NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #23- Villanova
Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.
Head Coach: Marcus O'Sullivan (14th Season)
2012 National Finish- 27th
Key Returners from 2012
- Sam McEntee (Jr., 3:36.81 1500m, 3:57 Mile, 7:54 Open 3k, 14:19 5k)
- Jordy Williamsz (So., 3:36 1500m, 4:00 Mile, 8:04 Open 3k)
- Robert Denault (So., 3:41 1500m, 3:59 Mile, 8:15 Open 3k)
- Ben Malone (Fr., 3:46 1500m, 4:11 1600m, 9:12 2 Mile, NXN Nats Finalist)
- Patrick Tiernan (Fr., 8:11 Open 3k, 3 X Australian Junior XC Champ, 14:40 5k)
After a very good Mid-Atlantic Region race in 2012 where the Wildcats were one point away from tying for first place with Georgetown, the wheels fell off at NCAAs and they saw themselves finish 27th as a team. Villanova will have an opportunity in 2013 to redeem themselves from that with five of their top seven returning and most of them coming off of career track seasons.
Villanova returns one of the deepest and strongest 1500m programs in the country. The question that always comes along with metric milers is if they have the range to run 8k and 10k (10k is the real kicker). Maybe a reason why the Wildcats struggled in Louisville was because their team is stock full of 1500m runners and the jump to 10k is too difficult. If that were the case though, then there is no way they would have run as well as they did for 10k at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
With a fresh season ahead of us all of these questions will be answered, the good news for Wildcat fans is that they have a legendary coach in Marcus O'Sullivan to guide this group of milers. He knows a thing or two about middle distance runners.
Sam McEntee is the returning no. 1 man and leader of this team and is coming off of a very good track season. Although he was not able to improve upon his 3:36 1500m PR of '12 (brutally tough to ever duplicate that performance), McEntee did reach the NCAA 1500m final for the second year and placed seventh overall. He should be able to ride that momentum into a solid summer of training. If he can keep his miles up and stay healthy that jump to 10k will suit him just fine (as he proved at the regional).
Jordy Williamsz was the star recruit of last seasons class for the Wildcats and was a solid contributor as a no. 2-4 runner. He, like McEntee, had a great regional where he placed fourth overall and ran a solid 30:35 on grass. This proves he has the range to go up to 10k, he just needs to do it on back to back races. If Williamsz can figure that out, he has the ability and talent to roll right with McEntee and should prove a very good no.2.
The wildcard for this team lies in Robert Denault of Canada. Like McEntee, Denault was able to reach the NCAA Championship in the 1500m where he finished 18th in the country. It is always good to start summer training, looking ahead toward xc, after a very good end to a track season. Denault will be critical to the success of this team if he can prove his range in the latter portions of the season.
Villanova has two very good recruits in Ben Malone and Patrick Tiernan. Malone ended up being one of the nation's best 1500m runners (go figure) in the country last track season as a prep where he ran 3:46. Malone has had some quality cross country experience in high school. Ben qualified for NXN Nationals and had to struggle through the mud and rain where he did not have the race he expected. This kind of experience will be very helpful to the Villanova 1-5 as he has a chance to break into that group and be an impact player.
Patrick Tiernan, from the moment he steps on campus, could be the best true cross country guy on the team. His three junior xc championships in Australia proves he is capable over the long distances on grass and his track PRs are very good for his age group. Tiernan is an instant-offense kind of recruit that could put himself in the no. 3 spot the very first real race of the season. In fact, by the end of the season, we could see Tiernan challenging McEntee as the no. 1 runner for the Wildcats.
Other athletes such as Brian Basili (if he can come back from his crazy broken arm over the steeple barrier in time) and Alex Tully were solid contributors in cross country for Villanova in 2012 and should be in the mix of their top seven where they will be critical to keeping the 1-5 spread as grouped as possible.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional is always tough and Villanova will once again need to figure out how hard to go at Regionals to make sure they save themselves for a good run at the Big Dance. With Coach O'Sullivan leading this team, that should be no problem and these metric milers could show the long-distance guys that they have some range too in Terre Haute.