Nov. 12, 2011
PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- Senior Ryan Sheridan (Melville, N.Y.) was the individual runner-up, classmate Matthew Gibney (Albury, Australia) was fifth overall and Villanova earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships with a second place team finish at the Mid-Atlantic regional meet at the UMES Cross Country Course on Saturday afternoon. Each of the top five runners for the Wildcats placed in the top 25 individually and earned All-Mid Atlantic Region honors.
Villanova beat the top team in the region entering the race, Princeton, and finished with a team score of 63 points. Georgetown was first with 47 points in a switch of the top two teams from the BIG EAST Championships two weeks ago. The automatic NCAA bid marks the fourth consecutive year that the Wildcats will advance to the national championships meet.
"We are in good shape going into the NCAA meet but it is always a little disappointing to come in second when you feel that you have a chance to win," Villanova head coach Marcus O'Sullivan said. "I felt like we had enough depth that we could have done a little better. This is still a good result and we are looking forward to having another race at Nationals."
Sheridan crossed the finish line with a time of 30:38.6 and Gibney was close behind in 30:42.9 to lead the Wildcats, who had their top five runners earn all-region honors for the second year in a row. Freshman Samuel McEntee (Perth, Australia) finished in 16th place (30:59.7) and was followed by juniors Mathew Mildenhall (Auckland, New Zealand) in 19th place (31:06.5) and Matt Kane (Fairfield, Conn.) in 21st place (31:07.8) to round out the top five.
"The team had an emotional win at BIG EAST two weeks ago but they still had to get back up for today's race," O'Sullivan said. "I think the margin that we beat Georgetown by gave us a little bit of a false sense of security given that Princeton is the team that everyone was looking at as the top team in the region."
Villanova was without senior Keith Capecci (New Hope, Pa.), who was among the team's top two finishers at each of the first three meets of the season, but had enough depth to secure an automatic NCAA bid with a top-two team finish.
It took a strong finish for the Wildcats to ensure their standing, as each of the top five runners moved up within the pack during the second half of the race. The leading group of runners stayed very tight through the 5,000 meter mark before starting to break up towards the finish line. Sheridan was in 10th place and Kane in 27th at the midpoint of the race, while Gibney, McEntee and Mildenhall all moved up at least 16 spots over the final 5,000 meters.
In the team standings, Georgetown (47) and Villanova (63) were followed by Princeton (90), Penn State (117) and Navy (142) to round out the top five.
The NCAA Championships return to Terre Haute, Ind. and will be contested next Monday, November 21.