VILLANOVA, Pa. - Building off of its second place finishes at both the BIG EAST Championships and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional in recent weeks, Villanova is set to compete at the NCAA Championships this Saturday morning at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The women's 6,000 meter race goes off at 11 a.m.
Villanova earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships with its second place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional last week. This is the 28th time that the Wildcats have received a team bid to the NCAA meet, including the eighth time in the last nine years. The 28 all-time berths to the national championships are tied for the fifth most of any Division I program.
Villanova has been a team on the rise throughout the 2016 season. The experience that a young and untested squad gained last season, when the Wildcats garnered an at-large NCAA bid, is now paying dividends. Villanova began the season unranked and started to get some attention after beating seven ranked teams at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on October 14. That performance led to the Wildcats being ranked No. 22 in the following week’s USTFCCCA national poll. A second place team finish at the BIG EAST Championships bumped Villanova up a spot to No. 21, while last week’s runner-up showing at the Mid-Atlantic meet has moved the Wildcats to No. 18 in this week’s rankings.
Senior Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and junior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) have been Villanova’s top performers this season. They combined for a 1-2 finish at the BIG EAST Championships, with Piccirillo winning her ninth career conference title and first in cross country. Cleirigh Buttner led the Wildcats with a seventh place finish at the NCAA regional meet last week, with Piccirillo on her heels in eighth place. Both runners have earned Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors three times during their careers.
Beyond the contributions of Piccirillo and Cleirigh Buttner at the top of the lineup, Villanova is well-stocked with elite talent. Junior Katie Fisher (Uxbridge, Ont.) has been steady in her best collegiate season to date, while the sophomore quartet of Sammy Bockoven (Hudson, Ohio), Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.), Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa) and Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) has a wealth of potential. Burda earned All-Region honors for the second straight year with a 17th place finish last week at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Villanova is the most successful women’s cross country program in collegiate history. 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 16 individual conference champions. Villanova has also produced 54 All-Americans and a total of 119 All-BIG EAST performers in cross country. No other women’s program has won more than five national championships.