Feb. 19, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - For the fifth time in the last seven years the BIG EAST Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held at the New York Armory, with competition beginning on Friday morning and wrapping up on Saturday night. Villanova has had an outstanding season to this point and looks ready to have across-the-board success at the conference meet.
In the new computer-based national rankings released this week the Wildcats are No. 10 in the country. The ranking is a result of an outstanding past weekend for Villanova, which produced some of the top performances in the country while competing at both the Iowa State Classic and the Millrose Games.
A successful showing for the Wildcats at the Armory this week would be nothing new. Villanova has won at least one event at the indoor BIG EAST meet in each of the last 13 years, including four victories last year. Seniors Chris FitzSimons (Hamden, Conn.) and Sam McEntee (Perth, Australia) scored individual wins at the 2013 conference championships in the 800 meters and the 3000 meters, respectively, while sophomore Rob Denault (Aurora, Ont.) won the Mile in his first season of indoor collegiate competition. The team also won the distance medley relay at last year's meet. From a team standpoint, the Wildcats won three titles in a four-year span (1983, 1985, 1986) and also have four runner-up finishes.
Villanova enters the BIG EAST Championships with at least one athlete ranked in the top three in the conference in nine different individual events, while the Wildcats are also at the top of the performance list in both the 4x800 meter relay and the distance medley relay.
Below are some of the top storylines for Villanova entering the conference meet.
McEntee and freshman Patrick Tiernan (Toowoomba, Australia) are a formidable duo in the distance events. Tiernan broke the indoor school record in the 5000 meters last weekend at Iowa State and is ranked second in the nation this season. His time of 13:37.73 also broke the previous meet and facility records at Lied Recreation Center. McEntee is the reigning conference 3000 meters champion. He came in fourth at the Penn State National earlier this season with a time of 8:02.07, which ranks second behind Tiernan in the conference. McEntee also anchored the Wildcats distance medley relay at Iowa State last weekend. Villanova won the DMR with a time of 9:35.08 and currently is ranked fifth in the nation.
Denault and sophomore Jordy Williamsz (Melbourne, Australia) each ran a sub-four minute mile at Iowa State last weekend. Williamsz won the Mile race with a time of 3:56.84, coming within less than 1.5 seconds of the indoor school record while running the first official sub-four minute mile of his career. His time is the fastest Mile for any Wildcats runner since head coach Marcus O'Sullivan ran faster during his own racing career. Williamsz ranks third in the nation in the Mile this season. Denault won the Mile at the BIG EAST Championships last season and qualified for the national championships. He ranks second in the conference this season behind Williamsz after posting a time of 3:59.86 at Iowa State. Denault also anchored the distance medley relay at the Penn State National last month.
Sprinters Have Potential
Senior Samuel Ellison (Dresher, Pa.) has excelled throughout his Villanova career in both the 500 meters and the 800 meters. This season he ranks second in the conference with a time of 1:48.40 in the 800 meters, which he recorded at Iowa State last weekend. That time is the fastest indoor 800 meters time by any Wildcats runner in more than a decade, and ranks 12th in the nation this season.
Ellison has been an All-BIG EAST performer in the 500 meters in each of the past three seasons, including a third place finish a year ago. He has also been a BIG EAST champion the 4x800 meter relay (2012) as well as an indoor All-American in both the 800 meters and the distance medley relay (2013).
Sophomore Aaron Sandifer (Harrisburg, N.C.) leads the conference in the 60 meter hurdles. He ran a personal best time of 8.67 earlier this season at the Great Dane Classic and that mark currently is tops in the BIG EAST this season.
Villanova will be well-represented in the field events by senior Chris Dougherty (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and junior Elbert Maxwell (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Dougherty has the best pole vault mark in the BIG EAST this season thanks to a personal best height of 4.80 meters from the Great Dame Classic. He is a veteran in BIG EAST competition and is making his fourth straight appearance in the pole vault at the indoor conference meet.
Maxwell comes into the BIG EAST Championships ranked first in the long jump and third in the high jump. His top marks of the season in both events came in the same meet at the Armory last month. Maxwell recorded a distance of 7.07 meters in the long jump at the Gotham Cup and also cleared 2.04 meters in the high jump.