Men’s Cross Country has Strong Showing in Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Haftu Strintzos (above) placed 47th in the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitation.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

Senior Haftu Strintzos missed a month of the cross country season because he contracted COVID-19 and was held out to make sure he was fully healthy.

At the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, one would have never known he missed a chunk of the season.

Strintzos recorded a time of 23:45.5, good for 47th place, Friday afternoon at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course. 

The time was tops for Villanova at a meet loaded with ranked opponents and fierce competition, as teams battled for points to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“I think he has a lot more to give,” head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said about Strintzos. “I was hesitant, and I didn’t really want to start him in this race because it’s very, very intense, but at the same time, he did well, and he managed himself pretty well.”

Sophomore Jack Jennings and sophomore Liam Murphy finished right behind Strintzos. Jennings and Murphy registered identical times of 23:47.0, with Jennings posting a 50th place finish and Murphy garnering a 51st place finish.

In the first two kilometers of the race, Strintzos, Jennings, and Murphy put the team into a top five position, but slipped back to 12th place as a team up until the 6k portion of the race. Villanova recovered at the end to a ninth place finish.

The other two runners for Villanova that scored were senior Charlie O’Donovan, with a time of 23:59.3, and first-year student Marco Langon, who registered a time of 24:08.4.

“It was great to see them not get discouraged in the race and keep going backwards, but just turn it around, and actually came running home hard, and then moving from 12th up to ninth at the end,” O’Sullivan said.

Senior Josh Phillips got lost in the herd of runners and could not recover to post a time of 25:09.4. He will be a main factor in the Big East Championships, but just had an off day on the course.

The meet featured seven of the top 10 teams and 19 of the top 30. No. 17 Villanova beat four teams ranked ahead of it after the completion of Friday afternoon’s race, including No. 9 Syracuse, No. 10 North Carolina, No. 11 Iowa State and No. 14 Gonzaga.

Villanova lost to North Carolina two weeks ago at the Paul Short Run, but it was missing a key component that day.

“I totally felt we had a better team than them (North Carolina) because we didn’t have Haftu racing that day,” O’Sullivan said.

In addition, Jennings and Murphy put in a ton of training in the summer and progressed nicely from last season to be solid contributors.

O’Sullivan also expanded on the importance of this meet.

“That was basically a dress rehearsal for Nationals,” O’Sullivan said.

Points from this meet are vital in case a team performs poorly at its regional meet. Teams could still qualify for the NCAA Championships based on the points they tally during the season, even if they do not earn an automatic bid from their regional meet.

There was another race outside of the main race and that was the B race, which helps teams round out their runners for upcoming larger meets, like the Big East Championships. Redshirt freshman runner Devon Comber tallied a time of 24:34.1, graduate Evan Addison recorded a time of 24:50.7 and graduate Ben Seiple ran in a time of 24:57.8. 

These three runners made times that allowed them to cement their spots onto the Big East Championships roster.

The Big East Championships will be hosted by a new venue this year at Highland Park in Attleboro, MA on Oct. 29th. O’Sullivan doesn’t know if the new course will affect his team.

“I haven’t seen the course,” O’Sullivan said. “I know there’s some strenuous terrain in there. Hilly.”

Providence may have a slight edge over the rest of the competition because it raced the course before and has a visual of the layout.

At Wisconsin, Georgetown placed 17th and Providence finished 25th. These programs will be the challengers in Massachusetts, along with Butler.

Butler is a wild-card, since Villanova does not race directly against it much, but the Bulldogs proved to be a force at the Big East Championships last year, and is expected to be again this year.

In the 2021 Big East Championships, Butler claimed the team title with a score of 35, followed by Georgetown with 49, and Villanova placed third with 63 points. Villanova was the favorite last year going in.

“They had a rough go of it last year, and I think there’s a little bit of redemption that they want,” O’Sullivan said.