‘Nova rocks Penn Relays

Carolyn Brown

Hanging in the causeway between the Pavilion and Jake Nevin Field House is all the evidence one needs of the success of the Wildcats’ track program over the years. Adorning the walls are numerous awards and plaques, including a record 27 from the Penn Relays. This weekend, the women’s distance medley relay team made it 28.

The women’s DMR team took home a first place finish in the Penn Relays, the 10th in school history, winning a race that has not been won by a Villanova women’s team since 1997. Sophomore Frances Koons ran the opening 1,200 meter leg. She led the race most of the way but fell a second behind the leader when she handed off the baton to junior Tierra Fletcher. She hung on to the team’s second place standing throughout her 400 meter run with a time of 53.80. The race was tied after junior Akilah Vargas handed off the baton to anchor and senior Marina Muncan. Muncan stayed on Stanford’s shoulder the whole leg, but in the last 150 meters she left Stanford behind to race her best split ever with a time of 4:31.85.

“Marina settled in with Stanford, and they battled it out in a grueling duel until Marina broke out in a searing kick and passed the girl with 150 meters to go in the 1,600 meter leg,” said Koons. “It was unbelievable watching everyone after my leg; the race went just perfectly.”

Koons, Vargas and Muncan were joined by graduate student Ioana Perusheva the next day to run the 4×1500 meter race. This 4×1500 team proved again to be successful, finishing in second place in a race that went back and forth. Vargas ran a strong first leg and handed off the baton to Perusheva in fourth place. She would run a split of 4:16.2 to put the team in second place, handing the baton off to Koons. About seven meters off pace, Koons handed off the baton to Muncan who ran a hard final leg in 4:15.3.

Monique Morgan also added to the team’s top finishes at the Penn Relays, finishing fourth in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 13.24.

“Everyone has worked really hard and our coach has guided us to these amazing results,” said Koons. “We are now focusing on our next race and looking toward even better things.”

The men’s track team would prove to be just as successful bringing home top finishes in many events.

The men’s 4×800 meter relay team almost won the championship but fell a second short behind Oral Roberts. In a tough race by freshmen Dan Tully and Sean Tully and juniors Drew Eckman and Mark Korich, the ‘Cats stayed with Oral Roberts all the way until the finish with an impressive time of 7:19.06; Oral Roberts finished in 7:18.74.

“When I got the baton in second, I ran with confidence that I could pull out this race even though I knew the guy in front of me was the NCAA runner up last season,” said Eckman, who ran the final leg in the 4×8. “I thought I had him at the end, but he was able to hold me off.”

Eckman ran the final leg of the 4×8 in the best time he has run this season, running the race both Friday and Saturday in 1:47.7.

“I told my team that we almost won that race,” said Eckman. “We didn’t barely lose. We are a young team and know that this will be in our minds until next year.”

The men’s DMR team, consisting of freshmen Sean Tully, Elvis Lewis, and juniors Eckman and Bobby Curtis, pulled out an eighth place finish. Tully opened up the race with a 2:58.7 split in the first 1,200 meter leg when he handed off the baton to Lewis. Lewis placed the team in second after his 400 meter run. Eckman had another successful run, taking the lead in the 800 meter. He passed the baton off to Curtis who fell behind in the anchor leg but ran a tough split of 4:05.

The successes of the men’s track team did not stop there. Milos Mitric ran his personal best in the 10,000 meter, placing eighth with a time of 29:53.05; his previous record was 29:55. Junior Robert McDade finished seventh in the discus, throwing 54.02 meters, and sophomore Patrick Gazzini placed 22nd in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 52.73.

The men’s and women’s track teams are now preparing for the Big East Championships, NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championships, where they will finish the season.