A Collision Derails ‘Nova in the NCAA Championships


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

The men’s distance medley placed 11th at NCAA Championships

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

Villanova tested itself against the best of the best during the NCAA Championships with a collision in the first 100 meters of the race that ended the race before it even started for the Wildcats.

The ‘Cats placed 11th in the distance medley relay with a time of 9:55.89 at the indoor track and field NCAA Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico Friday night. 

Oklahoma State won the distance medley competition with a time of 9:28.77, Ole Miss finished second with a time of 9:31.63 and Wisconsin narrowly beat out Washington for the third position with a time of 9:31.77. 

Villanova finished right behind Texas (9:52.29) for 10th place in the twelve-team field with Tennessee disqualified.  

The collision occurred when graduate student Charlie O’Donovan, who was leading off in the 1200-meter portion of the distance medley relay, hit a pole vaulter who should not have been a step onto the track. 

The end of the runway for the pole-vaulting area meets with the track and the pole vaulter did not realize the race had started, impeding O’Donovan’s run with contact and a stumble. 

“It was a disaster in terms of the first leg,” Villanova men’s track and field head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. 

O’Donovan slightly tweaked his hip during the contact with the pole vaulter and that slight physical impediment in combination with the stumble set Villanova well off pace. 

“By the time Charlie finished up his race, we were so far back, you couldn’t make up the ground that was lost,” O’Sullivan said. 

Usually, the race would be restarted if an incident like this happened in the first turn of a final race, but the competition continued.  

O’Donovan was the only runner physically affected and a minor disturbance rippled through the pack, but O’Donovan was the only one directly taking a blow. 

In addition to O’Donovan, freshman Jimmy Milgie ran the 400-meter portion, senior Sean Dolan dashed in the 800-meters, and junior Liam Murphy anchored in the mile. The quartet posted a school record time of 9:20.44 at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend on Feb. 18.  

With the collision pitting Villanova far behind, the other three runners had a tough time keeping pace with no one around. 

“The other three legs sensed they weren’t even given an opportunity to race after that,” O’Sullivan said. 

The goal was putting O’Donovan in the front to set the pace, have Milgie maintain the pace, and then, Dolan and Murphy would make up some of the track position in the end. 

“I think Jimmy ran well, but there was no one around him,” O’Sullivan said. 

After Milgie, Dolan did his best to improve the pace, but with no athletes to run with, it was tough to keep a solid pace going. Murphy ran his mile almost 20 seconds slower than his fastest time of 3:55.58, running a 4:14 pace due to the lack of energy around him.

“With that [competition] component missing, there’s a certain apathy towards the race itself,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s almost like you are going through the motions.” 

The team was all-in on the distance medley relay event as O’Donovan and Murphy both gave up their spots as individual qualifiers in the mile run to allow the team the best chance at success in the distance medley relay event. 

“To make the NCAAs indoors is probably the hardest of all of them now,” O’Sullivan said of the accomplishments of O’Donovan and Murphy qualifying for the mile run. 

With the Wildcats earning the 11th place finish, they will gather second team All-American recognition. 

Overall, the indoor season built a foundation of success that will transition into the outdoor season that begins next week. 

“I felt a win for us at the Big East was getting second,” O’Sullivan said. 

With Connecticut having much greater depth than Villanova, this was a good result for the team.  

The distance runners helped the team cement the runner-up position at the end of the Big East. 

Championships as multiple teams could have captured second. 

“We’re having a good year from the men’s track and field standpoint,” O’Sullivan said. 

In its history, Villanova has had representation in all the indoor track and field NCAA Championships in the last 58 years.  

Looking ahead to the outdoor season, “the goals now are…Penn Relays in April, and qualifying for Nationals,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re hosting the Big East at home at Villanova, so that’s going to be a highlight for us.” 

The men’s outdoor season will officially begin on Saturday, March 18 as the Wildcats head to Philadelphia for the Penn Challenge.