VILLANOVA, Pa. - The men's and women's cross country teams from the Mid-Atlantic Region are set to converge on the Goodman Campus Course at Lehigh on Friday morning for one of nine NCAA regional meets around the country. The top two teams at each regional will earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships later this month.
Friday's schedule begins with the women's race at 10:45 a.m. and will be followed by the men's race at 11:45 a.m. An awards ceremony recognizing the top teams and individual finishers will take place in Goodman Stadium following the men's race. Both participants and spectators should sit in the West (press box side) side of the stadium for the awards ceremony. Admission to the meet for fans is available for $7 upon arrival at the course on Friday morning.
There is a great deal of excitement for both the Villanova men's and women's teams entering the regional meet. On the women's side, the Wildcats are the top-ranked team in the Mid-Atlantic and have depth throughout the lineup. Villanova won its first BIG EAST title since 2011 two weeks ago and had each of its top six runners earn All-BIG EAST honors. In addition to coming in first at the BIG EAST meet, the Wildcats have also tallied runner-up finishes at the Paul Short Run and the Penn State National Open.
The junior tandem of Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) and Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) has led Villanova in its first four meets of the season. Burda was the individual champion at the Penn State meet and paced the Wildcats with a third place BIG EAST finish. Hutchinson was the first place finisher at the season-opening Main Line Invitational and led the team with a runner-up finish at the Paul Short Run.
Burda, Hutchinson, freshman Lauren Ryan (South Yarra, Australia) and junior Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa) each earned first team All-BIG EAST accolades, while seniors Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) and Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.) were second team honorees. Villanova has also gotten steady contributions throughout the season from freshmen Rachel McArthur (Bristow, Va.) and Alex Harris (Stony Point, N.Y.), graduate student Maria Seykora (Broomall, Pa.), and sophomore Ann Campbell (Mission Hills, Kan.).
On the men's side, the Wildcats moved up to fourth in the regional rankings after a strong showing at the BIG EAST meet. The local sophomore trio of Andrew Marston (Wayne, Pa.), Casey Comber (Maple Glen, Pa.) and Paul Power (Phoenixville, Pa.) has stepped up this season to lead a young Villanova squad. Marston and Comber have firmly established themselves at the top of the Wildcats lineup, and they finished second and third respectively at the conference championships. Power tallied a ninth place BIG EAST finish to join Marston and Comber as first team all-conference selections.
Redshirt freshmen Martin Barr (Skokie, Ill.) and Nick Steele (Harvard, Mass.) have also come on strong during the 2017 campaign and were the fourth and fifth scoring runners for Villanova at the BIG EAST Championships. Redshirt freshman Paul Nichols (Latham, N.Y.) and senior Ben Malone (River Vale, N.J.), along with sophomore Logan Wetzel (Saline, Mich.) and junior Zach Swenson (Boulder, Colo.), have been contributors in the lineup during the year.
There has been little separation between the top four teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region thus far in 2017, which should set up a close and competitive race. Georgetown enters the meet as the top-ranked team in the region and finished just 17 points ahead of the Wildcats at the conference meet. Penn and Princeton are also in the top four along with Villanova. The men's races at the NCAA regional and national meets step up in distance to 10,000 meters.
Friday will mark the fifth time since the current NCAA regional format began in 2000 that the Mid-Atlantic Regional will be held on the Lehigh campus. The site also hosted the regional meet in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2013.