Women’s cross country team ends season with historic finish at regionals

Both teams placed 19th at the Mid-Atlantic regional meet on Friday.

Freshman Grace Moore (left), sophomore Katie Leisher and freshman Millie Howard practice at Belmont Plateau on Oct. 26. PATRICK CLARK | FILE PHOTO

Even with two of its top runners battling injuries, the women’s cross country team finished its 2016 season on a high note at Friday’s NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet at Penn State.

The Owls’ 19th overall finish was the program’s first-ever Top 20 finish at the event.

“Our goal all along was to crack the Top 15,” coach James Snyder said. “So we did not achieve that. But this is the best cross country team we ever had here at Temple, based on our finish at the conference and regional meets.”

Sophomore Katie Leisher was the only Owl to finish in the Top 50, finishing 31st. Her finish was the second highest for a Temple woman in program history. The highest finish was last year when Blanca Fernandez came in first place.

Freshman Millie Howard came in 74th place to join Leisher in the Top 100. Leisher and Howard are two of the three runners who made up Temple’s top three this season. The third spot was typically filled by freshman Grace Moore.

Moore sustained an injury at the American Athletic Conference championship on Oct. 29 that continued to affect her on Friday. She finished fourth for the Owls and 150th overall.

Graduate student Emily Nist had been battling a nagging hip injury that limited her to only three races prior to the regional meet, but she stepped up to fill Moore’s spot.

Nist finished with a personal best time of 22:58 to finish 128th overall. Friday’s race was her first time running a 6K in less than 30 minutes.

“I was glad we sent Emily out on a high note for her, which was finishing her first college cross country race under 30 minutes,” Snyder said.

The men’s team, which will finish its season with the IC4A Championships on Nov. 19, also finished 19th and had to deal with the loss of a top runner.

Around the four-mile mark, graduate student Marc Steinsberger started experiencing tightness in his lower back and hamstrings and had to pull out of the race.

Steinsberger, who was named to the all-conference team at the conference championships, was a favorite to be named to the All-Mid-Atlantic Regional team, and even make the cut to compete at the NCAA Men’s Cross Country National Championship.

“It was definitely a big hit to our team score and where I thought we could be overall,” Snyder said. “Sometimes unfortunate things happen … but losing Marc definitely took a huge toll on our team standings.”

Sophomore Johnathan Condly stepped up after Steinsberger’s injury to finish 85th.

Condly was one of two Temple athletes who ran in the regional meet last year. The other runner, sophomore Tyji Mays, came in third for Temple and 103rd overall.

Freshman Kevin Lapsansky came in second place for the Owls and 95th overall in his first college 10K.

With the season winding down, both the men’s and women’s teams will get a couple weeks off before they start training for indoor track.

Once the fall season ends, some members of the women’s cross country team join the women’s track & field team. The men’s team competes individually, after the men’s track & field program was one of the seven teams cut in 2014.

Snyder is also looking toward the future. Two runners committed to Temple on Friday, including Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A State Champion Noah Curtin.

“We are going to take some time away,” Snyder said. “They’re just taking some time to relax and recover, and then we get ready for a big push because the indoor season will be here before we know it.”

Tessa Sayers can be reached at teresa.sayers@temple.edu.

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