UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.--Junior sprinter Harry Purcell (Dublin, Ireland) showed strong form for early in the season in winning the 600 meters and Villanova tallied several strong performances during the Nittany Lion Challenge held at Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track on Saturday afternoon. Athletes from the Wildcats competed in eight individual running events, one relay and four field events in the team’s first meet of the new calendar year.
Purcell won the 600 meters with a time of 1:17.85 and finished half a second ahead of Kenneth Rowe of Georgetown and the rest of the field of 20 competitors. He held off Rowe at the finish line in the first and fastest heat, while TJ Bleichner of Maryland was third in the heat in 1:20.64. The time posted by Purcell is just over a second faster than the mark of 1:18.86 he recorded at the same meet last season.
Although the 600 meters has been run relatively infrequently by Villanova runners over the years, Purcell’s time of 1:17.85 is the second-fastest on the Wildcats all-time performance list. The school record of 1:12.5 was set by Tony Valentine more than 30 years ago (December 7, 1985). Freshman Brian Faust (Stone Mountain, Ga.) came in sixth overall on Saturday with a time of 1:20.81. That mark becomes the eighth-fastest on the program performance list following the day’s results.
Later in the afternoon, Purcell and Faust formed the second half of the Villanova lineup in the 4x400 meter relay. Junior Ville Lampinen (Vantaa, Finland) and freshman Amir Brock (Egg Harbor Twp., N.J.) ran the first two legs of the relay, and the Wildcats came in third out of 14 teams with a time of 3:13.38. Faust anchored the relay with a split of 46.5 on the final leg.
Junior sprinter Sterling Pierce (Voorhees, N.J.) ran the 300 meters in 34.83 and finished seventh out of 20 competitors. His time puts him fifth on the Wildcats all-time performance list in the 300 meters, and he is the first athlete since Carlos Bedoya in 2003 to crack the top five in school history. Pierce also recorded a time of 7.06 in the preliminary heats of the 60 meters. Brock recorded a time of 35.75 to finish 11th in the 300 meters, while freshman Richie Bush (Lawnside, N.J.) was eighth in the 200 meters with a time of 22.80.
A large group of Villanova distance runners competed in the 3000 meters late in the afternoon. Senior Ben Malone (River Vale, N.J.) finished third out of 23 total competitors with a time of 8:15.93 to lower his previous personal best in the event by more than five seconds. Five other Wildcats finished in the top 10 of the 3000 meters, including sophomores Casey Comber (Maple Glen, Pa.) and Andrew Marston (Wayne, Pa.) coming in fourth (8:16.62) and fifth (8:18.29), respectively. Redshirt freshmen Nick Steele (Harvard, Mass.) and Martin Barr (Skokie, Ill.) followed in seventh (8:22.54) and eighth (8:22.77) places, while junior Zach Swenson (Boulder, Colo.) was 10th in 8:35.42.
Other noteworthy results for Villanova in the running events included sophomore Logan Wetzel (Saline, Mich.) finishing fifth in the Mile with a time of 4:09.20 and senior Ishmael Muhammad (Mays Landing, N.J.) placing sixth in the 1000 meters with a personal best time of 2:27.88.
In the field events, sophomore Steve Testa (Warminster, Pa.) came in seventh in the long jump with a mark of 6.85 meters. It is the best indoor mark of his collegiate career and the second-best overall mark that he has recorded in a Wildcats uniform. His overall lifetime best is 6.95 meters from high school. Testa’s jump of 6.85 meters came on the second of his three tries in the trials of the long jump, and he was one of nine competitors from a field of 19 who advanced to the final.
Villanova will next compete at the Penn 8-Team Select Meet at Ocean Breeze Track & Field Athletic Complex in Staten Island next Saturday.