New era begins for men’s cross country

Leslie Combs

Although the ‘Cats might not get off to a fast start this fall, expect the 2003 cross country campaign to eventually have success similar to the 2002 squad that captured both the Big East and Regional crowns and ended in a run for the national title.

With the departure of Adrian Blincoe, a tremendous New Zealand distance runner who brought several national titles back to the Main Line, ‘Nova does have a large void to fill in the top spot this fall. But head coach Marcus O’Sullivan is confident that the combination of the returning veterans along with the rookie runners will provide an equation equal to long term success for the cross country.

“I think we are going to look really well in the long run,” O’Sullivan said. “We have a really good group of guys and I expect the team to evolve.”

In the absence of Blincoe and other top runner, fifth year senior Tom Parlapiano, who is ineligible for cross country, ‘Nova’s pack will be led by fifth year senior John Fasulo and seniors Ryan Hayden and Jason Jabaut, all whom O’Sullivan said are great role models for the newcomers.

Fasulo, a two-time All-American, had a breakout year in 2002 when he finished second in the Big East Championship and third in the regional cross country championships. Last spring, he qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, in which he placed 14th.

Hayden experienced similar success in 2002 when he placed third at the regional meet last fall and was a two-time NCAA Champion as a member of the DMR team that captured the national title outdoors in 2002 and inside in 2003. The senior has also broken the four-minute mark in the mile.

Classmate Jabaut joined Hayden on the winning DMR squad in 2002 and boasts several Big East relay victories.

Combined with the added depth from Patt Dunn, this year’s senior class looks to lead the ‘Cats right back to the national title run.

Following closely behind the senior leaders, the strength of the underclassmen will provide the real key to the success in 2003. In recent years the top crown has eluded ‘Nova, largely due the ‘Cats inability to find a solid closing runner. However with a year’s experience, sophomores Milos Metric, Marc Pelerin and Craig Segal will all be competing for the final slots and will push their teammates right along with them.

As far as the freshmen go, O’Sullivan has been pleased with the potential he has seen in the newcomers and complimented the men on their handling of the transition both in running and in the broader spectrum of University life.

“We have a tight group now,” O’Sullivan said of both the lower and upperclassmen. “The freshmen seem to be adjusting well.”

While it might take the rookies a few times out on the courses to get into their collegiate groove, O’Sullivan expects the newcomers to step it up as the season progresses and he said any freshman has the potential to take a position up for grabs. This depth and contention amongst the younger guys for a spot on the line is what O’Sullivan is so excited about. While it is a very young team, the composition, points to a very bright future for the ‘Cats.

“It is the most talented team in terms of depth we have ever had,” O’Sullivan said.

The ‘Cats first will stretch their legs at a warm-up meet at Haverford on Sept. 3, but officially open their 2003 campaign down the Main Line at the Haverford Invitational.

The following week the ‘Cats travel down south to compete at the Great American CC Sept. 26 and are then scheduled to race at Pre-Nationals at Northern Iowa Oct. 18. The Big East Conference is next on the slate, taking place Oct. 31 in Van Cortlandt Park, N.Y. followed by NCAA Regionals in Lockhaven, Pa. Nov. 15 and hopefully returning to Northern Iowa for the run for the national title Nov. 24.

O’Sullivan and his team are more than eager to head to the starting line, ready to return Villanova cross country to the distance running’s elite circuit.

“It is the beginning of a new era here,” O’Sullivan said. “The future is really bright.”