Villanova and the Sub-Four Minute Mile
For more than half a century the incredible middle distance runners that have competed for Villanova and represented the university on a worldwide stage have made up a substantial part of the tradition of excellence that defines the Wildcats track & field program.
There is one particular part of the program's history of middle distance greatness which stands out the most and it is the reputation Villanova has for developing world champion milers, as evidenced by the extraordinary number of Wildcats who have run a sub-four minute mile.
Over the years the Villanova numbers for one of running's greatest achievements have simply been staggering. An elite group that consists of 34 runners from the Wildcats program has combined to post sub-four minute times in the mile or an equivalent time in the 1500 meters (3:42.20) an astonishing 641 times.
The list of Villanovans who have run a sub-four minute mile spans more than 50 years, beginning with Ron Delany in 1958 and continuing most recently with current team members Samuel McEntee, Rob Denault and Jordy Williamsz. The sub-four minute mile has always been a benchmark for middle distance runners and the Villanova milers who have achieved it have used the accomplishment as a springboard in their careers. As a group the sub-four milers to come through the Wildcats program have made a combined 22 appearances in the Olympics.
In the group of world champion milers that have come through the Wildcats program few can boast a resume that is on par with the achievements of head coach Marcus O'Sullivan, who is one of the few men in the world to have broken the four-minute barrier at least 100 times. O'Sullivan ran his 100th sub-four minute mile in February, 1998 at the Millrose Games and during his racing career accomplished the feat 101 times, plus another 83 races in which he ran subfour equivalents in the 1500 meters.
During his tenure as Villanova head coach O'Sullivan has also coached 12 sub-four minute milers, with McEntee joining the club during the 2012 indoor season at the Penn State National Meet and Denault accomplishing the feat during the 2013 indoor season at the Alex Wilson Invitational. Williamsz had run a time of 3:36.74 in the 1500 meters prior to his arrival at Villanova and in the spring of 2013 ran a split of 3:58.70 in the 4xMile relay at the Penn Relays.
The trio of McEntee, Denault and Williamsz give the Wildcats seven runners in the last seven years who have broken the sub-four mark. That streak had a definitive starting point, as both Bobby Curtis and Michael Kerrigan ran a sub-four minute mile on the same day at the Swarthmore Last Chance Invitational on May 14, 2007.
Since then Villanova has added to its legacy with a sub-four equivalent run by Matthew Gibney in the 1500 meters at the NCAA Championships in 2009; Gibney later went on to post a mile time of 3:58.12 at the Flotrack Husky Classic in February, 2011. He was joined on the sub-four list by Carl Mackenzie, who ran a 1500 meters equivalent on May 10, 2010 as well as by McEntee in 2012 and both Denault and Williamsz in 2013.