The cross country season officially kicks off tomorrow afternoon, as the men’s and women’s teams will host the Friend Invitational at West Fairmount Park’s Belmont Plateau course at 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. respectively.
Newly hired coach Adam Bray, who has had just a few weeks to prepare with the team, is looking forward to seeing his athletes in action for the first time.
“I want to see them compete, first and foremost,” Bray said. “I haven’t seen them race other than [redshirt senior Travis Mahoney] at the national meet. So I want to see how competitive they’re going to be.”
Mahoney, a two-time All American, is what Bray calls the “one key ingredient” to the current roster, and has evolved into a leader and role model for both teams. Although he will not be running in Friday’s event due to strategic reasons, last week he discussed what the race will accomplish for the Owls.
“It’s more of a rust-buster,” Mahoney said. “It’s to kick the rust off the legs and run and see what we’ve built up over the summer—and what we’re made of.”
The men’s squad, which placed 10th in last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championships, will face fierce competition in the event, as it hosts La Salle University and Saint Joseph’s University. La Salle is coming off of a strong 2011 season in which it won the A-10 title, led by a first place finish from now-senior Alfredo Santana. Last week, in La Salle’s opener, Santana had another first place finish in a match against the University of Pennsylvania. St. Joe’s finished third in the conference last year, and featured Rookie of the Year Paul Szulewski. The Friend Invitational will be the Hawks’ third race of their season.
On the women’s side, which placed 12th in last year’s A-10 Championships, the Owls will also face two solid teams. Like the men’s team, La Salle’s women snagged a first place finish in last year’s A-10 Championships, while Saint Joseph’s placed fifth. Temple has just two freshmen on its current roster, and hopes its returning athletes—including last year’s team leader sophomore Jenna Dubrow—will provide valuable experience for the team this season.
Rayna Kratchman, who is one of four seniors on the roster, is looking forward to racing on the team’s home course at Belmont.
“I think we’re all excited to be able to race there,” she said.
Kratchman would like to see the team do better in the conference, in what is its last year before moving to the Big East.
“I definitely would like to be able to make a little more of an impact, as a team, in the A-10’s, because in the past we’ve kind of hung in the middle,” Kratchman said. “But I’m hoping that we can move ourselves up given that we’re going to be in the Big East next year.”
If that is Temple’s goal going into the season, doing well in tomorrow’s meet against two conference inter-city rivals would be an awfully good start.