When Villanova sucks at basketball and sucks at football, there is little consolation for much of the first half of the college athletics year (unless you follow the women's NIT). Fortunately, Villanova has a track team that regularly spits out All-Americans, and on a less regular basis- national champions. This year, Villanova has a legitimate shot to add to their history of excellence with at least one female contender and one male contender for postseason championships, with the possibility for others. Today, we'll be previewing the women who have a chance for postseason honors.
Most expect the 2012 outdoor track season to be a victory lap of sorts for Sheila Reid, the defending NCAA outdoor champion in both the 1500 and 5000m races to go along with her two consecutive individual championships in cross country.. The only question is the uncertainty as to how much she is going to race this season, this being an Olympic year and all, and her being a real contender to make the Canadian Olympic team. There is really only one thing that remains on her plate: a Penn Relays watch. For anyone who knows running at Villanova, whether or not you have won at Penn is somewhat career defining- akin to beating Army if you play football at Navy. I almost expect her to run only one event at Nationals, so that she isn't too burnt out by the time Canada is picking its team, and so that she isn't too burnt out to face her rivals like Emily Infeld of Georgetown, who is coming off a fantastic indoor season. Also to watch is Serbian junior Bogdana Mimic, who won the Big East championship in the indoor 5,000m and was an All-American in cross country this fall.
The middle distance ranks begin and end with diminutive powerhouse Emily Lipari, who does stuff like this at the end of races. She'll probably be running the 1200m leg at Penn and should be looking to atone for last year's disappointment, where she was involved in a dropped baton exchange. Emily had a strong indoor season and should contend in the middle distance events at the conference, and possibly national level.
In the sprints, Shericka Ward is coming off a series of personal bests and an All-American performance in the indoor hurdles. Last year, she set a school record in the outdoor 200m to finish in second place at the Big East meet. This year, she should be the odds-on favorite to win the 100m hurdles at the Big East meet, and she'll have a chance to take the 200m as well if she runs it. With the potential to score 20 points (or more if she runs the 4x400m relay) at the Big East meet, Ward may be the key to contending for a conference championship for the first time in a long time.
Some time in the near future, I'll go on with the men.