Wildcats continue to run to the top

Carolyn Brown

Preparation for the Penn Relays, one of the most competitive track meets of the year attracting the top running schools across the country, has come to an end with the Sea Ray Relays held last weekend and the Widener Invitational on Tuesday. The Villanova men’s and women’s track teams had a successful showing at both meets, with many top finishes and many qualifying for the NCAA Regionals. With such a strong performance by the team, there are high hopes going into the Penn Relays held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The successes of the Sea Ray Relays include a peak performance by senior Marina Muncan. In the 1,500 meter race, she was the first to cross the finish line, followed closely by her own teammates, sophomore Frances Koons, placing second and Iona Parusheva, placing fifth.

“It’s always great to have as many girls at the front of races as possible,” Koons said. “It’s amazing to have the support of your teammates in races.”

All three runners ran qualifying times for the NCAA Regionals. Muncan finished the race in 4:19.00, Koons finished in 4:22.19 and Parusheva finished in 4:24.14.

Another top finish was by junior Monique Morgan in the 100 meter hurdles. She placed third with a qualifying time for the NCAA Regionals of 13.36, her second qualifying time of the season.

The achievements of the women’s track team would only continue. Freshman Ellen Dougherty ran her first outdoor Big East qualifying time in the 800 meter of 2:13.11. The 4×800 meter team of Koons, Muncan, Parusheva and junior Akilah Vargas, finished in second place with a time of 8:34.47.

“The race was a good run for us,” Koons said. “We were second to Michigan, and they have some of the top half-milers in the country. Akilah had a stellar first leg, running her fastest 800 meter split ever, and Iona handed off the lead on the second leg. We were happy with a fast time and a competitive race.”

The men’s track team continued the competitive reputation the women had set at the Sea Ray Relays. Three of the athletes qualified for the NCAA Regionals. Freshman Elvis Lewis ran the 400 meter in 46.87, junior Drew Eckman ran the 800 meter in 1:50.38 and senior Robert McDade threw 54.75 meters in the discus. Freshman Matt Papson lead the men’s team in a fourth place finish in the javelin throwing 57.54 meters.

“It’s a huge relief that I finally got the qualifier out of the way,” McDade said. “With the season coming down to the wire, it is nice to have that pressure lifted off my shoulders.”

After the Sea Ray Relays most of the men’s track team competed at the Princeton University Quad Meet, again producing many top finishes. Junior Andrew Keino won the 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 9:12. Senior Marc Pelerin placed first in the 3,000 meter with a time of 8:27. Junior Mark Korich ran his season best in the 1,500 meter with a time of 3:52.

Qualifying times continued to be made on Tuesday by both the men’s and women’s track teams at the Widener Invitational.

In the 400 meter hurdles, Eckmen crossed the finish line first with a time of 53.12, following right behind him was sophomore Patrick Gazzini running his season best of 53.93, a Big East qualifying time. McDade, showed off his array of talents by qualifying for the Big East also in the hammer throw, with a throw of 52.01 meters.

The women were again successful, achieving qualifying times and top finishes. Senior Yolanda Malcolm won the 100 meter hurdles in a Big East qualifying time of 14.12.

Another Big East qualifying time included sophomore Arusha McKenzie who won the 400 meter hurdles in 63.15. Freshman Thelma Akpan jumped an outdoor best in the high jump, placing first and jumping 1.67 meters, improving her Big East qualifying mark.

“Training has been right on target, and we are all really pushing and motivating each other,” Koons said. “Both the mens’ and women’s teams are extremely excited to get out there at the Penn Relays and compete with some of the best relay teams in the world.”