The Villanova men’s cross country team won the Big East title for the seventh time in program history, with a six-point advantage. The 8,000-meter race was close throughout, but the Wildcats were able to pull ahead of Georgetown on the Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Wildcats brought the Hoyas three-year reign to an end.
Senior Nathan Rodriguez led the charge, finishing second overall with a time of 25:38.7 and earning an All-Big East first-team honor.
“Nathan had a great race today. He ran smart with the conditions being the way they were,” coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “He has had a strong season so far, and we are expecting more success in the following weeks.”
The conditions were horrible at best. The course got several inches of rain leading up to the race. The mudslinging and sliding to commence as soon as the gun went off.
Close behind were seniors, Andrew Marston and Casey Comber, who finished third and sixth. Marston clocked in at 25:42.1 and Comber at 25:47.3. Redshirt freshman Haftu Strintzos finished eighth (25:51.8). Marston, Comber and Strintzos also all earned a first-team All-Big East title for finishing in the top 10. This is the fourth year in a row Marston and Comber won the first-team honor.
Sophomore Josh Philips, finished 18th with 26:29.6 and received second-team All-Big East. Phillips was the final scoring runner for Villanova and helped to solidify the win against Georgetown.
In the second pack, Martin Barr and Rob Morro finished side by side in 21st and 22nd at 26:40.6 and 26:40.7, respectively. Following behind them was another pack of Wildcats: Redshirt freshman Patrick Spychalski at 26:46.9 in 24th, junior Nick Steele at 26:48.5 in 25th and Charlie O’Donovan at 26:50.2 in 26th.
Not only did the team win the Big East title but coaching staff headed by Marcus O’Sullivan received the Big East Coaching Staff of the Year.
“I am proud of them, they are a great bunch of guys,” O’Sullivan said. “They are mature, jubilant, and upbeat, the personality of the team as a whole fosters a good team environment. Considering the number of injuries and sicknesses the team has faced this is the first time the team has been able to fully come together. This was a great performance for us to look at and see how far we have come. It also helps to show us how to build the training leading up to regionals.”
NCAA regionals and nationals will no longer be 8,000 meters, but rather 10,000 meters, which will add a new layer to the teams’ mental and physical training.
As the team looks forward, O’Sullivan understands that there is more that needs to be done.
“We have more work to do,” O’Sullivan said. We need a strong race from the top 5 runners and the final two to protect those top 5. It is hard not to think about these as a race of the fifth runner.”
When it comes to larger meets, such as regionals, the athlete who is the final scorer for the team, the fifth runner, will typically make or break the overall standing of the team.
NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals will take place Nov. 15 in Bethlehem, Pa. NCAA Nationals will take place later in the month, with the top two teams at regionals earning automatic bids.