Cross country captures fifth place

Paul Martucci

It was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon last week in the Bronx. As Villanova students walked through campus finishing classes for the week, the Wildcats cross country team prepared for the Big East Championships.

At 12:30, the gun blasted and off to the races went the top female runners from Villanova. Opposing the ‘Cats were the other 15 schools that now comprise the Big East.

Senior Marina Muncan led the attack for the cross country women. Last year, Muncan finished sixth but has been battling an injury that has caused her to miss all but one race thus far this season.

In spite of the adversity, Muncan performed in the spotlight, running the six kilometer race in 21:01. The impressive time placed her fourth overall. Following Muncan, sophomore Frances Koons finished quickly after, placing seventh with a time of 21:07. Both women, by placing in the top 10, earned All-Big East honors.

Finishing third for the women runners was junior Akilah Vargas, whose 22:17 time landed her a 25th place finish.

Led by these three runners, the female Wildcats took fifth place in the Big East Championship. Ahead of the ‘Cats, Georgetown finished in fourth, Marquette in third, former champion Providence in second, and Notre Dame in first, winning the tournament.

The fifth place finish for ‘Nova was slightly worse than last year’s performance, where the Wildcats earned a third place finish. Individually, however, Muncan’s fourth place finish was an improvement from her team’s best sixth place finish in 2004. In addition, Muncan was Villanova’s only top ten finisher in 2004, but Koons joined Muncan in the top ten this year.

As the women’s race ended, the men’s teams wasted little time and at 1:10 the gun sounded again for the beginning of the men’s eight kilometer race.

Last year, Villanova men’s cross country placed fourth in the Big East tournament, but individually, then-sophomore Bobby Curtis finished first overall.

This year, running without Curtis, Villanova’s top individual performer finished 22nd. Junior Andrew Keinko, running the eight kilometer race in 25:18, led the Wildcat runners. Fellow runner, senior Craig Segal, finished close behind Keinko, in 25th at a time of 25:22. These two men carried the ‘Cats to a fifth place finish, matching the women in the standings. Ahead of Villanova was Louisville in fourth, Providence in third, Georgetown in second, and Notre Dame, sweeping the day by taking first.

This year’s fifth place finish is a small downgrade from last year’s fourth place finish, but ‘Nova’s top two finishers from the 2004 championship were not racing this year.

With a fourth place Big East finish last year, the men’s team finished fifth in the NCAA regional. The ‘Cats will seek similar success next Saturday at Lehigh. The women’s team earned a second place finish in the NCAA regional in 2004 and will also look to extend its success into this year’s regional meet. A strong performance will qualify the teams for an appearance in the Nov. 22 NCAA Championship at Indiana State University.