STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Villanova got off to a strong start at the BIG EAST Championships on Friday, with a conference title in the distance medley relay and scorers in the 5000 meters and two field events among the highlights of the day’s action at Ocean Breeze Track & Field Athletic Complex. With six events scored during the day, the Wildcats are currently third in the team standings with 39 points. The meet concludes on Saturday afternoon.
The winning lineup for the Wildcats in the DMR was freshman Alex Harris (Stony Point, N.Y.), junior Erin Jaskot (Blauvelt, N.Y.), junior Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa) and freshman Lauren Ryan (South Yarra, Australia). They posted a time of 11:33.68 and finished nearly three seconds in front of runner-up Georgetown and the rest of the seven-team field. Harris led off the race with a split of 3:32.07 for the first 1200 meters, while Jaskot had a split of 58.12 for 400 meters and Ciluffo a split of 2:08.69 on the 800 meter leg. Ryan anchored with a time of 4:54.82 on the final 1600 meters.
In the only individual race to be scored on Friday, sophomore Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) came in third in the 5000 meters with a time of 16:27.83. She has now posted top-three finishes indoors in the event in consecutive seasons.
Villanova had three athletes score points in the pole vault, led by freshman Amanda McNelis (Commack, N.Y.) who cleared the bar at a height of 3.75 meters in her best outing of the season. McNelis was the runner-up in the pole vault, while freshman Cala Lejman (Ambler, Pa.) and redshirt freshman Dominique Franco (Richboro, Pa.) came in fourth and fifth after each had successful attempts at 3.50 meters. Also scoring for the Wildcats in the field events was junior Alex Patrick (Media, Pa.), who placed seventh in the long jump with a mark of 5.30 meters.
Junior multi-event athlete Niki Cleary (Flemington, N.J.) came in fifth in the pentathlon with a career best score of 3,065 points. Her fifth place showing is also the best that she has finished in an event at the indoor BIG EAST meet. Cleary closed strong in the pentathlon, as her time of 2:27.41 was second-fastest among the nine competitors. Her other marks included a time of 9.83 in the 60 meter hurdles, marks of 1.34 meters in the high jump and 5.07 meters in the long jump, and a throw of 10.59 meters in the shot put.
Aside from the scored events, Villanova also had a number of strong results in the races which held preliminary heats during Friday’s action. There were a total of 12 qualifiers for the finals and the Wildcats had the fastest qualifiers in the 60 meters, the 800 meters and the Mile. Villanova has four qualifiers for the final in both the 800 meters and the Mile.
Senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) and freshman Rachel McArthur (Bristow, Va.) each won their preliminary heats in the 800 meters and are the top two qualifiers for the final. Cleirigh Buttner had a time of 2:12.07 and McArthur crossed the finish line in 2:13.38, while sixth-year senior Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.) was also an automatic qualifier for the final. She came in second in her heat in 2:13.50, while senior Rebecca Del Rossi (Canton, N.Y.) advanced on time after coming in third in her heat with a time of 2:13.22.
Ryan leads the list of qualifiers for the final in the Mile after she and junior Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) went 1-2 in their heat. Ryan crossed the finish line in 5:07.21 and Hutcinson was close ono her heels in 5:07.24. Ciluffo and Harris were also automatic qualifiers from their heats with times of 5:16.89 and 5:16.93, respectively.
Sophomore sprinter Trudy-Ann Williamson (Kingston, Jamaica) is the fastest qualifier for the final of the 60 meters after she posted a time of 7.43 in her heat on Friday afternoon. Williamson’s time is a new season best and is also newly the second-fastest in school history. She holds the school record (7.41) in the 60 meters, and her previous top time for the season of 7.44 had been ranked second behind the record.
In the 60 meter hurdles, sophomore Danielle Burns (Phoenix, Ariz.) and freshman Sarah Jones (Sewell, N.J.) are ranked fourth and fifth going into the final. Burns came in second in her heat in 8.71 and Jones was third in her heat with a time of 8.79. Also moving on to the final was sophomore McKenna Keegan (West Grove, Pa.) in the 400 meters. She recorded a time of 55.74 and is ranked third going into the final.
Action resumes on Saturday morning with field events beginning at 10:30 a.m. and the first event on the track at 11 a.m.