Cunningham, Dolan Compete at Nationals


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Malik Cunningham placed 14th in nationals over the weekend.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

For senior triple jumper Malik Cunningham and junior middle distance runner Sean Dolan, who competed at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Alabama on March 11 and 12, the experience was a stepping stone for the outdoor season.

Cunningham earned his highest career finish to date on Saturday, with a 14th place finish in the triple jump portion of the NCAA Championships. His 14th place helped him earn second team all-America honors.

Cunningham initially ranked 10th in the field when he recorded a jump of 15.32 meters on his first jump of the afternoon. He lengthened his distance to 15.42 meters on his second jump, but dropped to 13th place. Cunningham’s last jump of the competition was 15.31 meters, which put him in 14th place, one place higher than what he had qualified in. 

Cunningham came into the NCAA Championships tied for 15th in the country with his 16.12 meter jump at the Tiger Paw Invite on Feb. 11.

Cunningham broke some impressive records during the 2022 indoor season. The 16.12 meter jump at the Tiger Paw Invite put him a centimeter ahead of Jermaine Deans, who finished 10th in the NCAA Championships in 1998. Cunningham is right behind Nate Cooper in the Villanova triple jump record book, and they are the only two Villanova triple jumpers in history to earn All-American honors.  

Cunningham also won his second career Big East title in the triple jump, with a mark of 15.43 meters at the Big East Championships two weeks ago.

Dolan competed first in the 800 meter run on Friday evening in the preliminary round, running a time of 1:48.55 to finish 12th overall in the preliminary round at the Birmingham complex. Dolan finished less than seven tenths of a second behind the top-three finishers in his heat. The top-three finishers in each heat, along with the next two overall fastest times, automatically qualify for the championship heat, but Dolan’s 1:48.55 was not quite enough for him to advance, ending his indoor season on Friday. 

In addition, Dolan ranked 21st in the mile run, with a personal best time of 3:56.39 in the Indoor Music City Challenge at Nashville on Feb. 11. Only two other athletes nationwide are in the top 21 or higher in both the 800 meter and mile events. 

Qualifying for the NCAA Championships is just one of Dolan’s many successes from this indoor season. Dolan broke the more than 40-year-old indoor record for the 800 meter run at the Big East Championships when he posted a time of 1:47.53, which secured his spot in the NCAA Championships, ranking 14th nationally. Dolan also ran two sub-four minute miles during the indoor season.

For the Wildcats, the focus shifts to a new season. The outdoor track and field season commences next Saturday, March 19, at the Penn Challenge in Philadelphia.

For Cunningham, the concentration will be improving upon the third place last May at the Big East Championships, where he jumped 14.92 meters. Cunningham competed in two stops on the schedule a year ago, jumping 14.86 meters at Franklin Field at Penn and 14.74 meters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dolan seeks to defend his 800 meter Big East Championship from the last outdoor season, when he ran a winning time of 1:48.29 at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

Dolan has some quick times to build off of. He placed first as an unattached runner at the USATF New York Open & Masters Outdoor Championship last June, with a time of 1:46.41 and then came in 11th in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials later that month, with a time of 1:47.16.