The rustling of the leaves and the warm shade in the autumn trees are two things Temple University’s women’s cross country team can still enjoy on their morning runs through Forbidden Drive trail.
“Rarely do we just run from campus,” said head women’s cross country coach James Snyder.
The women’s cross country team is taking practices to city trails to emphasize training in smaller groups and bolster their hill-running skills in preparation for a season which, like many fall sports, has been delayed until the spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hill training is typically something we don’t have a lot of time for,” Snyder said. “So we’ve spent a lot of time on the hills and are just trying to get stronger.”
The team’s regular season can begin as early as Jan. 30 and could end as late as March 6, The Temple News reported.
The Owls have been able to practice their normal 20 hours a week since Oct. 5 after previously being limited to eight hours a week, Snyder said.
To avoid the entire team gathering together during practice, the team breaks into groups based on shared roommates, classmates and training partners. This ensures that if someone on the team were to test positive, the training group they were a part of would be disqualified and need to quarantine but the rest of the team could continue to compete, Snyder said.
But dividing the team into smaller groups poses its own challenge. Normally, freshmen and upperclassmen on the team used rides to practice to get to know one another, but because the team is broken into groups, that opportunity is less common, Snyder added.
Senior captain Helene Gottlieb understands it is important to bond with the younger players on the team and will continue to support the freshman girls during this transition, she said.
Gottlieb organized a meeting with one freshman to get ice cream in the city for her birthday.
“It’s been difficult, especially being a small team,” Gottlieb added. “It’s those little moments as a team we appreciate more, since we can’t spend much time together at practice.”
Though they have extra time to train, the team is still preparing for the difficult transition its three freshmen will likely have in competing in the 6,000 meter run, Snyder said.
“Most high schools only have their athletes run 4,000 or 5,000 meters,” Snyder added. “For the freshmen, there’s often a learning curve or an adjustment that takes place where they have to adapt to some longer training.”
In the 2019 season, Temple finished third in the 6,000 meters at The American Conference Championship.
While the Owls hope to improve their long distance endurance, it’s important they remain healthy until the regular season, Snyder said.
“We have a long way to go,” senior captain Michelle Joyce said. “I want to keep up with recovery, techniques, and enjoy training.”
Joyce finished in 15th place in the 6,000 meters in The American Athletic Conference Championship, with a time of 21 minutes and 15 seconds. After dealing with a minor injury this summer, she’s ready to rejoin the team on the trails, she added.
Despite the many rules and protocols they must follow, the team looks at the chance to be back running together as a privilege, Gottlieb said.
“I think getting out to the trails every morning and starting our day with a good run has returned and stored some normalcy to our lives,” Snyder said.