After the graduation of four seniors and the early departure of three other upperclassmen, coach James Snyder eyes a quick maturation for his current freshman class and his incoming Owls’ as the path to the men’s cross country team’s success next season.
“Our job as coaches are to prepare them to compete at a high level and have as few deer out there as we can,” Snyder said. “Run like a deer, but don’t look like a deer in headlights.”
Departing are seniors Matt Kacyon and Alex Izewski, who finished eighth and 12th, respectively, at the November 2015 American Athletic Conference cross country championships.
Along with the four seniors, juniors Stephan Listabarth and Praneeth Gottipati and redshirt sophomore Jeffrey Craskey won’t be running next season.
The team will rely on its seven freshmen, who are slated to return to the team next season.
“Sometimes you can surprise yourself and do really special things, and sometimes when you’re naive, you kinda get schooled a bit,” Snyder said. “I think that’s going to be the determining factor is who’s going to rise to that occasion and step up in those situations and who is going to be looking like deer in the headlights.”
Snyder said he will rely on freshman Johnathan Condly, who finished fifth or higher in six of the seven spring track meets he ran in, to take on a larger leadership role next year.
“We’re in a really specific position where the seniors and upperclassmen are only going to be here for this year,” freshman Tyji Mays said. “They’re doing a good job of just showing us what it is to be good leaders, but they’re going to be out of here, and we have to step up to the plate next.”
Snyder said the team is looking to add about six or seven men to the roster for next season, which would make it the largest incoming class under Snyder, who has been coaching since 2013.
This year’s team was the first to have four or more freshmen on the roster since 2012.
“A lot of kids are graduating, so they are going to have to fill all those spots, so it wasn’t really surprising that he brought in a lot of freshmen last year or this year,” Condly said.
The members of the freshman class will be able to help their new teammates become acclimated with the differences between high school and college athletics.
The men follow a training routine where they run every day of the week, sometimes twice a day. The newcomers will also have to adjust to longer races and different events, a larger commitment to the squad and competing against stronger competition.
“[In high school], at most, you maybe have one or two future college runners until you get to States,” freshman Ben Evans said. “I think it’s hard for some kids to go from being the best kid on their team, always number one, winning races easily, to the back of the pack. But they’re still getting faster.”
Though there is no official men’s track team and the athletes run on the Owls’ cross country team in the fall, and the team is allowed to compete in five meets where they are affiliated with Temple.
While junior Listabarth maintains the best Temple time in the 5,000-meter, Mays has the best time in the 1,500. Freshman Darien Knudsen owns the top mark in the 2,000 steeplechase, and Condly is tops in the 3,000 and the 3,000 steeplechase.
“I think we are ready for it,” Evans said. “We’ve talked about it a lot, and we met all the incoming freshmen and I think the seniors did a good job of preparing us for what we are going to have to do to lead them.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com.