– Entering the second season under the direction of head coach Elvis Forde
, Temple women's track and field is set to begin its 2016 journey. The Owls will be traveling to Lehigh University on Dec. 5 to take part in the Fast Times Meet to kick off the indoor season.
"Our primary focus is improving our status from a conference perspective," said coach Forde. "The fall has gone very well so far. The new athletes on the blocks are raising the bar for some of the returnees and I think some of the returnees have changed their outlook from last year."
In coach Forde's first season, he had Blanca Fernandez
qualify for the NCAA Regional meet during the indoor season, and personal records were posted across the board in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Coach Forde hopes to have more representatives at the national meet in 2016.
With eyes on making a strong impression in the American Athletic Conference, coach Forde and the entire track and field staff look to their newcomers to raise the bar and improve the program's 11th place finish at the 2015 American Indoor Championships.
"I am asking our kids to be hungrier than they were last year and for the new ones that are coming in, help us take it to the next level," said coach Forde. "The American Athletic Conference is not going to get any easier and some of the events that may have been softer last year are going to get better and better every year and our program should do the same."
Freshmen Sylvia Wilson
and Crystal Jones
are on the watch list, with Wilson specializing in shorter distances and hurdles and Jones coming to Temple with strong potential in the high jump. "We'll probably talk about Crystal a lot because I think she is so talented," said coach Forde. "She is going to do some special things here in her career and even in her first year."
Joining Wilson in the hurdles will be Jones, Simone Brownlee
and Sydnee Jacques
. In the jumps, returners Jimmia McCluskey
, Bionca St. Fleur
, Jamila Janneh
, and Jacques will be relied on to carry over their success in 2015 and record point-scoring jumps.
"We really need Jimmia to hit her stride," said coach Forde. "It is going to take 19-plus feet to be a point scorer in the conference and she is very capable of that."
Returners Demeshia Davis
, Kenya Gaston
, Simone Chapman
, and Attallah Goodman
will help lead a sprint group that will include newcomers Wilson, Aliya Sharp
and Semaje Harper
Runners coming off the cross country season will sit out the Dec. 5 meet, including Fernandez. However, coach Forde is optimistic about the impact these distance runners will have beginning in January, noting, "I look forward to our new middle distance and long distance runners coming in and helping us put together some relay teams we were unable to put together last year because we didn't have the bodies and depths in those areas. Therefore, we look forward to Ashton Dunkley
, Alexis O'Shea
and Maddie Bixler
to have some impact on the middle distance areas."
Following this weekend's season opener, the Owls will face a challenging schedule before competing at the conference championships on Feb. 28 and 29. The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships will be held in Birmingham, Ala., on March 11 and 12.
Overall, coach Forde and the coaching staff have high hopes for the upcoming season. With a full year under his direction, coach Forde notes, "I have familiarity with the returners now and the new ones that we brought in make us look forward to what is going to happen on December 5th and where we'll go from here for the rest of the indoor and outdoor season. Our message to our team consistently is that we have to raise the bar for ourselves across the board, from the middle distance and distances to the sprints, hurdles and jumps." Click here to watch video.