Cross Country Faces Elite Competition


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Cross Country Faces Elite Competition

Madison Burke

In its most competitive race of the season, the women’s cross country team showed promising potential, finishing 22nd overall in a field of 36 teams at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Friday afternoon. 

Freshman Maggie Smith, sophomore Lydia Olivere and senior Ann Campbell all finished within the top 75 of 243 runners. Smith, who placed 35th overall with a time of 20:36.6, was the top finisher for the ‘Cats for the second race in a row. Olivere, running in her first meet since the Main Line Invitational, finished in 63rd place with a time of 20:57.0. Right behind her was Campbell, in 72nd place, with a time of 21:05.8. 

Despite falling behind Big East rival Georgetown by 43 points, all three frontrunners for the Cats finished before the top two Georgetown runners, which is a promising sign with the Big East Championships approaching. 

Villanova finished 55 points ahead of Providence, the other Big East competition. Among the 36 teams competing in the Invitational, 20 were nationally ranked, according to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association top 30 poll.

Freshmen Nikki Merrill, Brynne Sumner and Anna Helwig rounded out the rest of team’s finishers. Merrill and Sumner came in 198th and 204th place, respectively, finishing within six seconds of one another. Helwig, a Denmark native, made her team debut with a time of 22:27.7. 

The Nuttycombe Invitational was the final race of the regular season. Next up for the Cats is the Big East Championship in Wisconsin on Nov. 2. 

Progress, progress, progress, is all that head Coach Marcus O’Sullivan has been looking for from his team this season. Saturday, in Indiana, the men’s cross country team achieved just that.

The Wildcats finished eighth out of 38 highly ranking teams during the Pre-National Invitational at the Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Sophomore Josh Phillips led the way, finishing 28th out of the 257 athletes. He finished with a time of 24:06.9 which is a personal record. Fifth-year Nathan Rodriguez finished 34th overall at 24:15.5, 10 seconds off his personal record. 

Redshirt freshman Haftu Strintzos closed the front pack, finishing 39th overall in 24:20.9.

Phillips, Rodriguez and Strintzos stayed close together through both the 3k and 5k splits.

“They rallied behind the more experienced Rodriguez,” O’Sullivan said. “Overall, they ran as a pack which is how they were able to run so well.”

Juniors Martin Barr and Nick Steele finished in 24:48.2 and 25:22.0 locking in Villanova’s 297 team points and landing it in eighth place.

In his introductory collegiate 8k, redshirt freshman Jack Fredian finished the race in 24:53.7, earning his 6th place position on the team. Sophomore Charlie O’Donovan finished crossed the line at 25:44.2, capping off the Wildcats performance in Indiana. 

O’Donovan had to spend a few hours in the medical tent after collapsing at the finish line. 

“After getting some oxygen and some time to recover, he is doing much better,” O’Sullivan explained.

In the men’s open 8k race, redshirt freshman Patrick Spychalski finished 11th overall with a time of 25:15.4. He lost one of his shoes during the race and received media attention from @Flotrack on Instagram. 

Junior Rob Morro finished in 15th (25:31.0), followed by redshirt freshman Ben Seiple with a time of 26:16.8, who both also competed in the open race. 

“It’s been a frustrating year trying to piece together the whole team.” O’Sullivan continued. “However, we are looking towards the next few weeks. Big East is coming up and that is when the season really begins.”

Terre Haute, Indiana will be the same location and course for NCAA Championships on Nov. 23. There are high hopes that the Wildcats will be able to see this course again for the National Championship. If the team continues to make improvements, this feat could be achieved.

Big East Championships will take place on Nov. 2 in Wisconsin.