Men’s T&F Prepares for Upcoming BE Championship


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Villanova Men’s Track and Field will compete in the Big East Championship starting on Feb. 25.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

The Villanova men’s track and field team has been working and training for this moment. Next Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26, the Wildcats will travel to compete in the Big East Championships in Chicago.

In the team portion, Villanova will be challenged by Georgetown, UConn and Butler. This team competition will be determined by depth. For example, Villanova may bring 24 athletes, and UConn may take 34 athletes. Those 10 more athletes can provide an advantage.

Competitors who earn first place to eighth place award points for their runs, jumps and throws in the Big East Championships for the team competition.

First place awards 10 points, second place eight points, third place six points, fourth place five points, fifth place four points, sixth place three points, seventh place two points and eighth place one point.

Butler holds an advantage in the sprints and multidisciplinary areas, as well as distance. Georgetown is strong in the distance events, along with Villanova. The strength of the distance runners for three schools will offset the points in the distance discipline, which will open the door for UConn, which is very strong in the field events and sprints.

“We [Villanova, Georgetown and Butler] end up distributing the pot of points amongst ourselves, and at the same time, UConn takes the winner’s share,” head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said.

One competitor who is improving rapidly in time for the Championships is senior Malik Cunningham. He is coming off a Big East Men’s Field Athlete of the Week after posting a personal best 16.12 meters in the triple jump.

Cunningham was struggling in the beginning of the season with fouling and not hitting the board correctly, but now, his timing has improved, which is showing in his jumps.

“His confidence is significantly heightened,” O’Sullivan said. “This was something in the works for a long time. It just came into fruition the last two weeks.”

Other strong suits for the Wildcats include the 800 meters, mile and 3000 meters.

In the 800 meters, junior Sean Dolan holds the top spot going into the Big East Championships, with a time of 1:48.11. Senior Charlie O’Donovan is positioned in the third spot with a time of 1:49.63.

While the prospect of running lower times is important for these runners, the goal of a championship in the Big East is heightened. This has the positive of instilling a focused mission, but could be a negative because the mind can be split between running a lower time and winning the race.

“You’re just going in there with the intention of racing to win,” O’Sullivan said. “They’re seasoned athletes, and I think they know what they have to do.”

In the mile, Dolan and O’Donovan are ranked second and third, respectively, in the Big East. Dolan’s best time of 3:56.39 came two weeks ago, and O’Donovan posted a 3:57.46 at the end of January. 

“They still have to run a quicker time than what they have already posted to get themselves to Nationals, which I know will be a very high priority for them,” O’Sullivan said.

The 3000 meter race has the possibility to add some valuable points for the team. Senior Josh Phillips is third with a time of 7:58.45, and his classmate Haftu Strintzos has a best time of 8:00.77, which puts him in sixth position heading into the weekend.

“For Haftu, I think the stronger the race, the more even paced it is, is more beneficial for him,” O’Sullivan said.

The time differences should be read with caution because every race is different. All of the races were time trial style up until the Championships, which means a pacer was present to set the flow of the race.

Phillips will lean on his 1200 meter distance medley Big East championships from 2019 and 2020 to help him next week. The experience of running a double in 2019 and 2020 will benefit Phillips, as he will likely compete in the 3000 and 5000 meter events this weekend.

An area that may hold the Wildcats back is the sprinting events. In the 60 meters, graduate student Richie Bush is 13th in the conference, coming in at 7.05. Bush is the only contender in the 200 meters for Villanova. Bush ran a 22.35, which is in 14th place. In the 400 meters, sophomore Nicholas Mollica is in 14th place with a 49.94.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” O’Sullivan said of getting points in the sprinting events. “We don’t have enough depth in the sprints. We’ve been weak in that area for the last year, year and a half. We’re in the process of rebuilding that section.”

In other field events, senior Jim Keys is placed sixth with a mark of 4.55 meters in the pole vault. The long jump features graduate student Michael Troup at a mark of 6.93 meters where he sits in eighth place. The shot put is represented by graduate student Riley LaRiviere, who is in sixth place.

The Wildcats will lean on their mid-distance and distance runners and the field events to put them in a position to compete with Butler, Georgetown and UConn. The Wildcats will have their minds focused on winning their events for the Big East Championship title and posting their personal bests in the chase for Nationals in two weeks in Birmingham, Alabama.