Matt Kacyon put down his razor.
It was Dec. 14, 2013, and the junior cross country runner had come off his redshirt season and started growing his beard. He has only trimmed it once since.
“I decided just to let it ride,” Kacyon said. “You could look at it symbolically, as a way of keeping my career going, staying strong and staying active.”
Kacyon said he wasn’t comfortable sharing why he redshirted, but he feels he did take some positives from it.
“I think in the long run it was a way to extend my training which I think helped a lot,” Kacyon said. “Eventually going into regionals for outdoor, I was able to knock my time down a heck of a lot more than I would have if I started my season earlier.”
When indoor and outdoor track & field joined the original crop of seven varsity sports announced to be cut from Temple’s athletic program on Dec. 6, 2013, Kacyon was faced with a tough decision. He enjoyed track, and thought about transferring. In the end, Kacyon felt like the right decision was to stay at Temple.
The steeplechase was Kacyon’s primary event through his track career at the university. The steeplechase is a track event that includes numerous obstacles, including the water jump.
During his sophomore and junior year as a track athlete, Kacyon qualified for the NCAA East Region Preliminary in the steeplechase. He logged a personal best time of 8 minutes, 51.83 seconds in the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America.
“It is something that I really wanted to stick with throughout my entire career here at Temple,” Kacyon said.
He is hoping to have the opportunity to compete this spring as an independent runner at the regional and national championship meets.
“I know in the back of my head, there will be a day that I will run it again,” Kacyon said. “I would have loved to do it with a team and a solid coaching staff like [with] coach [James] Snyder.”
With his passion and hope to compete in the steeplechase, transferring was something that he considered after the cuts, but his heart was set on Temple.
“[Transferring] was in the back of my mind. I knew there were possibilities,” Kacyon said. “There were a lot of factors that played into it, but Temple is where my heart is sitting right now, but I know for sure I am going to run it again.”
Since his return, Kacyon has been one of the top runners on the team. In both of the 8-kilometer races that the Owls have competed in this season, Kacyon won the Ted Owen Invitational with a time of 25 minutes, 50.52 and placed second in the Penn State National Invitational with a time of 26:29.
“He’s a big part of the team,” junior Ryan DeBarberie said. “He’s our fastest guy and the leader of the team. We need him to do well because if we see him do well, it makes all of us want to do well.”
Snyder, like DeBarberie, said Kacyon is a competitor and leader on the team.
“Matt is a guy that hasn’t had many bad races, it’s either good or it’s great,” Snyder said. “[Kacyon] had opportunities to transfer to a million and one different places. He’s a guy who was a borderline NCAA [championship] qualifier last year.”
“To me the most interesting thing about Matt is that he is a very quiet, thoughtful kid.” Snyder added. “He leads by example and he’s quietly confident. He would bleed for any of [his teammates], no doubt about it.”
Kacyon plans on graduating in December 2015 in order to take advantage of his last year of eligibility for cross country.
Looking ahead to Kacyon’s athletic future, Snyder is optimistic in what lies ahead for the junior.
“Matt’s not afraid of the days, weeks, months and years of uninterrupted training that are need to be a successful runner,” Snyder said. “I don’t know where Matt’s goals are when things finish up here, but I think [running professionally] is something that is going to be afforded to him if he chooses to pursue it.”
Ed Lefurge III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Ed_LeFurge_III