Despite setting a program record for a third-straight season at the Penn Relays, junior Millie Howard thinks the Owls’ distance medley relay team could have performed better.
Howard, sophomore sprinter Mallorie Smith and sophomore mid-distance runners Helene Gottlieb and McKenzie Gelvin broke the school record with a time of 11 minutes, 30.70 seconds on Thursday at the 125th annual Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
The Owls’ result earned the team an 11th place spot. Penn won the distance medley relay Championship of America with a time of 10:59.44.
Gottlieb jumped to the front of the pack within the first hundred meters of the race and was in second place after the first lap of the 1200-meter leg. When she passed the baton to Smith, Temple sat in fifth place.
The Owls, however, finished in 11th place out of 14 teams after Gelvin’s 800-meter leg and Howard’s 1600-meter leg. Temple could have finished in the top-10 if its final two legs were stronger, coach Elvis Forde said.
“Today, we weren’t even our strongest,” Forde added. “And to break a school record is outstanding. But with a much better 800-meter leg we are right in the mix. …That hurt us a little bit. But nevertheless were still able to run better here than we did last year.”
“We definitely left some time out there on the track,” Howard said. “My lap especially I’m not too happy with but I got the baton in a really weird position and I was quite far off the group out of me.”
Temple’s 11th-place finish in the championship race, which includes some of the best teams in the nation, Forde said, was one of the Owls’ goals this season. Last year, Temple didn’t even participate in the championship race.
Of the 14 teams in the championship field, four also ran the distance medley relay in the NCAA Indoor Championship in early March. Running with strong competition allowed Forde to view Thursday’s race as a “measuring stick” for his team.
“We know that if we run like that and we’re not our strongest, then it just kind of speaks volumes for where we feel like we’re going,” Forde said. “I hope that the organizers of this meeting realize that we are competitive for the next year and we’ll come back stronger.”
Running in the championship race not only gave Temple a chance to compare itself against the nation’s top teams, but it gave the Owls exposure at the Penn Relays, something Howard and Forde believe the team hadn’t received in previous years.
In the past, Temple would run in the slower sections and wasn’t doing that well, Howard said. Now, she expects the Owls to annually compete in the championship races against bigger schools.
The Penn Relays is a historic event that runners like Howard have fun participating in. But Howard admitted running against greater competition and performing makes the experience at the event better.
“People know who we are now,” Howard added. “It’s very special to get that kind of treatment, especially with how hard we work.”
When Forde first became Temple’s coach, he wanted the Owls to be just as good as schools like Penn and Villanova. The Penn Relays provides the biggest platform to compete against those schools, Forde said. Especially when Temple can race against those two schools in the championship race.
“We are trying to work our way up to be competitive with the rest of the teams in the area,” Forde said. “The key to that is just trying to make our program more visible. And the only way we can do that is by running around here.”
To see Temple racing against better competition doesn’t surprise Forde because he had this planned, he said. Forde, who became Temple’s coach in 2014, wanted to participate in championship races and be competitive in the Mid-Athletic region within five years of his hire.
In his fifth, season, the Owls still have work to do but are right on track.
“We’re not exactly where I want to see us, but we are better off than we were four years ago,” Forde said. “And next year, we will be even better.”