Feb. 17, 2013
GENEVA, Ohio - Juniors Chris Fitzsimons (Hamden, Conn.) and Sam McEntee (Perth, Australia), and redshirt freshman Rob Denault (Aurora, Ont.) each won individual crowns at the BIG EAST Championships and Villanova closed out the conference meet with a fourth place finish at the SPIRE Institute on Sunday afternoon.
FitzSimons became the first runner from the Wildcats to win an indoor BIG EAST title in the 800 meters in 20 years and Villanova posted strong results across the board in a strong overall finish as the two-day meet concluded. Three individual champions provided a string of highlights during the earlier part of the day and the Wildcats added an exciting finish later on with a runner-up showing in the 4x800 meter relay.
The lineup in the relay featured junior Alex Tully (Little Rock, Ark.), junior Chris O'Sullivan (Havertown, Pa.), Denault and junior Dusty Solis (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Villanova finished with a time of 7:32.66 and was a mere six hundredths of a second behind Connecticut, which won the relay.
After the opening leg of the relay Tully had the Wildcats in second place thanks to a big finish over his final 200 meters. O'Sullivan pushed into the lead at the first handoff of the baton and kept the lead until the final strides of the second leg, as Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Georgetown became a crowd when the relay reached its midpoint.
O'Sullivan was in third place when he gave the baton to Denault, who moved up to second place by the time Solis started his anchor leg. At every point during the final leg of the relay Solis was in position to bring home a win and he made a particularly noteworthy kick down the final straightaway to hold the Wildcats position among the top three teams and ensure Villanova an All-BIG EAST finish in the relay.
Earlier in the day FitzSimons was similarly locked in a near dead heat towards the end of the 800 meters final. He wound up with a winning time of 1:51.56 and came in just 0.15 seconds ahead of runners-up Robert Rhodes of Connecticut (1:51.70-2) and Ahmed Bile of Georgetown (1:51.707). This is only the sixth time during the indoor season that a Wildcats runner has won the 800 meters title at the BIG EAST Championships, and it is the first such title since Brad Sumner won for Villanova back in 1993.
A successful strategy employed by Denault and Tully in the middle of the Mile helped spur Denault to the championship. Denault was battling hard to hold on to second place just after the runners passed the 800 meters mark and it was at that point that Tully made a planned move up to the front of the pack, and into the lead. With the two teammates supporting each other Denault moved back into the lead for good near the start of the bell lap and then quickly pulled away to close out the win.
Denault's winning time of 4:07.83 in the Mile included a split of 1:57 over the final 800 meters. Tully finished in sixth place with a time of 4:11.09 and sophomore Charlie Bates (Hoboken, N.J.) placed 12th in 4:17.95.
The ending of the 3000 meters was a memorable won and McEntee was the champion with a time of 8:03.95, while freshman teammate Jordy Williamsz (Melbourne, Australia) was third in 8:01.77 to earn All-BIG EAST honors.
McEntee and Williamsz ran most of the race in the middle of the pack and gradually started to make their way towards the front just after the halfway point in the race. They were fifth and sixth, respectively, with 1200 meters left and had moved up to third and fourth with 800 meters remaining.
With less than 200 meters remaining in the race McEntee and Williamsz were fighting to hold on to second and third place. It was at that point that Martin Hehir of Syracuse made his final kick and pushed into the lead. His move drew in McEntee, who took up the chase and ran down Hehir with less than 100 meters to go. Williamsz similarly passed Andrew Springer of Georgetown - who held the lead for much of the race - near the finish line.
Solis and junior Samuel Ellison (Dresher, Pa.) registered All-BIG EAST finishes in the 1000 meters and the 500 meters, respectively. The final 200 meters that Solis ran in his race were incredible as he jostled for position in a physical competition. He finished with a time of 2:30.20 as the top three runners were separated by only 0.63 seconds at the finish line. Ellison registered a time of 1:01.70 in his third place finish in the 500 meters.
The final event of the meet was the 4x400 meter relay, in which a lineup of freshman Donald Urschel (East Brunswick, N.J.), freshman Alex Reber (Cherry Hill, N.J.), FitzSimons and Ellison came in fourth out of 10 teams in 3:13.22. Reber also ran in the finals of the 500 meters and came in sixth (1:04.47). Graduate student Kyle Chou (Wilmington, Del.) was eighth in that race (1:05.09).
Sophomore Matthew Sidney (Canton, Mass.) was the lone field athlete in action for the Wildcats on Sunday. He came in 10th in the high jump with a height of 1.99 meters.
COMPLETE VILLANOVA RESULTS
Dusty Solis 3rd of 8 2:30.20
Chris Fitzsimons 1st of 8 1:51.56
Rob Denault 1st of 13 4:07.83 Alex Tully 6th 4:11.09 Charlie Bates 12th 4:17.95
Samuel Ellison 3rd of 8 1:01.70 Alex Reber 6th 1:04.47 Kyle Chou 8th 1:05.09
Sam McEntee 1st of 26 8:03.95 Jordy Williamsz 3rd 8:04.77 Tom Trainer 19th 8:30.79 Brian Basili 22nd 8:33.24
4x800 Meter Relay
Villanova 2nd of 11 7:32.66 Alex Tully Chris O'Sullivan Rob Denault Dusty Solis
4x400 Meter Relay
Villanova 4th of 10 3:13.22 Donald Urschel Alex Reber Chris Fitzsimons Samuel Ellison
Matthew Sidney 10th of 11 1.99 meters