Members of the track & field team say a lot can change in two years.
From a new coach, to a new roster and a new team dynamic, the squad is undergoing a makeover.
Former head coach Eric Mobley resigned in 2014 amid several accusations of abuse and misconduct toward athletes. Coach Elvis Forde took over the role in August 2014 and is working to get the team back to the top of the American Athletic Conference.
“The difference is like night and day from when I started here to now,” Forde said.
In the 2013-14 season, Mobley’s final season as coach, the Owls finished last out of 10 teams at The American Championships, scoring 11 total points—20 points behind ninth place Rutgers University and 107.5 points behind first-place-finisher Southern Methodist.
Temple also came in last at the conference championships in the program’s first season under Forde. In 2015, the Owls scored 26 points, trailing first-place Connecticut by 82 and ninth-place South Florida by one point.
“This is coach’s second year,” junior sprinter Kenya Gaston said. “He expects more from us, and last year we were just like feeling him out, he was feeling us out. But now, us as athletes know what we want, and he knows what he wants.”
Now that the squad has finished its introductory year with Forde, the team said its expects to be much better this season and reach its goal of finishing in the top eight teams at championships.
“For our year, the juniors, we always say last year with coach Forde was our freshman year,” junior sprinter and jumper Bionca St. Fleur said. “Our ‘freshman year’ was like straight out of high school, transition, feeling it out. But now it’s our ‘sophomore’ year, we know what to do now.”
The Owls had an intensive six-day-a-week training program for three months before the start of the indoor season in Dec. 2015, both on the track and in the weight room.
Gaston set a new personal record in the 500-meter race at the Lehigh Fast Times Meet in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Dec. 5, 2015. At the same meet, junior hurdler and jumper Sydnee Jacques beat her best time in the 60-meter hurdles.
“You know every weekend you are going to get better and better, and that is the beauty about how we prepare them,” Forde said. “I’m expecting them to peak during the end of February. Then it is the right time since we will be at conference championships.”
In her first meet of the season on Jan. 8 at the Villanova Open in Staten Island, New York, junior sprinter and jumper Jimmia McCluskey was four milliseconds off her personal best in the 60-meter dash.
“If everyone individually betters themself, we’ll end up coming closer to the top than we were in conferences last year,” McCluskey said. “Each individual comes together as a big picture.”
The team atmosphere has also changed with the new coach and new season. The athletes are able to push each other in practices and competitions in a friendly way.
Temple recruited 12 new runners and jumpers to compete on the track team this year, and upperclassmen have already started to notice a difference.
“Our team dynamic is better than past years,” McCluskey said. “We gel with the freshmen a lot better than we did with past years or past people. We all have a passion and we all have one goal and that is to be successful.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.