‘Nova Takes the 4 by Mile Championship at Penn Relays


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

The men’s 4 by mile team ran a 16:14.08 at the Penn Relays.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

The Villanova men’s track and field team ended the Penn Relays with a finish to remember.

Junior Liam Murphy closed from ninth place to first place during his anchor run to help the team claim the 4-by-mile Championship of America with a time of 16:14.08 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on a wet Saturday afternoon.

The other three runners who preceded Murphy in the team effort were sophomore Sean Donoghue, who ran a 4:01.24, graduate student Charlie O’Donovan, who clocked in at 4:01.80 and senior Sean Dolan, who had a time of 4:00.80.

The fashion in which the team won and the stage in which it accomplished it made the victory special.

“This will never get old,” Dolan said via Villanova Athletics. “This is my favorite meet, and it is the best track meet in the world in my opinion. Nothing beats Franklin Field this weekend. It is a big deal for us, and to bring home a wheel where it belongs is a huge honor.”

Murphy avenged the distance medley race in which the Wisconsin runner overtook him in the last 100 meters of the anchor leg.

It was a lesson learned for Murphy, as he timed his move correctly to have the extra boost needed to cross the finish line first. The finish was one for the photographers as six teams crossed the line within two-thirds of a second of each other. 

“They said to wait as long as you can,” Murphy said via Villanova Athletics. “If you’re the last one to go it will pay off. That is what I did, and I had a little left compared to yesterday.”

Head coach Marcus O’Sullivan praised Murphy for his hard work in the last 12 months and his ability to learn from the narrow loss in the distance medley the day prior.

“I’m amazed at how much he pulled back for the last 50, 60 meters of the race, you know, it’s just incredible,” O’Sullivan said. “It was so exciting.”

Graduate student Josh Phillips won the 5000-meter event on Thursday night to tally ‘Nova’s first individual Penn Relays distance championship since 1964.

Phillips ran to a time of 13:45.85 to earn the title. This time puts him 25th in the East Region standings after the race on Thursday. This was also the fifth-fastest time in the Big East this season.

“For him to do something on his own merits in the distance evening from Penn is terrific, and I’m very happy for him,” O’Sullivan said.

Graduate student Haftu Strintzos placed runner-up in the same event with a season best time of 13:47.54. This time was over six seconds faster than what he posted less than two weeks ago at Princeton. 

Strintzos already ranks 10th in the East Region in the 10k. With this time, he moved up to 32nd in the 5000-meter standings for the East Region.

“That was [the] best looking Haftu I’ve seen in a while, since cross country,” O’Sullivan said. “That was a good moment for him to be right there.”

The distance medley relay team put its school record breaking performance to the test on Friday against the best the country has to offer, and it came up one spot short.

Villanova came in second with a time of 9:34.83 with the same lineup that broke the record with O’Donovan, freshman Jimmy Milgie, Dolan and Murphy.

Villanova and challengers Wisconsin and Virginia were all poised to win with the mile anchor run to conclude the race. Murphy posted a time of 4:03.65 and with 200 meters to go, he made his attempt to close out the race. He was passed out by the Wisconsin runner and finished second.

“With 200 meters to go there were guys on the outside and I didn’t want to get boxed in, so I felt like I had no choice but to make that move,” Murphy said. 

Graduate student triple jumper Malik Cunningham garnered a silver medal with a mark of 16.08 meters, which is the third longest mark of his collegiate career. This performance moved him up to ninth in the East Region standings.

“He’s been knocking on the door on the 16 meters all spring,” O’Sullivan said. “It was good to see him do well.”

Last week, O’Sullivan said that graduate student Ryan Cutter needed a stronger time at this meet to put himself in a better position to qualify for the East Region. Cutter placed third in the 10,000 with a time of 29:02.11. This shaved over seven seconds off the time he made at the Raleigh Relay, and moved him comfortably into the East Region at 35th.

“He came back really strong, and I think that should get him really close,” O’Sullivan said about Cutter’s chances of getting into the East Region.

The Villanova men now have 120 titles overall in the Penn Relays, including eight Championship of America titles under O’Sullivan, which are the DMR, 4-by-800 and the 4-by-mile.

Up next for Villanova is the Big East Championships, which it will host in two weeks at Villanova Stadium. 

The expectations are the same for the ‘Cats as they were indoors. Connecticut simply possesses too much depth for the other Big East schools to compete.

A second-place finish is the aim for ‘Nova, as O’Sullivan said that would be a “great outcome.”