Men’s Track Struggles Without Distance Runners


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Malik Cunningham (above) set a personal best in the triple jump over the weekend.

Charlotte Ralston, Staff Writer

This weekend, the Villanova men’s track and field team traveled to New York City for the Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge where it placed 18th out of 21 teams. The team competed in six events over the course of the two days, with multiple athletes earning lifetime personal bests.

One of the highlights of the weekend for the team, according to Villanova head coach Marcus O’Sullivan, was senior Malik Cunningham’s personal record of 15.79 meters in the triple jump.

“The last number of weeks, he’s been troubled with the board, and you can tell he’s got big jumps, but he’s fouling by an inch, so they don’t count,” O’Sullivan said of Cunningham’s performance. “You could just tell that there was a big jump coming if he could just hit the board right, and obviously it happened for him this weekend.”

Coming into the 2021-22 indoor season, only two Villanova athletes ranked higher in all-time performance in the triple jump than Cunningham. His jump of 15.79 meters on Friday not only won the event, but marked the best jump by a Villanovan in more than two decades. It was the 10th longest indoor mark in school history and the longest since Jermaine Deans jumped 16.11 meters in 1988. Graduate transfer Sosa Omuemu also competed in the triple jump this weekend, finishing 11th, with a mark of 13.85.

That same day, graduate student Michael Troup set his own PR in the 60 meter dash, with a time of 7.12 seconds. Teammate Dylan Henry was just 0.07 seconds behind, with a time of 7.19, the two finishing 24th and 27th, respectively. Troup also competed in the long jump with a mark of 6.93 meters, earning a 10th place finish.

Saturday’s events included the 200 and 400 meter dashes, as well as the 4×400 meter relay. Villanova entered three runners in the 400 meter race, led by sophomore Nicholas Mollica, who recorded a time of 49.94 to finish in 23rd. Sophomore Jakob Kunzer and junior Mac Costonis were not far behind, finishing in 28th and 31st, with times of 50.46 and 51.28, respectively.

Graduates Richie Bush and Jacob Bonanotte and senior Trevor Potts joined Mollica to compete in the 4×400 relay. The team recorded a cumulative time of 3.24.04, with Mollica leading the effort in just 50.122 seconds, but came up short as Villanova finished last of nine teams in the event. Bush also competed in the 200 meter dash to round out Saturday’s races, with a time of 22.63, finishing 28th. However, Villanova did not compete in any distance events at the Invitational this weekend. 

“The men’s distance and men’s throwers were off this weekend, so we primarily had the jumps and the sprints in New York,” O’Sullivan said. “Sometimes you put all the parts together, so next week pretty much everyone will be running. You try to get everyone in line and everyone synchronized together for the conference, which is now three weeks away.”

Preparing for the Big East conference championships, which starts on Feb. 25, is one of Villanova’s main goals right now. However, the pandemic has limited competition over the past few seasons and the conference has undergone some recent changes, most notably adding UConn, making it unclear exactly where the Wildcats stack up to the rest of the competition. 

“It’s hard to tell now that UConn is back in the mix,” O’Sullivan said. “They were away from the conference for a number of years, and now they’ve been readmitted to the Big East conference. A lot of differences and changes are going to start taking place this year – Georgetown’s been looking strong. With COVID, it’s been hard to tell for the last two years pretty much, and it’s still hard to tell, but at the same time you try to get yourself prepared the best you can.”

Some individual athletes like Cunningham are also setting their sights beyond the Big East, using these last few weeks to try to qualify for the NCAA championships. 

“By this time, we’re usually trying to get marks for the NCAA,” O’Sullivan said. “So, it’s prepping up for the Big East in the whole sense, but then at the same time, it’s also going to very elite meets around the country to try and get the last marks before the deadline, which is the Big East.”

The last stop in Villanova’s path to the Big East Championship are meets on Feb. 11 and 12. The men’s team will be sending athletes to both the Rutgers Open in New York City and the Indoor Music City Challenge at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. After that, it has a weekend off before traveling to Chicago for the conference championships.