April 28, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - For the second straight day a riveting race came down to the bell lap and Villanova finished in fourth place in the 4x800 meter relay Championship of America race while competing on the final day of the 118th Penn Relays at Franklin Field on Saturday afternoon. Less than two seconds separated the top five teams at the finish line and the race was not decided until the final 200 meters.
A lineup for the Wildcats that included fifth-year senior Brian Tetreault (Cinnaminson, N.J.), freshman Samuel McEntee (Perth, Australia), sophomore Chris Fitzsimons (Hamden, Conn.) and sophomore Samuel Ellison (Dresher, Pa.) registered a time of 7:21.04 and Villanova comes away with the satisfaction of all four of its athletes producing great runs to give the Wildcats a chance at the end.
"All of our guys ran really well today," head coach Marcus O'Sullivan said. "I want them to remember this experience for next year. It is frustrating not to win but I am not disappointed. The teams that come in here are all terrific. This was a good race for us and I am happy with that."
Tetreault ran a gutsy opening leg of the relay for Villanova and used an incredible kick over his final 300 meters to hand the baton off to McEntee with the Wildcats in fifth place. During that closing stretch Tetreault surged from the back of the pack and passed seven runners while reaching almost all the way to within striking distance of the lead. He wound up with a split of 1:51.2.
In the second leg McEntee provided Villanova with its fastest split of the day (1:49.6) and when he handed the baton to Fitzsimons there was a crowd that included the Wildcats, Princeton and Texas A&M that were all within four-tenths of a second of each other. McEntee ran the anchor leg of the distance medley relay yesterday and once again showed that he can chase down anyone ahead of him as he pushed for the lead during today's race.
"Brian did a great job hanging with it in the opening leg and McEntee had a better race than yesterday," O'Sullivan said. "Sam hasn't done a lot of speed stuff this season but he really did a nice job."
The third leg of the relay is when eventual winner Penn State started to take control of the race but - just like Tetreault in the opening leg - Fitzsimons made a nice move on the backstretch during his second lap around the track. It was a big-time move by Fitzsimons, who split 1:50.1 and put Ellison in position to have a chance at pushing for the lead.
"Chris kept inching back into it and it was a great run," O'Sullivan said. "You look at it and each of our first three guys today did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is allow us to be in the mix at the end."
Ellison hung with the leaders for the first 400 meters of the final leg as the five teams in the front pack all jockeyed for position. In the bell lap Penn State anchor Robby Freese established control at the front of the pack and led the Nittany Lions to a margin of victory of just under half a second over Oregon, while Columbia finished third in front of Villanova. The split for Ellison over the final 800 meters was 1:50.1.
"The leading pack went out in 52 [seconds] today and that was a reverse from what Sam had to do in the 800 meters leg of the DMR yesterday," O'Sullivan said. "Yesterday they went out in 56 and today it probably would have taken another 52 in the second lap."
In two relays this weekend the Wildcats demonstrated how good they presently are in addition to offering a preview of the feature. The distance medley relay yesterday featured three freshmen and a sophomore, while three underclassmen made up today's 4x800 lineup. The ability of those runners to keep Villanova in the mix for winning races at the end is what O'Sullivan is taking out of the weekend.
"I will say this. We provided entertainment this weekend," O'Sullivan said. "It is an awful lot what we are asking these kids to do. Coming to the Penn Relays in a Villanova shirt and combating that pressure with some of the inconsistency between warming up and then having to wait for a while when they line you up before getting on the track -- that isn't easy. At the same time there is an incredible energy of just being at Franklin Field and that gets you going."