Oct. 29, 2011
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--An incredible team effort led Villanova to its fourth BIG EAST title at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park on Saturday morning, where the Wildcats cruised to a championship by a dominating margin. Villanova had a team score of 43 points and easily outdistanced the rest of the field to win its first conference title since 2002 and give head coach Marcus O'Sullivan his second league championship as men's head coach.
"We had to beat some terrific teams but I knew that we had the talent to get the job done and our depth and talent was shining today," O'Sullivan said. "I was worried about Louisville running on their home course and about the strength of the other teams but we had an unbeatable effort today."
The depth of the Wildcats was represented with six different runners earning All-BIG EAST honors, while all five of the team's counting runners placed in the top 13 of the field of 123 runners. Seniors Matthew Gibney (Albury, Australia), Keith Capecci (New Hope, Pa.) and Ryan Sheridan (Melville, N.Y.) all registered top-10 finishes to lead Villanova to the impressive margin of victory.
"We were able to win a championship because the guys came to understand during the week that an opportunity like this does not come around all that often. When you have this much depth and a very talented team there is an opportunity to do really well. Our entire team realized that the only way to have their talent shine through was to fight for it and have a desire to win. Nobody was going to give us a championship; we had to take it and the team understood that sense of urgency."
Gibney and Capecci placed fifth and sixth, respectively, with Gibney's time of 23:41.4 the leading mark for the Wildcats on the 8,000 meter course. Capecci was less than a second behind with a finishing time of 23:42.2 and Sheridan crossed the finish line in eighth place with a time of 23:51.3.
Following the top three in short order was freshman Samuel McEntee (Perth, Australia) in 11th place (23:54.1), while juniors Matt Kane (Fairfield, Conn.) and Mathew Mildenhall (Auckland, New Zealand) were 13th and 14th, respectively. Kane finished in 23:57.3 and Mildenhall recorded a time of 23:58.6.
Villanova beat runner-up Georgetown (94 points) by a wide margin, with Louisville (96), Syracuse (97) and Providence (116) rounding out the top five. The winning margin for the Wildcats is the largest by any team at the BIG EAST meet since 1982 and the third-largest margin of victory in the history of the conference championships. Only the 2002 championship team for Villanova had a lower team score along the way to a league title.
"Every team that has a chance to win is going to come in fighting hard for the title and we knew that," O'Sullivan said. "Guys that have run average all year all of a sudden step up and have great results. That is something we come to expect from year to year."
Senior Brian Long (Louisville, Ky.) was running in his hometown and completed the top-seven for the Wildcats with a 32nd place finish (24:26.3). The rest of the Villanova results included sophomores Greg Morrin (Wilmington, Del.) in 41st place (24:39.3) and John Pickhaver (Drexel Hill, Pa.) in 67th place (25:23.9).
"Providence got off to a good start and ran well for the first three miles before coming back a little bit," O'Sullivan said. "Our guys ran their best after the first three miles and that was when I could tell that we were going to get the job done."
Villanova entered the championships ranked second in the Mid-Atlantic Region and 16th in the nation. Only Providence at No. 14 was ranked ahead of the Wildcats among BIG EAST teams.
"Winning today takes some pressure off of me as well as the whole team," O'Sullivan said. "My last words to the guys were not to rest on our laurels for too long. I want them to understand just how good we are and then move on from there. We can savor this for a couple of hours and then get going again as we move forward towards the next two postseason meets."
Next up for Villanova is the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Saturday, November 12 at the UMES Cross Country Course in Princess Anne, Md.