Matt Kacyon and Alex Izewski arrived at Franklin Field in non-Temple running attire.
The distance runners, and former men’s track & field athletes, took to the University of Pennsylvania’s storied track on March 21, and they did so as “unattached” athletes.
As Temple no longer has a men’s Division I track & field team after the program was included in last year’s athletic cuts, the university’s cross country runners had to pay their own way in that meet, as it was not one of the five predetermined races allotted to them.
Because of NCAA regulations, any of Temple’s cross country runners are allowed to represent their school up to five times per year in track & field events during cross country’s offseason. In any additional races outside of those five predetermined meets, they’re considered determined meets, they’re considered “unattached” athletes, requiring no financial support from the university.
Without the ability to run as part of a Division I team outside of cross country season, the two make do with what they have, and sometimes borrow from their friends.
“I’m so used to running in what Temple has given us,” Kacyon – who said he’d never owned his own singlet before this season – said. “One of the guys, [sophomore cross country runner Praneeth Gottipati], actually lent me one of his singlets [to wear for the race]. It was a bright neon green.”
However, without the Temple uniform and higher expectations, Izewski said the pressure of representing a Division I school is lifted.
“You’re just going out there and competing and really just running,” Izewski said. “I find it less stressful. We work with what we can now, and that’s what we do for some of these meets.”
The pair then proceeded to finish one-two in the race, with Izewski claiming gold with a time of 4 minutes, 0.59 seconds.
While not an athlete under first-year women’s track & field coach Elvis Forde, the two have gained Forde’s admiration from afar.
“That’s one of the things that I appreciate about them so much,” Forde said. “They’re making an extra step to get in a few more competitions that can enhance what their improvement can be for this coming cross country season.”
Coming off the aftermath of last year’s athletic cuts, which created a feeling of uncertainty in the male track athletes, Kacyon said he was happy when he finally started to put together a plan moving forward.
“As time progressed, we were finally receiving answers,” Kacyon said. “Cross [country] would be fine throughout the fall, we would still be practicing throughout the winter with [Snyder]. Eventually we got news that we would be able to actually have these five sponsored meets from Temple, and that was very reassuring knowing that we still have this opportunity to run [track & field] for Temple.”
Forde and Snyder said the cross country men are able to compete in five track & field meets during what is known as the NCAA “non-traditional season.”
An individual who enters into a meet as a Temple runner is allowed to use and wear university-issued equipment and a uniform. The school covers the transportation cost as well as the cost of entry into the meet.
“Our administration has been very supportive as far as allowing them to compete, giving us the opportunity to get them to the races they need to be in, and all that good stuff,” Snyder said.
Kacyon said there was a certain familiarity when stepping up onto the line on the track for the first time since the winter season, when he participated in a meet at George Mason University.
“When we get up on the line, we look up and down the line and we recognize kids we’ve raced, maybe even from high school,” Kacyon said. “It’s just a really good feeling to know that no matter who you are racing against, there is always someone in the field that is going to be fun to run with.”
Junior cross country runner Will Maltin also spoke of his gratitude for the opportunity given to the team to compete in the offseason, specifically for the purpose of keeping training moving while cross country is not in full swing.
“Having that opportunity that Temple has given us to compete in five offseason meets [is something] we’re definitely going to try to take full advantage of,” Maltin said. “It would be hard to be successful in cross country, not having raced for six or seven months, so it’s a cool opportunity and something that we’re going to look to capitalize on.”
Practicing for meets in the offseason for cross country is the same as it would be during the regular season. He also said he is excited that the athletes will have the opportunity to compete year-round to keep their competition levels in check.
“For NCAA purposes, you can’t practice 20 hours a week the entire year. You have to have an offseason segment,” Snyder said. “Later on in the year, we are able to go into the full 20 hours [of practice] just like we would in the fall for cross country. That’s the important thing to realize with distance running – it’s not as simple as a competition season and an offseason. You need to be able to train all year round to be successful.”
Tyler Device can be reached at email@example.com.