Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Villanova at The Penn Relays Preview


Sheila Reid has won just about everything there is to win at Villanova from conference championships to big invitational meets and even national championships, but the one thing she hasn't done is win a Penn Relays watch. If you don't already understand the relationship Villanova has with the Penn Relays, you won't understand, but to a Villanova runner, the Penn Relays has always been the single most important event of the year. Even though Villanova aren't the hosts, it is very much their "home meet" based on the way they have performed historically. Villanova has won more Penn Relays titles than any other school by a two-to-one margin, and on four different occasions, Villanova has won five wheels  in the same meet, the last time being in 1978. Simply, if you never make it to the Penn Relays, that's a real shame.

Events:

College Men's Distance Medley Relay (Friday): Villanova are the defending champions in this event (photo above) and have won this event a ridiculous 24 times, more than any other school in any event at the relays. The lineup may look somewhat different, even though three of the four legs of the relay are back. Only one leg from last year is guaranteed to return, Sam Ellison in the third (800m) leg. Leading off (1200m) will either be last year's first leg Brian Tetreault or true freshman Rob Denault. While Tetreault obviously has experience, Denault has more upside, as he's arguably the best Canadian middle distance runner younger than 20 years old, and could conceivably represent his country this season at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, where he would probably be beaten by a Kenyan who is 25 years old. Denault is the top true freshman at Villanova, men or women. On the second leg (400m), the runner who is most in form is true freshman Bryan Murphy, and he ran that leg at the indoor NCAA Championships. The third leg will be run by the aforementioned Ellison, who has the pure speed and strength that make him an excellent 800 runner, especially in relays, as demonstrated by this kick at Big East indoors this season. On the anchor leg (1600m) will be indoor All-American and sub-4 minute miler Sam McEntee, who has demonstrated that he can anchor the DMR when he did so at the Armory this winter. This team has a chance to repeat, but it will be difficult, and they'll need strong efforts from both the lead off and second legs in order to make that happen.

College Women's DMR (Thursday): Last year, a catastrophic baton exchange between the first and second legs of the race crippled the Villanova women's DMR. The fact that the event was won by arch-rival Georgetown was only salt in the wound. This year, hopefully the relay of Emily Lipari, Christie Verdier, Nicky Akande and the aforementioned Reid (possibly Bogdana Mimic or Ariann Neutts) will be competitive at the end, if only to kick the elephant out of the room. Other major competitors should be Oregon, UConn, Tennessee and defending champs Georgetown.

Other relays and my lineup assumptions

Men's 4x800
  • Brian Tetreault
  • Chris FitzSimons
  • Rob Denault/Sam McEntee
  • Sam Ellison
Women's 4x800
  • Emily Lipari
  • Ariann Neutts/Stephanie Schappert
  • Nicky Akande
  • Sheila Reid
Men's 4xMile
  • Mathew Mildenhall
  • Rob Denault
  • Brian Tetreault/Joseph LoRusso/Ryan Sheridan/Hugo Beamish/Chris FitzSimons
  • Sam McEntee
Women's 4x1500
  • Emily Lipari
  • Ariann Neutts/Nicky Akande
  • Bogdana Mimic
  • Sheila Reid
You can order live video on the event's website, and Villanova's full schedule of events is here.

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