STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - With sensational performances across the board in a conference meet that came down to the wire, Villanova surged to its seventh BIG EAST title in memorable fashion at Ocean Breeze Track & Field Athletic Complex on Saturday afternoon. Five event victories, including a sweep of the relays, pushed the Wildcats to the indoor BIG EAST crown for the fourth time in the last five years and the seventh time overall. Head coach Marcus O’Sullivan and his staff were voted the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year.
Junior sprinter Harry Purcell (Dublin, Ireland) and freshman Brian Faust (Stone Mountain, Ga.) tallied a 1-2 finish in the 400 meters and later combined to run the final half of the 4x400 meter relay in which Villanova clinched the team title. Freshman Amir Brock (Egg Harbor Twp., N.J.) led off the 4x400 relay and junior Ville Lampinen (Vantaa, Finland) ran the second leg of the race, which the Wildcats won with a time of 3:12.84. Purcell and Faust had splits of 47.65 and 47.38, respectively, on the final two legs.
Purcell ran in the first section of the two-section 400 meter final and put up a time to beat of 47.49. He then had to wait and see whether that would hold up for the BIG EAST title, with Faust and reigning champion Sebastian Feyersinger of DePaul set to run in the second section. It turned out that Faust was Purcell’s top competition, as he won the second section in 47.69 and crossed the finish line nearly three-quarters of a second ahead of Feyersinger.
Villanova also won the 4x800 meter relay in a thrilling finish. The quartet of junior Zach Swenson (Boulder, Colo.), senior Ben Malone (River Vale, N.J.), redshirt freshman Nick Steele (Princeton, Mass.) and senior Ishmael Muhammad (Mays Landing, N.J.) posted a time of 7:32.76 and finished a quarter of a second ahead of Georgetown and the rest of the field. Muhammad brought the race home with a split of 1:49.56 on the anchor leg.
Sophomore distance runner Casey Comber (Maple Glen, Pa.) won his first career individual BIG EAST title with a strong finish to the 3000 meters. He tallied a winning time of 8:05.39 and was one of three Wildcats who scored in the race. Sophomore Andrew Marston (Wayne, Pa.) came in fourth with a time of 8:09.85, while redshirt freshman Martin Barr (Skokie, Ill.) was eighth in 8:21.73. Marston and Barr each scored in the 5000 meters a day earlier.
Villanova was typically strong in the middle distance races, with a total of 26 points coming from the 800 meters and the Mile alone. Lampinen, Muhammand and Malone crossed the line nearly even with each other in the 800 meters to give the Wildcats a 3-4-5 finish in the race. Lampinen had a time of 1:50.88, Muhammad was clocked in 1:50.89 and Malone recorded a time of 1:50.99. Sophomore Logan Wetzel (Saline, Mich.) led Villanova with a third place showing in the Mile, where he had a time of 4:10.64. Steele placed third in the race in 4:11.90 and Swenson finished fifth in 4:13.09.
Junior sprinter Sterling Pierce (Voorhees, N.J.) tallied a pair of top-three finishes for the Wildcats in the 60 meters and the 200 meters. He came in third in the final of the 60 meters in 6.89 and later was the runner-up in the 200 meters with a time of 21.53. Brock added a fourth place finish in the 200 meters and recorded a time of 21.80.
The highlights of the field events included second and third place finishes by Ryan Tompkins (Farmingdale, N.J.) and Jacob Kelly (Longmeadow, Mass.) in the high jump. Tompkins cleared the bar at a height of 2.00 meters and Kelly had a mark of 1.95 meters as the pair each earned spots on the podium. Sophomore Steve Testa (Warminster, Pa.) and freshman Michael Troup (Doylestown, Pa.) came in fifth and seventh, respectively, in the triple jump. Testa had a personal best jump of 13.75 meters and Troup recorded a mark of 13.11 meters.
Junior thrower Henry Sise (Hawthorn Woods, Ill.) made the podium in the shot put, with his throw of 15.12 meters good for a third place finish. In the heptathlon, the duo of senior Zack McDermott (Little Silver, N.J.) and junior Michael Morrow (Danbury, Conn.) came in third and seventh with scores of 4,925 points and 4,268 points.