Ellison leads Villanova to first 4x800 title since 1992 and program's 95th title overall
Villanova named Coaching Staff of the Year; team wins title by more than 30 points
Redshirt freshman runs 3:59.39 in Mile at Alex Wilson Invitational
Less than two seconds separate top five teams in Championship of America relay
Incredible race saw top six teams separated by only eight-tenths of a second
For a full bio of Coach O'Sullivan, including awards won by him and the Villanova student-athletes during his tenure, click here.
Marcus O’Sullivan is in his 18th year as the Frank J. Kelly Endowed Track & Field Coach in 2015-16. He is the head coach of the men’s cross country and track & field teams and is also charged with directing the entire program. The track & field program at Villanova is among the most storied in the history of collegiate sports and O’Sullivan is in a unique position as not only a coach to the team’s current student-athletes but also the steward of the program’s incredible history.
No person could be more qualified to fulfill these dual roles as O’Sullivan, whose accomplishments during his own racing career both for the Wildcats and professionally have helped to strengthen the program’s legacy. O’Sullivan was a two-time NCAA champion as an undergraduate at Villanova, was a part of six Penn Relays titles and also captured a total of 10 BIG EAST crowns. He went on to become a four-time Olympian and is one of just three people ever to run more than 100 sub-four minute miles.
In his 18 years as a head coach O’Sullivan has maintained the program in a place of national prominence. Over the years he has coached 15 national champions, 93 All-Americans and 180 BIG EAST champions. He has also guided Villanova to seven Championship of America titles at the Penn Relays. Meanwhile, his teams have won one national championship while posting five top-10 team finishes at national meets, in addition to winning 11 BIG EAST team titles. O’Sullivan was named the Women’s Cross Country National Coach of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) in his first season as head coach (1998). He is also a six-time USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and an 11-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
O’Sullivan is leading a Wildcats team that is in the midst of a steady run of success. Beginning with the 2010-11 academic year and continuing through the end of the 2014-15 campaign, Villanova has received a total of 40 All-America honors, 31 of which have come since the start of the 2012-13 academic year.
The success at the national level continued in 2014-15, as the Wildcats tallied a top-10 team finish at the NCAA Championships in cross country for the first time since 2001. Villanova made its program-record eighth straight NCAA appearance in 2014 and sophomore Patrick Tiernan repeated as an All-American. He was also the BIG EAST individual champion for the second straight year and led the Wildcats to their third team title in the past four seasons. During the indoor track & field season, the distance medley relay squad earned a fifth place finish at the NCAA Championships and junior Rob Denault was a second-team All-American in the Mile. Junior Jordy Williamsz was a first team All-American outdoors in the 1500 meters for the second straight year, while Denault (1500 meters) and Tiernan (5000 meters) were each second team All-Americans. O’Sullivan was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA for the outdoor season.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the accomplishments for Villanova over the past two years are the program’s consecutive BIG EAST “triple crowns.” The Wildcats captured the team titles at the cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field meets in each of the past two years. This is the first time in the program’s 30-plus years in the BIG EAST that the team has swept the three team titles. Each of the last three Villanova champion cross country teams (2011, 2013, 2014) have had six runners earn All-BIG EAST honors. The run of dominance has gone even further during the track seasons. At each of the last four BIG EAST track & field meets -- the 2013-14 indoor and outdoor meets, and the 2014-15 indoor and outdoor meets -- the Wildcats have set meet records for highest team scores. Villanova won seven events at the indoor BIG EAST Championships in 2015 and then set a program record by winning eight events at the outdoor meet.
O’Sullivan has also guided Villanova to Championship of America titles at the Penn Relays in each of the past two years. One of the highlights of the 2015 outdoor season was a memorable 4xMile relay in which Williamsz outdueled Oregon anchor Edward Cheserek in the final 200 meters as the Wildcats won a thrilling Championship of America race. It was the program’s first 4xMile title since 2001 and came on the heels of Villanova winning the 4x800 meter relay title a year earlier. Additional success at the Penn Relays in 2015 came in the field events, where senior Elbert Maxwell won the championship section of the long jump.
The 2013-14 campaign was one of the best in program history. The Wildcats won their second cross country team title in three years at the BIG EAST Championships, while the team also captured the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional title for the first time since 2003. Tiernan, in his first taste of collegiate competition, was the individual winner at both of those events and Villanova earned a team bid to the NCAA Championships for the seventh consecutive season.
The Wildcats won seven different events at the 2014 indoor BIG EAST Championships. With their six titles at the 2015 indoor meet, Villanova has won multiple events at the conference meet in each of the last eight years. The Wildcats have also won back-to-back outdoor BIG EAST titles on their home track while winning a combined 14 events at those two championships.
The 2014 outdoor season culminated with Villanova sending four athletes to the NCAA Championships, the largest contingent the Wildcats have had outdoors since 2002. Tiernan and Williamsz were first team All-Americans in the 5000 meters and the 1500 meters, respectively, with Tiernan running a personal best time of 13:31.25 to become the second-fastest 5000 meters runner in school history. Williamsz also ran consecutive races in the 1500 meters which were the metric equivalent of sub-four minute miles.
Villanova produced three first team All-Americans indoors in 2014 and O’Sullivan was chosen as the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year. Other highlights from the season include Williamsz becoming the 36th runner in school history to run a sub-four minute mile and Tiernan breaking the indoor school record in the 5000 meters. The previous mark had stood for over 30 years and the new mark is the first school record in any individual running event since O’Sullivan coached Adrian Blincoe to the 3000 meters record in 2002.
Villanova and the Four-Minute Mile
One of the trademarks of the Wildcats incredible history is the number of sub-four minute miles run by Villanova athletes. A group that now includes 36 runners, headlined by O’Sullivan himself, has combined to run 348 sub-four minute miles and another 309 equivalent 1500 meters times. O’Sullivan has coached 12 members of this group, including three in recent seasons: Sam McEntee and current Wildcats Rob Denault and Jordy Williamsz. McEntee was the first of those three to achieve the feat when he posted a time of 3:57.86 at the Penn State National in January, 2012. Later that year McEntee added a 1500 meters time of 3:36.81, which at the time ranked as the 10th fastest mark in NCAA history. McEntee is now linked with former Villanova great Sydney Maree, who ran the fastest 1500 meters in collegiate history in 1981. Denault broke the four-minute mark for the first time in March, 2013 at the Alex Wilson Invitational (3:59.39) and Williamsz made his mark with a time of 3:56.84 at the Iowa State Classic in February, 2014. That is the fastest time by a Villanova runner since O’Sullivan ran faster during his own racing career. Only 12 of the 36 members of the Wildcats sub-four group have recorded a faster time.
The trio of McEntee, Denault and Williamsz give the Wildcats seven runners in the last eight years who have broken the sub-four mark. The streak has a definitive starting point, as both Bobby Curtis and Michael Kerrigan ran a sub-four minute mile on the same day at the Swarthmore Last Chance Invitational in May, 2007.
Since then Villanova has added to its legacy with a sub-four equivalent run by Matthew Gibney in the 1500 meters at the NCAA Championships in 2009; Gibney later went on to post a mile time of 3:58.12 at the Flotrack Husky Classic in February, 2011. He was joined on the sub-four list by Carl Mackenzie, who ran a 1500 meters equivalent in 2010, as well as by McEntee in 2012, Denault in 2013 and Williamsz in 2014.
Penn Relays Tradition
Any mention of Villanova track & field quickly invokes the unmatched success that the Wildcats program has had at the Penn Relays. Between the men’s and women’s teams Villanova has won 133 Championship of America titles in the history of the world-famous meet, dating back to the program’s first two relay titles back in 1955.
The Wildcats tradition at the Penn Relays has been a strong one under O’Sullivan’s watch, with Villanova most recently winning the Championship of America 4xMile relay in 2015, after capturing the 4x800 relay title in 2014. The latter race was the 11th title in the 4x800 relay for the Wildcats but the first since 1992. Samuel Ellison anchored that relay after having run on the Wildcats previous Penn Relays champion relay as a freshman. Villanova won the distance medley relay in both 2009 and 2011, with Matthew Gibney running the anchor leg both times. Gibney was selected as the Men’s Athlete of the Meet for the relay events in 2009.
O’Sullivan has coached seven Championship of America relay winners and nine champions overall. In his second year as head coach, the women’s team won the 4x1500 meter relay in 2000 and Mike Brown won an individual championship in the 400 meter hurdles. One year later the men’s team won titles in both the distance medley relay and the 4xMile relay. Maxwell won the championship section of the long jump in 2015.
National and BIG EAST Championships
Villanova has had a first team All-American at the outdoor NCAA Championships in each of the past five seasons and eight times in the last nine years overall. Within this stretch Bobby Curtis won the 5000 meters national title in 2008, becoming the Wildcats first outdoor champion in any event since 1981 and only the second person in school history to win the 5000 meters outdoors.
Two-time Olympian Adrian Blincoe helped lead Villanova to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in both 2002 and 2003. In 2002 he was the individual national champion in the 3000 meters and anchored the Wildcats to a national title in the distance medley relay. Blincoe was preceded in the championship relay by Mike Brown, Jason Jabaut and Ryan Hayden. One year later Blincoe and Hayden, along with Nic O’Brien and Paul Moser, led Villanova to a repeat national championship in the DMR.
Beginning with the national championship in 2002 and continuing most recently in 2015, the Wildcats have tallied a top-eight finish in the distance medley relay seven times at the NCAA Championships. In 2013 the quartet of Jordy Williamsz, Samuel Ellison, Chris FitzSimons and Sam McEntee raced to a fifth place finish at the national meet. Williamsz anchored a 2015 squad that also included Dusty Solis, Donald Urschel and Elliot Slade to another fifth place showing.
Ellison was a five-time indoor All-American and earned first team honors in 2014 with a sixth place finish in the 800 meters. He was one of three first team All-Americans for the Wildcats during the 2013-14 indoor season, as Patrick Tiernan came in seventh in the 5000 meters and Jordy Williamsz placed eighth in the mile. Williamsz and Tiernan were also first team All-Americans outdoors in the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters, respectively, while Ellison and Elbert Maxwell earned honorable mention All-America honors in the 800 meters and the long jump.
O’Sullivan has also led his Villanova teams to a great deal of success in cross country, including consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships in 2000 (6th) and 2001 (8th), as well as a seventh place finish in 2014. The Wildcats have earned a team berth to the national meet in each of the last eight seasons, a new program record for consecutive appearances. During this stretch Villanova has produced four All-Americans, including Bobby Curtis (2007), Mathew Mildenhall (2009) and the duo of Sam McEntee (2013) and Patrick Tiernan (2013, 2014).
During the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons the Wildcats have been dominant at the BIG EAST Championships. Villanova has won at least one event at the indoor conference meet each year dating back to 2001 and the team has won 13 events in the last two years alone.
Williamsz anchored the Wildcats to a conference title in the distance medley relay in 2013 and led a Villanova lineup that also included O’Sullivan, Donald Urschel and Alex Tully in the first three legs of the race. Villanova also had individual champions in the 800 meters (FitzSimons), the Mile (Denault) and the 3000 meters (McEntee) last year.
Four different student-athletes have won at least six BIG EAST championships under O’Sullivan, led by Ryan Hayden with 10 conference titles. Hayden was a four-time BIG EAST champion in the 4x800 meter relay and was the anchor of three of those four winners. He also anchored the Wildcats to a pair of DMR titles and won individual championships in the 800 meters, the 1000 meters and the Mile. Adrian Blincoe and Elvis Lewis each won seven BIG EAST titles during their Villanova careers and Bobby Curtis was a six-time conference champion.
During his time as the Wildcats head coach O’Sullivan has ensured that his student-athletes have just as much success in the classroom as they do in athletic competition. Former standouts Matthew Gibney and Drew Eckman were each voted Capital One Academic All-Americans under O’Sullivan’s watch and 2014 graduate Samuel Ellison received a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to continue his academic studies overseas at the University of Birmingham in England. Sam McEntee was selected as the BIG EAST Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for all sports in 2014-15. Men’s track & field student-athletes have also been named the Villanova Senior Student-Athlete of the Year six times and have been named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team a total of 453 times.
Coaching Villanova Alumni
In addition to continuing Villanova’s already strong track & field tradition, O’Sullivan has worked hard to strengthen the program’s relationship with a large alumni base. A part of that commitment by O’Sullivan includes working with former Wildcat student-athletes outside of the collegiate ranks as they pursue professional careers. O’Sullivan currently coaches former Villanova standout Frances Koons, who has excelled in the international ranks since finishing her collegiate career and also was a member of the Wildcats coaching staff for two years. Koons won the Olympic Development section of the 5000 meters at the Penn Relays in 2010 and qualified for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She competed at the national outdoor meet in 2010 and 2011, in addition to running at the 2012 Olympic Trials. O’Sullivan also coached 2012 graduate Sheila Reid, who represented her native Canada at the London Olympics just two months after finishing her Wildcats career.
O’Sullivan previously coached Carmen Douma-Hussar, Marina Muncan and Adrian Blincoe following their collegiate careers for the Wildcats. Muncan joined Reid as a first time Olympian in 2012 and competed for Serbia. She previously was a finalist at the World Student Games in 2007. Blincoe became the 30th member of the men’s program at Villanova to compete in the Olympics when he represented his native New Zealand by competing in the 5000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Douma-Hussar won a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in the 1500 meters in 2004 and was a finalist in the event at both the 2004 Olympics and the 2005 Outdoor World Championships. O’Sullivan also coached former American record holder Bob Kennedy to a personal best in the 10000 meters.
During his own racing career O’Sullivan competed in the Olympics in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996. He is also a three-time indoor world champion in the 1500 meters and the 4xMile relay. O’Sullivan’s professional career spanned more than 15 years and includes medals at the Goodwill Games, the European Championships, the World Championships and the U.S. Championships. O’Sullivan has the distinction of being one of only three men to run more than 100 sub-four minute miles.
As a Villanova student-athlete O’Sullivan is one of the most decorated runners in the history of the Wildcats program. He ran the thid leg of a national champion distance medley relay in 1981 and was the anchor of the 1983 two-mile relay squad that also won a national title.
O’Sullivan also won six Penn Relays titles and was a 10-time BIG EAST champion, which is tied for the third most conference titles in school history. He won championships at the Penn Relays in the 4x1500 meter relay three times during his career (1981, 1982, 1984) and was also a two-time champion in the 4x800 meter relay (1982, 1984) in addition to winning a DMR title in 1981.
In BIG EAST competition, O’Sullivan won individual titles in the indoor 1500 meters three times and the outdoor 5000 meters once. He also helped the team win two relay titles each in the DMR, two-mile relay and 4x800 meter relay. Villanova made three appearances in the NCAA Championships for cross country during O’Sullivan’s undergraduate career. O’Sullivan was honored for his career accomplishments in 2004 when he was inducted onto the Wall of Fame in Villanova Stadium.
A native of Ireland, O’Sullivan’ came to Villanova as part of the “Irish Pipeline” that started at the university in the 1950’s. Since then, O’Sullivan is one of more than 30 talented athletes from Ireland that have come to Villanova, a group which includes a number of world-renowned and accomplished athletes.
O’Sullivan holds an undergraduate degree in Accounting from Villanova and received his MBA from the university in 1989. After passing the CPA exam he served as a part-time faculty member for the Villanova marketing department in 1992-93.
O’Sullivan is married to the former Mary Spinks, who earned a Nursing degree from Villanova in 1985. The couple has two children, Laura (27) and Christopher (24).