Three Villanovans Complete Rare Running Feat

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

For any team to have a sub-four minute miler is a massive accomplishment, so for Villanova to have three in the same race is practically unheard of. On Jan. 29 at Penn State, senior Charlie O’Donovan, junior Sean Dolan and redshirt freshman Liam Murphy all clocked in under the four minute threshold. 

O’Donovan led the trio, finishing second, with a personal best time of 3:57.46. Dolan finished just 0.13 seconds behind in third, with a time of 3:57.59. Murphy placed fifth, finishing in 3:59.63, marking his first time under the four minute clip. 

Dolan came close to breaking his personal best of 3:57.20 in the Penn State meet. Although he fell short, he knows the significance anytime he breaks the four minute mark in the mile.

“The mile seems to be the glory event,” Dolan said. “If you can run under four minutes, that’s a pretty big deal.”

For Murphy, he cemented his name in the record books as the 44th men’s track athlete at Villanova to break the four minute mark in the mile. 

 “It’s really cool, especially for people that are big fans of the sport,” Murphy said. “They know how cool a sub-four is and how rare that is.”

Early on in Murphy’s life, running such a historic time seemed unlikely to occur, not because he wasn’t good enough, but because his passion for the sport wasn’t always there.

“I definitely gotta give a lot of credit to my high school coach,” Murphy said. “At first, I didn’t really like running that much in the beginning of high school. I didn’t really see it as something that I would stick with.” 

Murphy was aided in the under four minute mile chase by Dolan, who planned to stay right on the pacemaker, or the rabbit. The rabbit was setting the under four minute pace and pulled off at around a kilometer. Dolan kept pushing the pace and knew that the last lap or 400 meters of the race were going to be the fastest.

“For guys like Liam, you know, who have never been in a race like that, I think it was probably pretty comforting for him to have Charlie and I ahead of him, pushing the pace, and trying to drag him along with us,” Dolan said.

For O’Donovan, the history of Villanova track and field and the prominent runners in its past provide the inspiration he needs to be successful on the Main Line. Both O’Donovan and head coach Marcus O’Sullivan grew up in Cork, Ireland, before finding their ways to Villanova. 

The connection to the Wildcats ran deep for O’Donovan, and when he was in grade school, it became his dream to attend and run at Villanova. And as he grew older and felt himself improving at the high school level, that became more and more realistic.

“I started running at 13, and I think when I was 14, I wanted to go to Villanova,” O’Donovan said. “And when that opportunity came, when I was 17, 18, it was one I couldn’t turn down.”

Not only was O’Donovan around O’Sullivan in Cork, but his high school track coach, Ken Nason, was also a runner at Villanova in the early 1970s, where he was also a sub-four minute miler.

“It’s a rich Irish tradition with the mile, specifically indoors, over the last 30 or so years, and it was thanks to [Nason] that I wanted to be a part of that,” O’Donovan said. 

The three runners still have three meets left in the indoor season, including the Big East and NCAA Championships, as well as an entire outdoor season to improve upon their times.

Now that all of them have run under four minutes, what is the next goal?

“We’re thinking 3:55, 3:54,” said Dolan. “[We’re] Starting to eye up the school record [of 3:48.83] now.”