The Trio of Mile Excellence


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Milgie anchors memorable 4×400 relay finish at Penn State National Open

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

After junior Liam Murphy, graduate student Charlie O’Donovan and junior Sean Dolan broke the four-minute barrier last year at Penn State with times of 3:59.63, 3:57.46, and 3:57.59, respectively, one record was on their mind.

 “[We’re] starting to eye up the school record [of 3:48.83],” Dolan said. 

A year later at the same Penn State National Open at the Horace Astenfelter III Indoor Track, Murphy, O’Donovan and Dolan produced lower sub-four-minute miles with one record going down. 

Murphy ran the fastest of the three men, setting a swift pace with a time of 3:55.58. This time broke the facility record of 3:56.51 that had sat at the top of the list for the last 11 years.  

“That was a big run,” head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “Very impressive. And it’s probably, it’s certainly, on the all-time list of Villanova athletes indoors. It might be number two or three.” 

What makes the feat more impressive is that the record was held by a past collegiate runner. 

In addition to his facility breaking record, Murphy also garnered the NCAA lead for the mile run with the time set on Friday night cutting almost four seconds off his time from last year. 

“He committed himself to a whole new level of expectations in terms of training, and I think that continued all the way through cross country,” O’Sullivan said. “I mean, he won NCAA [Mid-Atlantic] Regionals in cross country and got [Mid-Atlantic] Regional Athlete of the Year.” 

O’Donovan was close behind Murphy, posting a time of 3:56.08. This puts O’Donovan two spots behind Murphy on the NCAA leaderboard in third place. 

“In fairness, Charlie O’Donovan did a lot of the work, and I think Liam was able to conserve some energy,” O’Sullivan said. 

Dolan rounded out the trio with a time of 3:57.45, which puts him in 11th place on the NCAA leaderboard.  

Because each man is such a different runner, the trio can push themselves to new heights, challenging one another in training and in races.

O’Donovan and Murphy are the cross-country type with strengths from the mile distance and longer, with Dolan focusing from the mile on down, more specifically, the 400 and 800-meter races. Both styles cross at the mile mark, which helps create these times. 

As for the sprinters of the squad, they’ve had a boost in success with help from freshman walk-on Amiri Prescod, who ran a personal best 6.88 in the 60 meters, the seventh-fastest in school history. 

“He’s one of those hidden gems,” O’Sullivan said. “You get those every now and again. They’re great to have because they’re exciting to see from the very beginning and no expectations.” 

Freshman Jimmy Milgie also had a standout performance, but on the second day of competition, during the 4×400-meter relay. Milgie closed out the event from a fourth to first finish on the final leg of the quartet with a blazing time of 47.83 seconds for a total time of 3:16.44. The race set up where Milgie was behind and knew he had the ability to run down first place.  

“The win becomes the focus, and the time is a byproduct of it,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s getting better from race to race.” 

Milgie also won the unseeded 400 meters with a time of 48.81 amongst the 21 competitors. 

The other three runners in the race included freshman Ronan O’Neill (49.89), junior Nicholas Mollica (49.70) and senior Sean Dolan (49.03). Mollica registered a time of 50.03 and freshman Sal Barletta carved out a personal best of 50.27 seconds.  

On Friday, more solid times were run in the mile with graduate student Evan Addison running to a time of 4:04.22, and senior Miller Anderson recorded his personal best with a time of 4:08.15. 

Addison desires to be the 45th member of the sub-four-minute mile club, which he can join at the Boston meet in two weeks. Anderson was experimenting with the mile but will now drop back down to his normal race in the 800 meters.   

In other distance events on Saturday, junior Jack Jennings ran sixth in the fastest heat of the 3000 meters with a 8:04.21 and redshirt freshman Devon Comber posted a time of 8:10.73 to produce a new personal best. 

As for throwing events, sophomore Tristan Bolinsky created a new personal best with a mark of 15.55, which moved him up to eighth place in the Villanova all-time performance list. 

On Saturday, freshman Liam Anderson threw for 12.79 meters in the shot put, producing his new personal best. 

The Wildcats will have the week off before they head for three separate meets, where the distance crew will head to Boston, the jumpers to Clemson, and the third meet in New York.  

Boston will present another opportunity for the distance runners to compete against other national qualifier hopefuls and improve their spot for a chance at a national meet berth.  

The 3k, 5k and the mile will be the important events with Murphy, O’Donovan and Dolan competing, as well as graduate student Haftu Strintzos making his return after battling a variety of illnesses, including COVID-19 and Mono, and graduate student Josh Phillips will debut after a sickness over the break. 

The team will most likely add a meet at Notre Dame the week after the trio of meets to compete in the distance medley relay, which consists of four legs of 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and 1600 meters.  

The emergence of Milgie in the 400 meter prompted the late addition to the schedule to see how the runners will fare in this specialized event. O’Sullivan wanted to wait a bit longer to enter a distance medley relay meet to give his runners the best chance to post a national qualifying time, which are exceptionally fast this year.