Both the men’s and women’s track and field teams finished in third place at the Atlantic Ten Conference Indoor Championships. It was the women’s best finish since 2003. The men have never finished this high.
Philadelphia may have received a record snowfall almost two weeks ago, but inside, at the track and field Atlantic Ten Conference Indoor Championships in Kingston, R.I., this past weekend, Temple set records of its own.
The Owls arrived back on campus with their best collective finish in program history. The men’s and women’s teams both finished in third place. The women’s team recorded its highest finish since 2003, but for the men, it was a new best. And it was not just a record finish for the team. A few athletes achieved meet records, NCAA qualifications and personal bests as well.
Coach Eric Mobley arrived in 2008 and took over a program that had been brought back to life by his predecessor, coach Stephanie Scalessa. Before Mobley, track and field enjoyed success from walk-ons and individual efforts, but now, the Coach of the Year has started to construct something a little more stable.
In Mobley’s first season, he guided the team to a fourth-place finish. Now, the Owls have more depth and senior leadership. Senior sprinter and jumper Tim Boeni has competed two years each under both Scalessa and Mobley. Boeni has steadily gotten better, but he believes the team has a different confidence level now.
“I think there is a lot more talent on the team than ever before,” Boeni said, “and I think that everyone started competing against each other, got better and stepped up towards the end of the season.”
Boeni had arguably the best performance on his team when he tied a 17-year-old meet record in the long jump with a distance of 23-04.75 feet. He claimed the title as well. Other seniors who continued to be consistent for the Owls were Josue Louis, who won the high jump event with a jump of 6-10.25 feet, Bryce Buffaloe who claimed the title in the weight throw with a throw of 61-09.50 feet, and Grant West and Alex Schiavi, who placed second in the weight throw and heptathlon, respectively.
Buffaloe and West have stabilized the indoor throwing program for the Owls the last few seasons but have been edged out by Rhode Island’s juggernaut throwing program in the conference championships every year. It was fitting that they were able to own the podium in this season, their last.
“There are a lot of good throwers in the A-10, and we’ve been making a push every year,” Buffaloe said, “and it feels good to get a medal this year and at the same time to finish well as a team.”
The Owls were almost able to earn enough points to take second place from Rhode Island, which finished with 129 points. The Rams finished behind Charlotte for the third consecutive season. Charlotte’s 149 points were good enough for the 49ers’ 10th straight indoor title.
For the Owls, the juniors rounded out the scoring sheet with a combined 62 out of the 125 points the Owls earned. Distance runner Mike May finished sixth in the 5000-meter, jumper Miles Dryden placed third in the long jump, and long sprinter Lou Parisi recorded a fifth-place finish in the 500-meter.
The women’s team finished third by just barely edging out Rhode Island, 108-105. Dayton and Charlotte ran away with the competition for a first-place tie of 145 points.
The women entered the A-10 Championship by setting school records in the 4×400-meter relay, 4×800-meter relay, 800-meter and the pole vault. One factor in the first three of those four events is freshman sprinter Victoria Gocht. Gocht earned the Rookie of the Year award, particularly for her performance in the 800-meter race, when she took the title with a time of 2 minutes, 11 seconds – two seconds shy of the school record she set earlier in the year.
Gocht competed on a club team before coming to Temple but said she wasn’t intimidated by the competition from the start.
“It was a good atmosphere when I joined the team,” Gocht said. “It was very serious, but I was very confident I could run here.”
Other Owls who earned titles included senior Brittany McRae in the long jump and the 4×800-meter relay team, which consisted of junior Shadaya Bennett, freshman Tonney Smith, junior Tashima Stephens and Gocht. Melissa Gale bettered her school record in the pole vault to earn the bronze medal as well.
Paris Williams was not able to defend her title in the 400-meter but still grabbed second place with a time of 56.02 seconds.
The Owls’ qualifiers will compete next in the IC4A Championships held March 6-7 in Boston.
Eric Pellini can be reached at email@example.com.