VILLANOVA, Pa. - The championship portion of the cross country schedule begins this week when Villanova competes at the BIG EAST Championships on Friday morning. The conference meet is being held at Northview Church in Carmel, Ind. and fans can watch all of the action on the BIG EAST Digital Network live broadcast. The women's race begins at 11:00 a.m.
Entering the conference meet, Villanova is ranked No. 24 in the nation and No. 3 in the Mid-Atlantic Region in the most recent polls released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The highlights of the season to this point for the Wildcats are a team title at the Princeton Invitational two weeks ago and a strong showing at the prestigious Washington Invitational earlier this month.
Senior Stephanie Schappert (Delray Beach, Fla.) and freshman Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) have each earned BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week honors this season. Schappert was named the winner of the conference weekly award on September 29 after she opened the season by capturing the individual title at the Main Line Invitational. Cleirigh Buttner was the top finisher for Villanova in her collegiate debut at the Washington Invitational and was chosen as the BIG EAST Female Athlete of the Week on October 4.
In the team's most recent meet, the Wildcats finished first in a field of 35 teams at the Princeton Invitational thanks to a strong performance by the trio of Schappert, sophomore Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and Cleirigh Buttner. Each of the three runners placed in the top eight overall in a field of 278 athletes and Villanova had a split of just 27 seconds between its five scoring runners. Schappert led the way with a fifth place finish, while Piccirillo came in seventh and Cleirigh Buttner was eighth. Junior Sydney Harris (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and freshman Nicole Armstrong (Sydenham, Ont.) came in 18th and 20th, respectively.
In their first scored meet of the season, the Wildcats lined up against some of the top talent in the country at the Washington Invitational, which featured four of the top 15 teams in the nation among the field of 12 schools. Cleirigh Buttner and Piccirillo placed 17th and 19th, respectively, out of 115 runners in the meet.
Villanova has been the most successful women's cross country program in collegiate history over the years. To date, the Wildcats have won a record nine national titles and a record 14 BIG EAST crowns, in addition to having nine individual national champions and 15 individual conference champions. Villanova has also produced 54 All-Americans and a total of 113 All-BIG EAST performers in cross country.
The team's lineup for the conference meet on Friday is expected to include Schappert, Piccirillo, Cleirigh Buttner, Harris and Armstrong along with sophomores Caitlin Bungo (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.), redshirt freshman Alexandra Russo (Bellport, N.Y.), and freshmen Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.) and Erin Jaskot (Blauvelt, N.Y.).