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Men’s XC Qualifies for NCAA Championships, Women’s XC Fifth at Regionals

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
The Wildcats placed second at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional.

Villanova’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams headed to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the 2023 NCAA Mid-Atlantic regionals this past Friday.

The men placed second overall out of 26 schools competing with 73 points. Only Princeton outperformed them, claiming the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional championship with 41 points.

The second-place finish secured an automatic bid for the men to the NCAA championship on Nov. 18 in Virginia. The top two teams from each region get automatic bids to the championship.

The women placed fifth out of 27 schools. Though the Wildcats totalled 128 points, they were not enough to secure a team bid to nationals. However, juniors Sadie Sigfstead and Emma McGill qualified for nationals with two great performances.

On the men’s team, senior Liam Murphy led the field consistently for the 10-kilometer course. Murphy stayed in front to claim the individual championship with a 29:05.5 time. The performance was a personal best for Murphy.

Right behind Murphy was fifth-year Haftu Strintzos. He also kept a consistent effort throughout the course. Strintzos finished second with a time of 29:14.7.

The other four men’s runners were separated from Murphy and Strintzos. The trio of fifth-year Ryan Kredell (21st-30:06.5), sixth-year Henry Myers (24th-30:09.7) and junior Devon Comber (25th-30:16.9) all finished within 10 seconds of each other. The final runner was sophomore Jack Tavagilone (38th-30:48.0).

This was not a normal squad for Villanova. Two of its top five runners, sophomore Marco Langon and sixth-year Xian Shively, were out due to illness and injury. Myers and Comber stepped in to fill the absences. Head coach Marcus O’Sullivan was very satisfied with what the team accomplished, being down two of its top five.

“We went out with eight. One was injured. One was sick. And they were both a part of our top five,” O’Sullivan said. “All of a sudden, the burden of the race was on [Myers and Comber]. That is why I am so excited for them.”

All five of Villanova’s scorers placed in the top-25 overall to earn Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors. 

The women showed elite levels of running across the board. As noted, they did not get a team bid for nationals, but two ‘Cats earned individual spots for nationals. 

Sigfstead has broken personal bests all season and did so again at regionals. She demolished the six-and-a-half kilometer course, recording a personal best of 19:35.5. She was crowned the individual champion of the Mid-Atlantic Region. 

Her time also goes into the school record book, only behind two-time national champion Sheila Reid. As she came down the final straightaway, the crowd was so loud she did not know Georgetown’s Melissa Riggins was closing in on her. Coach Gina Procaccio said she could not even hear her coming.

“[Sigfstead] had a decent lead coming in,” Procaccio said. “It was so loud, and she did not know the girl was coming.”

Fortunately for Sigfstead, her lead into the straightaway was enough to cross the finish first.

McGill also qualified for nationals with a fourth-place finish in 19:49.2. McGill’s strong push in the final 2000 meters of the race allowed her to pass three runners to claim the fourth-place finish.

“[McGill] has been pretty consistent all season. She has been the solid number two,” Procaccio said. “This is really [McGill’s] first full season and she got herself to nationals.”

With their sub-20-minute times, Sigfstead and McGill became the ninth and 10th runners in school history to break 20 minutes in a six-kilometer cross-country race.

Closing off the top-25 in the race was junior Emily Robinson. She finished the course in 20:45.7, passing two runners in the final stretch to claim 25th place. Sigfstead, McGill and Robinson earned Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors by placing in the top 25 individually.

“[Robinson] becoming All-Region was huge,” Procaccio said. “She had a very solid consistent season all year.”

Villanova was rounded out by four other strong runners. Freshman Tilly O’Connor (34th-20:52.5), junior Margaret Carroll (66th-21:24.8), senior Elizabeth Vaughn (77th-21:31.5) and sophomore Kinsey Pogue (85th-21:38.9) accounted for the rest of the team’s scorers.

While the cross-country season is over for the team as a whole, all of the women will be returning for next season with more experience under their belt.

The men’s team as a whole will prepare for nationals with a short turnaround. As for the women, Sigfstead and McGill will prepare individually to compete in nationals. Nationals will take place on Nov. 18 in Earlysville, Virginia.

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