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 19th year as the Frank J. Kelly Endowed Track & Field Coach in 2016-17. 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 19 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, 103 All-Americans and 203 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 12 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 seven-time USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and a 12-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
The past several years in particular have been an extended period of success. Over a four-year stretch (2012-13 through 2015-16 academic years), the Wildcats amassed 39 All-America honors and 73 BIG EAST champions in addition to adding two more Penn Relays wheels to the program’s unrivaled collection. From a team standpoint, Villanova has won seven BIG EAST team titles in the past three years, beginning with consecutive “Triple Crowns” in 2013-14 and 2014-15 when the team was conference champions in cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field. Last year, the Wildcats continued the momentum by winning their third straight indoor crown.
During the 2015-16 academic year, distance runner Patrick Tiernan became the first men’s runner in BIG EAST history to win three straight conference cross country titles. He also became the third Villanova men’s runner ever to be a three-time cross country All-American. Tiernan swept the 3000 meters and the 5000 meters indoors to help the Wildcats win their third consecutive BIG EAST team title, and he repeated as a first team All-American outdoors in the 5000 meters in the midst of a storybook year which culminated with representing his native Australia at the Summer Olympics in Rio. He was joined there by former Villanova teammate and countryman Sam McEntee as both ran the 5000 meters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Another Australian, Jordy Williamsz, wrapped up his collegiate career in 2016 as a seven-time All-American. He anchored the Wildcats to first team All-America honors indoors in the distance medley relay and garnered All-America recognition outdoors in the 1500 meters for a third straight year.
The across-the-board depth of the Villanova program was on full display at the 2016 conference championships. At the indoor BIG EAST meet, the Wildcats third straight team title included winning two sprint events, three distances races and the 4x800 meter relay. Villanova also won six events outdoors, including sweeping the first three sprint races (100m, 200m, 400m), Tiernan’s third straight title in the 5000 meters and victories in both the 4x400 meter relay and the 4x800 meter relay.
One of the top highlights for the Wildcats in 2014-15 was a top-10 finish in the team standings at the NCAA Championships. Villanova’s seventh place finish at the national meet was its best since 2001, while Tiernan was an All-American on the heels of what was then his second straight BIG EAST title. During the indoor track & field season, the distance medley relay squad finished fifth at the NCAA Championships and Rob Denault was a second-team All-American in the Mile. Williamsz led the way for the Wildcats outdoors with first team All-America honors in the 1500 meters; Tiernan and Denault, respectively, were second team All-Americans in the 5000 meters and the 1500 meters.
O’Sullivan was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA for the 2013 and 2014 cross country seasons, the 2015 outdoor season and the 2015-16 indoor campaign.
The pair of conference Triple Crowns won by Villanova in 2013-14 and 2014-15 were unprecedented in program history and came as a result of dominant team-wide efforts. At each of the four BIG EAST track & field meets during the two-year stretch -- the 2013-14 and 2014-15 indoor and outdoor meets, the Wildcats set meet records for the highest team score in league history. Villanova won seven events at the indoor BIG EAST meet in 2015 and won a program-record eight events at the outdoor meet. Each of the Wildcats last three BIG EAST champion cross country teams (2011, 2013, 2014) have had six runners earn All-BIG EAST honors.
O’Sullivan also guided Villanova to Penn Relays Championship of America titles in both 2014 (4x800 meter relay) and 2015 (4xMile relay). The latter of the two victories featured Williamsz memorably outdueling Oregon anchor Edward Cheserek in the final 200 meters as the Wildcdats won the 4xMile title for the first time since 2001. Additional success at the Penn Relays in 2015 came in the field events, where Elbert Maxwell won the championship section of the long jump.
The 2014 outdoor season culminated with Villanova sending four athletes to the NCAA Championships, the largest contingent the Wildcats had outdoors since 2002. Tiernan and Williamsz were first team All-Americans in the 5000 meters and the 1500 meters, respectively. Earlier in the year, Tiernan had broken the school indoor record in the 5000 meters with a time of 13:37.73. He eclipsed a mark which had stood for more than 30 years, and his performance was the first time since 2002 that a school record in any individual running event had been broken.
Villanova and the Four-Minute Mile
One of the trademarks of Villanova’s incredible history is the program’s number of sub-four minute milers. A group that now includes 39 runners, headlined by O’Sullivan himself, has combined to run 349 sub-four minute miles and another 311 equivalent 1500 meters races. O’Sullivan has coached 14 members of this group, including five in the last five years.
McEntee was the first of the recent additions to the sub-four club when he posted a time of 3:57.86 in the Mile at the Penn State National in January 2012. Later that year he added a 1500 meters time of 3:36.81, which at the time ranked as the 10th fastest mark in NCAA history. 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 mile run by a Villanovan since O’Sullivan ran faster during his own career. Only 12 of the 39 members of the Wildcats sub-four group have recorded a faster time.
The two newest members of the sub-four minute mile group are Dusty Solis and Ben Malone, who each ran sub-four equivalents in the 1500 meters during the 2016 outdoor season. Solis, a 2015 graduate, posted a time of 3:39.32 on May 16, 2016 at the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet. Malone recorded a time of 3:39.82 on June 18, 2016 at a Princeton qualifying meet.
Villanova added two members to its sub-four milers group on the same day in May 2007 when Bobby Curtis and Michael Kerrigan each posted sub-four times in a meet at Swarthmore. Since then, the Wildcats have added to their legacy with Matthew Gibney running a sub-four equivalent 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 metric equivalent time in 1500 meters in 2010.
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 129 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 program’s tradition at the Penn Relays has been a strong one during O’Sullivan’s time as head coach. Most recently, the Wildcats won the 4xMile relay in 2015 and the 4x800 meter relay in 2014. The victory in the 4x800 race was the 11th all-time at the Penn Relays for Villanova, but the team’s first win in the event since 1992. Senior Samuel Ellison anchored the 2014 relay after having run on the Wildcats previous Championship of America title winning relay -- the distance medley relay -- in 2011. Villanova won DMR titles in both 2009 and 2011 with Matthew Gibney running the anchor leg both teams. He 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. Elbert 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 six seasons (2011-16) and nine times in the last 10 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 title in 2002 and continuing most recently in 2016, the Wildcats have tallied a top-eight finish in the distance medley relay eight 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 the DMR squad to a fifth place finish in 2015 and a sixth place finish in 2016.
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 earned a team berth to the national meet in eight straight seasons (2007-14) to set a new program record for consecutive appearances. Villanova garnered four All-America honors during that stretch, including Bobby Curtis (2007), Mathew Mildenhall (2009) and the duo of Sam McEntee (2013) and Patrick Tiernan (2013, 2014). Tiernan qualified for the NCAA meet as an individual in 2015 and notched a runner-up finish to bring home his third straight All-America accolade.
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, including winning 19 events in the last three 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.
Eight different student-athletes have won at least six BIG EAST championships under O’Sullivan, led by Ryan Hayden and Tiernan with 10 conference titles apiece. 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.
O’Sullivan has worked hard to ensure that the Wildcats student-athletes have just as much success in the classroom as they do in athletic competition. That success has been recognized at the highest levels possible, as 2014 graduate Samuel Ellison and 2016 graduate Tom Trainer each earned prestigious Fulbright Scholarships. Ellison used his award to continue his academic studies at the University of Birmingham in England, while Trainer began a postgraduate program in Jamaica in 2016.
Recent standouts Drew Eckman (2006-07), Matthew Gibney (2010-11 and 2011-12) and Rob Denault (2015-16) were each voted Capital One Academic All-Americans. Sam McEntee was selected as the BIG EAST Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for all sports in 2014-15, an honor that was previously bestowed on Eckman in 2006-07. In 2012-13, Alex Tully (cross country) and Ellison (track & field) were each named the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year for their respective sports. Ellison went on to win the award for both indoor and outdoor track & field in 2013-14, McEntee earned the same honor for cross country in 2014-15 and Patrick Tiernan added to the list by winning the 2014-15 honor for outdoor track & field as well as the 2015-16 award in cross country.
Track & field and cross country student-athletes have been named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team a total of 491 times during O’Sullivan’s head coaching career, while six of his student-athletes have been named the Villanova Men’s Senior Student-Athlete of the Year.
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 includes working with former Wildcats student-athletes as they pursue professional careers beyond the collegiate ranks. Recent graduates who have trained under O’Sullivan include Frances Koons and Sheila Reid. Koons won the Olympic Development section of the 5000 meters at the Penn Relays in 2010 and also qualified for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She competed at the USA outdoor meet in 2010 and 2011, in addition to running at the Olympic Trials in 2012. Reid represented her native Canada at the 2012 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. 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 (28) and Christopher (25).