BETHLEHEM, Pa.--A young Villanova team that has been on an upswing nearly all season long took the next step in its progression with a third place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Friday morning. Sophomore standouts Casey Comber (Maple Glen, Pa.) and Andrew Marston (Wayne, Pa.) came in second and third, respectively, individually and were joined by redshirt freshman Martin Barr (Skokie, Ill.) in earning Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors.
The third place finish was an encouraging one for the Wildcats, who came into the meet ranked fourth in the most recent Mid-Atlantic Region rankings. Villanova’s regional finish looks even more impressive when noting that the team came in ahead of Georgetown and Penn, who were ranked first and third in the region before the meet. The result keeps alive the Wildcats chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, although the likelihood of an NCAA bid will become clearer based on the results of other regional meets around the country.
Comber and Marston are guaranteed to earn individual berths to the national meet regardless of how the team race plays out. They finished strong on the 10,000 meter Goodman Campus Course at Lehigh, with Comber crossing the finish line in 30:31.7 and Marston following on his heels in 30:32.0. Barr stepped up with a 21st place finish (30:53.7), while sophomore Paul Power (Phoenixville, Pa.) and redshirt freshman Nick Steele (Harvard, Mass.) were the other two scoring runners. Power placed 34th (31:08.4) and Steele was 55th (31:37.1).
Princeton topped the team standings with 57 points and looked to have the lead in the chase for the team title early on in the race. No fewer than five teams were battling it out for second place and the final automatic NCAA bid, with the runners jockeying for position right up until the finish line. Navy and Villanova were tied for third place in unofficial splits after 7,500 meters. They each passed Georgetown before the end of the race, with the Midshipmen winding up in second place (109 points) while the Wildcats were third (115). Georgetown (122), Penn State (131) and Penn (143) rounded out the final top six.
Just two weeks after finishing third at the BIG EAST Championships, where the Hoyas won the team title, Villanova flipped the script with its performance on Friday at the regional meet. Comber, Marston and Barr received their all-region medals in an awards ceremony following the race, while official selections for the NCAA Championships will be announced on Saturday afternoon. Marston is the only men’s runner on the Wildcats roster with previous NCAA experience. He was an individual qualifier as a redshirt freshman last year, when teammate Patrick Tiernan won the individual national title.