If the Main Line Invitational was any indication of how the women’s cross country team will perform this season, more success is on the way for the winningest team in collegiate women’s cross country history.
Villanova had eight runners in the top 10 and a 16th place finish in the race at Haverford College on Friday evening. All nine runners who competed for the Wildcats finished under 18:20 in the three mile race, the shortest race distance of the season. The team topped a field of six teams competing in the race.
Sophomore Lydia Olivere led the charge with a time of 16:22, followed by freshman Maggie Smith and senior Ann Campbell to round out the top three.
Olivere, Campbell and returning sophomore Reilly Seibert, who finished in sixth place, form the trio of All-Big East performers from last season.
Olivere broke out from the pack for the last mile to finish with a strong 10-second margin over second-place finisher Smith. This is her first collegiate cross country individual title.
“Today was the first day to put on the uniform, get the real feel for a race. It was the first time running as a team, getting the race effort in,” Olivere said.
Her strong finish is a glimpse into how she will perform in later races this season. Olivere described her final push, “I was trying to mimic the bigger races of the season. At the end is when you really have to make it count.”
Head Coach Gina Procaccio described the first race of the season as a “rust-buster. You just want to see them going in there a little tired and see how they perform,” she said. “I was really impressed.
Even the 800 meter runners, McKenna Keegan and Amari Onque-Shabazz, who finished in ninth and 16th place respectively, participated in the race as a workout.
Procaccio said of her decision to race nine members of the team, “it’s good to get a hard workout in before the real races start in two weeks.”
The very young Villanova team welcomes five freshman this season, but leadership will not be a problem for Procaccio’s squad.
“Lydia’s a born leader and she’s stepped into that role this year,” Procaccio said.“They’re having fun, they have great attitudes and we’re excited to see where the season goes,”
The Wildcats will run at the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University on Oct. 5 and the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 18 before the Big East Championships begin on Nov. 2.
This past Friday, the men’s cross country team competed in their first race of the 2019 season, the Main Line Invitational at Haverford College. The Wildcats had five runners who competed on the four-mile Alumni Course and four unattached athletes. Finishers are as follows: Mathias Powell-Unattached (20:08.8), Dylan Tarpey-Unattached (20:11.8), Patrick Craemer (20:26.6), Sean Dolan-Unattached (20:33.5), Ben Seiple (20:38.7), Miller Anderson-Unattached (20:39.1), Nicholas Ackerman (21:25.3), Trevor Potts (21:43.6) and Jacob Bonanotte (21:50.9). The Wildcats came out with an impressive group led by redshirt freshman Patrick Craemer.
For Craemer, Seiple, Ackerman and Potts, this is the first time they were able to wear the Villanova singlets. Through the first lap, the four redshirt freshmen stayed together in the front group of about 15 runners. By the second and third laps, the group began to string out as three Penn runners picked up the pace, but Craemer held on to the back of the pack to finish in 10th.
“What you want to look for is progress, and there was a lot of progress seen here today,”Marcus O’Sullivan, head coach for the men’s cross country team, said. “Only a small portion of the team was represented at this introductory race and many of the athletes were underclassman.
After some sickness during the summer, fifth-year Casey Comber, as well as redshirt freshman Haftu Strintzos, are making strides to get back into racing shape.
“We just have to be cautious when our athletes get sick because we are looking at the year as a whole, not just the next race,”O’Sullivan said.
Next week, the team will attend the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Oregon, with teams such as BYU, Oregon, UCLA and Portland. Coach O’Sullivan mentioned that “a big part of the team is going out to Oregon next week. We are looking for more progress, so we can bring the whole team back together in a couple of weeks, maybe even a month.”