Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Villanova Men's Track Season Preview

Sam Ellison
You could say that this is the dawn of a new era for the Villanova track team, they are as young as they have been in quite a while, and very competitive. The top senior on the team is probably Mathew Mildenhall, but he is one of a large group of versatile distance runners who can run anything from 1500-5000m capably. Last year, Villanova had two athletes combine for three All-American honors, with Sam McEntee getting honors in the indoor mile and outdoor 1500, and Sam Ellison making the finals of the outdoor 800m. When you factor in the talented freshman on this Villanova team, some of whom are already All-American quality, we could be seeing something special in the making. As is usually the case, this team is heavily biased towards events longer than one lap, but that is usually the case for a Villanova track team. Still though, there are some decent jumpers, as well as some promising young sprinters.

Sprints 

With the graduation of the most proven sprinter on the team, hurdler Nicoy Hines, Villanova's group of sprinters is as young as it has been in quite some time. The most experienced returner on the team is quarter-miler Bryan Murphy, who qualified for the Big East Championship outdoors in the 400 last year, and was the 400 leg on Villanova's distance medley relay at both the NCAA Indoor Championship, and the Penn Relays. Other than Murphy, there isn't much to speak of on the returning side. Some lesser names to remember include Jake Stillings, Cory Serfoss, and University of Delaware transfer Kyle Chou.

As far as the newcomers come, there are a pair of promising young sprinters from New Jersey in Donald Urschel and Alex Reber, both of whom did well in the New Jersey State Meet. Both of these freshmen are versatile Urschel has range from 100-400m, while Reber has very solid times in distances between 200m and the 400 hurdles. Both could be very useful pieces, both in the conference, and in relays. Urschel ran the 60m and the 300m at the season opening Jack Pyrah Invitational, and was Villanova's top finisher in both, while Reber did not run. 

Distance

Ah, the bread and butter of the Villanova team, the area where they easily have the most depth, and where they have had the most historic success. This group returns two All-Americans in junior half-miler Sam Ellison, and sophomore/junior sub-four minute miler Sam McEntee. There are also other upperclassmen, especially Mathew Mildenhall who is capable of contending for conference titles and making it to national meets. Also returning is Rob Denault, who ran the 1500m equivalent of a sub-4 mile last year and went to represent his native Canada in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain., and Chris FitzSimons, who along with Ellison represents the best pair of 800m runners that Villanova has had in quite a some time, as they finished 1-2 in the Big East Championship at the event. If I were to pick an existing member of the team making a breakthrough though, it would be Alex Tully, who has improved over his career, and had a massive breakthrough in the Mid-Atlantic Regional cross country race.

The bevy of newcomers to this group are one of the reasons why this season has the potential to be so exciting. Australian freshman Jordy Williamsz is arguably the single greatest distance recruit that Villanova has ever had, with an 800m PR close to that of Sam Ellison, and a 1500m PR slightly better than that of Sam McEntee (in the same race). Williamsz also has an international pedigree, having worn an Australia vest on multiple occasions. Also from Australia is Patrick Tiernan, who is new to campus this semester. Other Villanova freshman distance runners include Josh Lampron, Kieran Brennan, and Harry Warnick, but all three of them seem poised to red shirt, as none of them wore Villanova vests at .

Field Events

On the field side of things, be on the lookout for Elbert Maxwell, who is the best on the team in both the long jump and the high jump, and could come close to clearing seven feet in the high jump.

The Villanova men also have a pretty solid pole vault group, with Charlie Kido winning the event at the Jack Pyrah Invitational.

Don't expect much from the men's throws this year, they're young and good people have graduated.
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The season continues this Friday in the New York City Gotham Cup at the Armory New York, but I expect that many of the team's top runners won't run in their prime events until the meet at Penn State, which begins on January 25th. Sandwiched between those two meets, there is another meet at the Armory on January 18th, which is hosted by the University of Albany.

1 comment:

  1. Great to see. Would love to see a men's championship to match the women's recent crowns.

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