In 2017, the Owls took drastic strides to leave their mark as the best women's cross country team in Temple history. Winning their first two meets of the season, earning a program-high third place finish at the American Athletic Conference championships and earning their highest ever finish at the ECAC Championship meet with third overall, it is evident that the group wrapped up the 2017 season headed in the right direction.
While the record-breaking team finishes were great in 2017, the squad walked away knowing they had more to offer. Finishing third at their home course at the Belmont Plateau in last year's conference meet may be viewed as a great stepping stone from where the team had been in the past, but everyone involved knew how much more they could do.
"Last year, we really thought that we could be on the podium and then ended up third as a team," explained head coach James Snyder
. "A few things did not break the way we had hoped, leading to a mix of emotions for the group. Since then, they have established a new level of focus that really propelled them into this season, and they have not slowed down ever since."
Following the 2017 conference championships, the women's squad took a more calculated approach with their training. The team worked to improve every day with a higher sense of urgency to push themselves, and each other, to their full potential.
This momentum carried the group into the indoor track and field season, where the middle and long distance women had the best conference championship performances in program history.
"Where we are right now has certainly been a byproduct of the work that has gone in over the last couple of years with these student-athletes, and I cannot wait to see what they continue to achieve," explained Snyder.
Coming off of last year's success, the Owls have gained valuable talent and improved as whole to perform well over the course of the 2018 regular season. They now have a chance to bring it all to fruition, as Temple heads to New Orleans, La. On Thursday Oct. 25th, 2018 to compete at the 2018 American Athletic Conference Championships. The women's squad will race the 6,000-meter course at the Golf Club at Audubon Park, running the first race of the day at 11:00 a.m.
After entering the season ranked No. 9 in the Mid-Atlantic region, they have worked their way up to the No. 7 spot over the course of the regular season. This is the highest the women's cross country has ever been ranked in history at Temple, but the squad is not finished yet.
The Owls kicked off the season in a similar fashion as last year, sweeping the top five at the Temple Invitational. Racing their 6,000-meter home course at the historic Belmont Plateau for the first time since the 2017 championship meet, the Owls showed great progression to get the 2018 season started.
Running with a tactical mindset, Millie Howard
crossed the finish line first with a time of 23:30.0. Helene Gottlieb
led the pack alongside Howard, finishing second with a time of 23:30.4. Lucy Jones
, Katie Leisher
and Michelle Joyce
rounded out the Cherry and White top-five, which was also the top-five overall, handing Temple their first team victory of the season.
The squad captured its second straight team victory two weeks later, dominating the challenging 5,600-meter Bowdoin Park course at the Army West Point Open. Grace Moore
opened her 2018 season with a bang, leading the Temple pack that swept the top three tops to finish first individually with a time of 19:21.2. Jones, a consistent performer in the front pack for Temple, crossed next alongside Temple newcomer Kira Von Ehren
. The two exemplified true teamwork, as Von Ehren finished third in her first ever race in Cherry and White.
In week three, the squad traveled to the reputable Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational to compete in the Blue Division for the first time against a contingent of nationally ranked opponents. Entering the meet with lofty expectations, the group fell a bit off course and did not perform as well as they had hoped. Von Ehren's second race as an Owl was a highlight of the meet, as she finished first for Temple with a time of 17:34.7.
The team bounced back in week four, wrapping up their regular season with a third place finish at the Princeton Invitational. Running in a field of 22 teams, the Owls performed well on the 6,000-meter course through the West Windsor Fields in N.J. For the second straight week, Von Ehren was the top performer for the Owls, finishing with a time of 21:40.1. Jones filled the second spot for Temple, followed by Joyce and Leisher, all finishing top 25 in the competitive field.
The women's squad can attribute the success of their regular season to the tireless work and effort they have put in through training every day. As a talented group, the squad has trained together to constantly motivate one another to push themselves to their true potential.
"Kira is someone who just joined us as a graduate student this year, and was able to perform as our top runner the past two weeks," Snyder stated, touching base on the depth and talent the team possesses.
"Katie is a senior and has consistently been strong for us this season. Michelle is a tireless worker who really stood out last week, and Lucy has been solid all season up front. Helene stepped up this season to stay in the top group. Millie closed up great at Princeton and ended up in the top five. We have a great deal of depth up front with all of our women, and the group can really rely on one another to push themselves forward."
Within the talented group that will be representing Temple at the conference meet are two returning All-Conference performers, Leisher and Jones. Leisher's seventh place finish at the conference meet in 2017 was the highest for any Temple running in program history, and the two All-AAC runners helped propel the team to their highest ever team finish of third.
Joining Jones and Leisher at the meet AAC meet on Thursday will be Temple returners Joyce, Howard, Gottleib and Moore, along with the newcomer pair of Von Ehren and freshman Lexi Walsh
"Through the turmoil and craziness that is race day, the steadiest thing that you can rely on are the teammates around you. If the group puts their trust in one another on race day, it will be extremely exciting to see how things unfold at conferences."
As Jesse Jackson once said, "if you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds."
The Temple women's cross country squad looks to rise up this Thursday at the conference championships, taking new strides each day and continuing to make each team finish the best in program history.