Track and Field continues its national dominance

Rachel Bleier

Villanova University has a storied history of excellence, both academic and athletic. However, when most students think of athletic excellence at ‘Nova, their minds jump right to men’s basketball and the beloved (and well dressed) Jay Wright. 

Unfortunately, what students fail to realize is that there is another extremely successful and dominant team that produces some of the best athletes the University has seen. 

“I’ve always known the track team has been historically excellent. Coach Marcus O’Sullivan has forged a dynasty of that program and no one notices,” said senior political science and history double major Patrick Ciapciak. 

Villanova’s world-renowned track and field program is the epitome of success. The men’s team features athletes from Ireland, Finland, the United Kingdom and Australia, while the women’s team boasts athletes from Jamaica and Canada. Athletes also come from all across America to be a part of the University’s Track and Field teams. 

Because of its reputation, the program attracts the best. As a result, the Track and Field program has produced 33 of the 40 Olympians to hail from Villanova and attracts athletes from every corner of the globe.

“A Villanova track alumni has competed in every summer Olympic Games since 1948,” said senior Rob Denault. “This program’s history has helped foster an atmosphere where its student athletes continually strive for excellence.”

On the Women’s side, athletes such as Vicky Huber, Sonia O’Sullivan and Sheila Reid have represented the United States, Ireland and Canada, respectively, in the Olympics. 

Huber (Class of ’89) won eight NCAA championships and qualified for the 1988 and 1996 Olympics. Taking the lead with 800 meters left, Huber failed to capitalize on this lead and placed sixth in the Women’s 3000M in Seoul. 

After having a daughter in 1995, Huber began training again and qualified for the 1996 US Olympic team in the 1500M. Despite not winning a medal, Huber’s accomplished career is just one example of the incredible talent that Villanova Track and Field breeds. 

Similarly, Sonia O’Sullivan had an amazingly successful career at Villanova. She was a 5-time NCAA individual National Champion and won two NCAA cross-country titles in 1991 and 1992. On top of this, O’Sullivan won Penn Relays six times and was a ten-time Big East champion. 

Naturally, O’Sullivan’s illustrious college career leant itself to the world stage as well, where she qualified for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and would set world records in the 2000M and 5000M.

The most recent success to come out of the Villanova Women’s track and field program, however, is Sheila Reid (Class of 2012). 

Reid is one of Canada’s best middle and long distance runners and represented her country in the 2012 Olympics in Beijing. 

As a Wildcat, Reid won the 2010 and 2011 Women’s Cross Country Championship and was the first female athlete to win both the 1500M and the 5000M at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Reid tallied five individual NCAA titles in her four years as a Wildcat, placing her among the best athletes in the University’s history.

While Villanova boasts incredible female track and field athletes, the men are not to be forgotten. 

Head Coach Marcus O’Sullivan is one of the most decorated runners in University history, winning six Penn Relays and being a 10 time Big East Champion. O’Sullivan is also a four-time Olympian, having comepeted in the 1984, ’88, ’92 and ’96 Olympic games. O’Sullivan also has the distinction on the world track and field stage of being one of only three men to run 100 sub-four minute miles.

With an incredibly gifted and experienced Track and Field star at the helm of Villanova’s program, it is no wonder the team continues to be consistently successful.

“The Villanova track program has had tremendous success throughout its history largely due to the commitment of its coaching staff,” Denault said. “With Marcus O’Sullivan and [Gina] Procaccio heading the program today, they bring same commitment to excellence as their predecessors.”

This past weekend, four Villanova runners reached the podium in their respective events at the Penn State National. 

Senior Angel Piccirillo and sophomore Siofra Cleirigh Buttner each won their events in the highly competitive invitational section of the event. Piccirillo won the invitational section of the 3000M and Cleirigh Buttner was first in the invitational section of the 500M. 

Jordy Williamz and Rob Denault became the 10th and 11th runners in University history to post sub-eight minute times in the 3000 meters when they finished first and second, respectively. 

With such a strong start to the indoor season, it would be no surprise to find the Wildcats hanging yet another Big East title banner in the football stadium later this year.