Men’s Track and Field Preview

Mens+track+and+field+heads+to+Staten+Island+for+the+Villanova+Invitational+on+Jan.+22.+

Courtesy of Butler Athletics

Men’s track and field heads to Staten Island for the Villanova Invitational on Jan. 22.

Tee Parris , Staff Writer

The 2022 men’s track and field indoor season kicked off on Saturday, Jan. 15, in Staten Island, New York. The team started well as junior mid distance runner Sean Dolan put on an impressive performance, running the second fastest 800m time in Villanova men’s track and field history at 1:48.11. This is not surprising as the team’s coach, Marcus O’Sullivan, named Dolan — a US Olympic trials qualifier — as someone to watch this season.

Another top performer from the weekend was Liam Murphy, a redshirt freshman who demonstrated that the team has a bright future ahead of it, by placing first in the mile event.

Looking ahead, there are plenty of athletes who are expected to represent Villanova in the NCAA Championships. In the mile event, look out for senior Charlie O’Donovan, who is coming off a hiatus due to injury and COVID-19, senior Josh Philips and newcomers, Jack Jennings, a sophomore, and Murphy. In the 3000-meter event, alongside Philips, Murphy and Jennings, O’Sullivan recommends keeping an eye on senior Haftu Strintzos, a well decorated athlete who also competes in the 5000m event. Strintzos has consistently performed well in long distance events for Villanova’s track and field team, and last year placed ninth at the NCAA championships.

The team is also hoping to make an impact in the field events this season. The coaching staff has identified senior jumper Malik Cunningham as a must watch for this season. Cunningham is coming off a bronze medal finish in the Big East Championship during the last outdoor season and qualified for the NCAA East preliminary round. Cunningham is looking for his first Big East title during this indoor season.

A new face at Villanova, graduate thrower Riley LaRiviera, spent the last four years as a member of the Lehigh track and field team.

Prior to Saturday’s meet, the coaching staff had a good look at the team and identified some positive discoveries. O’Sullivan noted that there were “some surprises” and some athletes returned from the three-week break “fitter than when they left.”

O’Sullivan mentioned that athletes returning from colder climates faced more challenges when it came to staying fit over winter break. Saturday’s meet was a great indicator for the coaching staff as to where more attention would be needed as well as where some stars may emerge. This season, the men are expecting to be challenged in the Big East by a very strong team at UConn. The Huskies are back in the Big East this season, and Villanova will need to perform at a high level to compete with this powerhouse team.

When it comes to important meets, track and field is one of those sports where many different factors affect an athlete’s performance. Not every athlete on the team travels to the same meets every week, and who travels is determined by the level of competition at each meet as well as the quality of the competition grounds themselves. The John Thomas Terrier Classic on Jan. 29 at Boston University provides a great opportunity for the distance runners.

“The track is very fast, so what you are trying to do there is get qualifiers so you can move on to nationals,” O’Sullivan said of the upcoming event.

Another interesting meet will take place at Vanderbilt on Feb. 11 and 12. There will be a flat 300m track, which again would help the athletes post some of their quicker times. 

The team’s next meet will take place at its Staten Island “home” on Jan. 22 as the Wildcats host the Villanova Invitational.