When recruiting high school runners, assistant distance coach Steve Fuelling has an uncommon pitch.
As a coach on the men’s track & field team, Fuelling has to sell his plan to potential Owls despite having the men’s team cut in 2014 along with four other Division I programs.
“When you don’t have the pressure to put points on the board at the conference level, you can really focus on training and build your base on the indoor season, which is actually a more similar training schedule to high school,” Fuelling said.
Since the squad is no longer a Division I team, the university will pay for each athlete to run in five meets, but the runners can still compete in meets as an “unattached” participant even when not funded by Temple.
If they compete unattached, the athletes must find their own transportation and are not excused from classes like they would be if affiliated with Temple.
The runners also can’t qualify for the NCAA championship meets and are not allowed to compete in the American Athletic Conference Championships.
“We might not have an official track team, but we still officially compete during the track season,” freshman Tyji Mays said. “We still race and we’re still confident, good runners.”
The only postseason meet the team can participate in is the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championship.
“It’s been a transition,” senior distance runner Will Maltin said. “We had a team my first two years here, but we are lucky enough we have the opportunity, since the school supplies us with five meets outside our normal cross country season.”
These restrictions can deprive some athletes of an opportunity to compete at a higher level. Senior Alex Izewksi had times that could have qualified him for nationals had there been a Temple team.
While there are downsides to the technicalities that keep the athletes from competing in more races or highly competitive races, the Owls still find benefits to the situation.
“It’s a little bit different, but it’s not a negative feeling,” Mays said. “It’s like, OK, I only have five chances to go on the track and show people that Temple, you can’t sleep on us. I’m not deterred by it. I’m motivated by it.”
From March 25-26, the team competed at the 21st Annual Monmouth Season Opener in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Several Owls set personal records including Mays, with a time of eight minutes, 59.02 seconds in the 3,000 meters, and freshman Ben Evans, who finished second in the 5K with a time of 15:17.71.
“I am a huge advocate for having a men’s track team, but it doesn’t make us any less of a good program,” Mays said. “I think it’s important just to show that when we do get those opportunities to race on the track that we can compete with anyone.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.