COMPLETE COVERAGE OF FRIDAY MORNING'S BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIPS
VILLANOVA, Pa.--A team that has been steadily on the rise in 2016 will look to continue getting better when the BIG EAST Championships are held at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Friday morning. Villanova has had plenty of success already this season and enters the conference meet with a No. 22 national ranking. The women’s race at Friday’s conference championships takes place at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the men’s race at 11:50 a.m.
Villanova team has been rolling of late, and most recently finished 12th out of 31 teams at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. The meet featured 24 schools that were either nationally-ranked or receiving votes in the USTFCCCA national poll. Villanova beat 12 of those 24 teams in the meet to build off a strong sixth place finish out of 45 squads at the Paul Short Run earlier in the month.
Fifth-year senior Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and junior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) have been the leading force for the Wildcats in their previous two meets. Piccirillo was the individual champion at the Paul Short Run on October 1 and was named the BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week following that result. She added a 19th place finish out of more than 200 runners in Wisconsin, while Cleirigh Buttner was close behind her with a 32nd place finish at that meet.
The depth of the Villanova roster behind Piccirillo and Cleirigh Buttner is a strength. Junior Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.) is having her best collegiate season to date and should continue to be a steady performer in the middle of the Wildcats lineup. Sophomore Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) was the team’s fourth runner in Wisconsin and already has a successful BIG EAST pedigree after leading Villanova with a fourth place finish at the conference meet last season.
Like the other long-tenured members of the BIG EAST, the Wildcats have history at Van Cortlandt Park. The site has hosted the conference cross country championships on 13 previous occasions, although the meet returns there this season for the first time in four years. Villanova has won five team titles and crowned six individual champions at Van Cortlandt Park, including three straight years from 1989-91 in which the Wildcats produced both the team and individual champions in the Bronx. The team titles in those years were the first half of a six-year Villanova winning streak at the meet.
Following the BIG EAST Championships, the Wildcats will prepare for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on November 11 at Penn State.