Nov. 10, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Villanova is headed to the NCAA Championships for the fifth straight season and it took a remarkable effort from each of the Wildcats top five runners in order to secure that team berth to the national meet. Villanova finished in second place at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Friday afternoon to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, which take place on November 17 at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville.
The regional meet today was held on the Blue/White Golf Courses at Penn State and the top three teams in the final standings were separated by just five points. Georgetown came in first with 56 points, the Wildcats were a mere one point behind in 57 points and Princeton wound up third with 61 points. It was clear that there was a bottom line to those results. Villanova wanted the automatic bid, plain and simple.
"We went into the meet knowing that we could not finish in third place and still make it to nationals, Wildcats head coach Marcus O'Sullivan said. Georgetown was in that position too, so we knew exactly what was on the line. Every one of our guys ran his heart out. The last 2.5 miles of the race was just a punch out between the top three teams. Our guys wanted this badly and they went out and took it."
Each of the five counting runners for Villanova finished in the top 20 overall and earned All-Mid Atlantic Region recognition for their individual performances. The hallmark of this Wildcats team is its depth and that was evident in the top five being separated by just 20 seconds at the finish line.
Sophomore Sam McEntee (Perth, Australia) led the way with a runner-up individual finish in the field of 170 runners. He crossed the finish line in 30:34 and was two seconds in front of freshman teammate Jordy Williamsz (Melbourne, Australia), who placed fourth.
In recent years Villanova has continued its string of NCAA Championships appearances thanks in part to having someone step up with a big performance at the regional meet. It happened back in 2010 when Brian Long turned in one of his best career races and last year Ryan Sheridan was the top Wildcats finisher.
This time around the pattern repeated itself thanks to the effort of junior Alex Tully (Little Rock, Ark.), who came in 14th individually with a time of 30:49 to earn his first career all-region nod. In fact it was the first individual honor in any postseason race for Tully, who has come on strong in the past two seasons but was particularly crucial to the team's success today.
"Alex really stepped up today and had an incredible race," O'Sullivan said. "He finished very strong and that made a huge difference in where the team finished."
The fourth and fifth counting runners for Villanova were senior Mathew Mildenhall (Auckland, New Zealand) and redshirt freshman Rob Denault (Aurora, Ont.). Mildenhall came in 18th (30:53) and was one second ahead of Denault (30:54) in 19th place.
O'Sullivan noted that he was very pleased with the way his team rebounded from a fifth place finish at the BIG EAST Championships two weeks ago.
"We didn't run well at BIG EAST so today was kind of a gut check for us. The guys gave it everything they had and I was extremely happy to see that."
Sophomore Brian Basili (South Orange, N.J.) and senior Matt Kane (Fairfield, Conn.) rounded out the top seven runners in the Wildcats lineup. Basili finished in 43rd place (31:30) and Kane was 50th (31:42).
The top two teams in each of nine regional meets around the country earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, while another 13 teams are chosen as at-large selections. The full field of 31 teams will be announced early on Saturday afternoon.