‘Nova track heads outside

Leslie Combs

Spring tends to bring many people outdoors and the Villanova track and field team is no exception. Both the men and women traveled south to the Florida Relays held in Gainesville, Fla. March 27-29 hoping to get a fast start to the 2003 outdoor season.

The men are lead by the strength of its distance runners, but ‘Nova’s weakness this spring will be in its small numbers and little depth in the scoring department.

After a successful season indoors this winter placing fifth at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and defending its title in the distance medley relay, the men’s distance crew will be led by juniors Ryan Hayden and Jason Jabaut. Senior Jon Fasulo returns from being sidelined during the indoor season and will also provide key contributions to the Wildcats’ point tally, alongside classmate Tom Parlapiano.

A significant gain to the ‘Nova program occurred late in the indoor season when junior sprinter Paul Moser ran a 1:58 minute 800 meter run. Moser, traditionally a quarter-miler, now can churn out a fast enough time to step into the middle distance shoes, opening the door for Jabaut to race in the 1,200 and one-mile if needed.

This advantage is all the more important if senior standout Adrian Blincoe will not be deemed eligible by the NCAA to race this spring. The University is currently in the midst of applying for a waiver to allow the New Zealand native an extension to finish out his final year in a Villanova uniform, but have not heard the final decision.

“I am not sure what Blincoe’s status is,” head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “The grounds for extension go off this week. I am optimistic, but really do not know what the outcome will be.”

While Blincoe’s future remains up in the air, transfer student Nic O’Brien also from New Zealand, is not permitted to race this spring.O’Brien, a 400m and hurdle specialist, will be missed in the sprinting events, but junior Carlos Bedoya will return and looks to lead ‘Nova on the fast track.

The field events must regroup after the graduation of Marc Blatner last May. Senior Pat Moore and junior Ben Heebner will try to step up to fill the vacant shoes.

Overall, ‘Nova’s outlook to the spring season is positive.

“We just need to extend what we are already doing,” O’Sullivan said.

The ‘Cats must work on increasing its depth in scoring at the Big East Championship by sending more qualifiers.

“We are sending 15 kids, while Georgetown and Notre Dame are sending 30-45,” O Sullivan further explained.

In cross country, Villanova can get away with having an elite group of top runners, but in track and field with so many more events, the ‘Cats cannot just score at the top to win a meet. A team needs to have the numbers to have three men scoring in one event to win.

This lack of depth is why this winter ‘Nova finished fifth at both the Big East Championships and at Nationals. At Nationals very few teams can qualify as many runners because of the intense standards of qualification, allowing ‘Nova to outscore its Big East opponents among the larger field. Although the ‘Cats goal is to build on its conference participants, the men’s ultimate objective is to qualify and run well at Nationals this June.

The men will not run their complete squad in Gainesville this weekend, allowing time the NCAA indoor participants another week to rest before returning to the racing circuit.

While the men can count on the experience of several seniors to lead the way outdoors this spring, for the most part, the women will rely on the depth of its underclassmen to tally up points.

The only seniors returning to the ‘Cats roster are field participants, lead by the strength of Sylvia Taggert and Christine Heffernan’s arms. Sophomore pole vaulter Michelle Ezzie is also looking to add points in the field for ‘Nova.

Despite its youth, ‘Nova’s distance squad will still be a forceful presence in the Big East Conference. Junior Rebecca Mitchell’s experience combined with sophomores Ioana Parusheva, Kalin Toedebusch and Kirtsy Smith are four ‘Cats who are expected to provide key contributions to ‘Nova’s team. Juniors Carre Joyce and Claudine Evangelista along with sophomore Holly Cosnett will also bring in points.

Several rookies are also expected to step it up in their first outdoor season in the distance circuit. Marina Muncan and Elizabeth Gesel both had promising inaugural seasons indoors and in the cross country season and will give immediate aid to the team.

On the sprinting side of the track, junior hurdler Melanie Rhoden is expected once again top the heat charts in the Big East, followed close behind by sophomores Nicole Bridgwood and Sherian Byarn. Newcomer Yolanda Malcolm is also looking to go out to a fast start as a ‘Cat outdoors.

Overall, the women will remain competitive in the Big East and hope to return to the top of the conference after placing second to Notre Dame in the 2002 season.