improving, but we still have steps to make there’s no doubt about it. But that’s the positive and silver lining we can take from it.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.