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Villanova Shatters NCAA 4xMile Record at Historic Penn Relays

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
Villanova men’s track and field had a historic 2024 Penn Relays performance. Senior Liam Murphy, junior Sean Donoghue, sixth-year Charlie O’Donovan and sophomore Marco Langon broke the NCAA record in the 4xMile Championship and ran the second-fasted time in world history.

Nothing goes together better than Villanova and the Penn Relays. After taking the 4xMile Championship in the 2023 Penn Relays, Villanova was even better from April 25-27.

The men’s relay team captured its second-straight 4xMile championship of America with the second-fastest time in world history. The Villanova men also won their 26th title in the distance medley relay, marking back-to-back distance medley relay wins.

“The Penn Relays are so big for the alumni and the team,” head coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “It’s like our home meet, even though it’s hosted by Penn. It’s a big deal and a lot of pressure. The guys on the team understand. There is no such thing as second or third. It’s win or lose.”

The cornerstone of both teams was senior Liam Murphy. Just two years ago, Murphy was on the other end of success.

“There was a sit down convo with [Murphy] two years ago,” O’Sullivan said. “I felt like he wasn’t using his talent to its full potential. Young athletes either respond or don’t respond. And he responded.”

Murphy’s efforts over the last two years set him up for his continued success.

“I stood with [Murphy’s] parents at the Starbucks on 34th and Walnut,” O’Sullivan said. “They said they stood here two years ago, and it was a low point.”

There had never been a 4xMile race at the Penn Relays that finished in under 16 minutes, which is the equivalent of every runner on the relay running a sub-four minute mile.

The 4xMile team was made up of Murphy, along with junior Sean Donoghue, sixth-year Charlie O’Donovan and sophomore Marco Langon. The four now own the second-fastest time in world history at 15:51.91. It is the Wildcats’ second Championship of America in the 4xMile.

The 4xMile relay time came within less than three seconds of the world standard while shattering the collegiate, Penn Relays and Franklin Field records. O’Sullivan was part of the world record team in the 4xMile relay on August 17, 1985 in Ireland.

The last 250 meters was the deciding factor in the race. Virginia anchor Gary Martin held the lead at the start of the final lap and on the back straight away with Murphy and Georgetown anchor Abel Teffra behind Martin.

Murphy closed in on Martin on the last turn with Teffra following. The trio went three wide coming into the final straightaway. The straightaway proved to be the last bit of momentum Murphy needed, as he passed Martin with 50 meters left and was gaining steam all the way to the line. Villanova won with the No. 2 time in world history at 15:51.91, followed by Virginia in 15:52.30 and Georgetown in 15:52.56.

“I feel like there was so much to lose for Liam, that he didn’t want to lose,” O’Sullivan said. “He would rather be in pain than face a loss.”

Murphy was named the College Men’s Athlete of the Meet after his two winning anchor legs. He has now anchored three career men’s Championship of America winners.

Three of the four runners on this year’s 4xMile squad – Donoghue, O’Donovan and Murphy – ran the same legs for last year’s Penn Relays championship team. Langon was the newcomer and helped the Wildcats win a title in his first-ever Championship of America relay race.

Donoghue led off the race in 3:59.32 and gave the baton to O’Donovan at the first exchange. 

O’Donovan recorded a split of 4:00.09 on a just-slightly slower second leg and Villanova was in the lead when Langon got the stick for his debut. Langon hit a split of 3:58.18. It was all left in Murphy’s legs to decide Villanova’s fate.

Murphy split 3:54.32 in the anchor mile to secure the win. It was the fastest mile split in school history.

In the distance medley relay, Murphy guided Villanova to its first distance medley win since 2018.

The winning team consisted of fifth-year Sean Dolan, sophomore Luke Rakowitz, freshman Dan Watcke and Murphy. Both Villanova and Georgetown were neck-and-neck until Murphy delivered the title with a winning time of 9:35.90.

Dolan led off with a split of 3:00.67 on the 1200 meter leg. Rakowitz ran 47.67 for 400 meters and Watcke closed strong with an 800 meter split of 1:48.34. Murphy crossed the finish with a 3:59.63 anchor leg.

“I have never said so little to a team,” O’Sullivan said to Villanova Athletics. “I confidently felt we could get it done, but I’ve also seen us not get it done. You know nothing is going to be handed to you. It was one of those races that could have gone either way.”

Junior Devon Comber came in second in the 1500 meter in 3:43.25. 

For the women, sophomore Myonica Jackson, junior Alex Stasichin, sophomore Micah Trusty and fifth-year Madison Martinez raced to a first-place finish in the Eastern Final of the 4×4 with a time of 11:03.72. 

Fifth-year Adria Retter unleashed the second-longest throw of her career. Retter’s final throw was 51.43 meters. The throw was just three centimeters off her lifetime best mark, which won her a Division III national championship while competing at Swarthmore last season.

Senior Roschell Clayton cleared the bar on her final attempt at a height of 1.83 meters and won the collegiate women’s high jump championship.

Trusty posted an 800 meter split below 2:04. She officially had a split of 2:03.66 for her leg of the distance medley relay. The Wildcats finished the race in 11:03.72 and in first place.

Fifth year Madison Martinez led off the race with a split of 3:24.30 over 1200 meters, followed by first year Olivia Allen who ran 55.05 on the 400 meter leg. Trusty hit a 2:03.66 800 meter split. Junior Emma McGill anchored the race with a split of 4:40.76 for the final 1600 meters.

The Wildcats will be back in action on May 9, 10 and 11 as Villanova hosts the Big East Championships.

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