Both the Villanova University men’s and women’s cross country teams won BIG EAST titles on Saturday at the 2011 BIG EAST Conference Cross Country Championships, at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky. For the Villanova women, it was the team’s fourth consecutive BIG EAST title and a record 14th conference championship for the program. For the men, it was Wildcats’ first conference title since 2002 and the fourth in the program’s history. The last time the Villanova men and women swept the BIG EAST Conference Cross Country titles was 1993.
Men's Cross Country Cruises to Fourth BIG EAST Championship
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An incredible team effort led Villanova to its fourth BIG EAST title at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday morning, where the Wildcats cruised to a championship by a dominating margin. Villanova had a team score of 43 points and easily outdistanced the rest of the field to win its first conference title since 2002 and give head coach Marcus O'Sullivan his second league championship as men's head coach.
"We had to beat some terrific teams but I knew that we had the talent to get the job done and our depth and talent was shining today," O'Sullivan said. "I was worried about Louisville running on their home course and about the strength of the other teams but we had an unbeatable effort today."
The depth of the Wildcats was represented with six different runners earning All-BIG EAST honors, while all five of the team's counting runners placed in the top 13 of the field of 123 runners. Seniors Matthew Gibney (Albury, Australia), Keith Capecci (New Hope, Pa.) and Ryan Sheridan (Melville, N.Y.) all registered top-10 finishes to lead Villanova to the impressive margin of victory.
"We were able to win a championship because the guys came to understand during the week that an opportunity like this does not come around all that often. When you have this much depth and a very talented team there is an opportunity to do really well. Our entire team realized that the only way to have their talent shine through was to fight for it and have a desire to win. Nobody was going to give us a championship; we had to take it and the team understood that sense of urgency."
Gibney and Capecci placed fifth and sixth, respectively, with Gibney's time of 23:41.4 the leading mark for the Wildcats on the 8,000 meter course. Capecci was less than a second behind with a finishing time of 23:42.2 and Sheridan crossed the finish line in eighth place with a time of 23:51.3.
Following the top three in short order was freshman Samuel McEntee (Perth, Australia) in 11th place (23:54.1), while juniors Matt Kane (Fairfield, Conn.) and Mathew Mildenhall (Auckland, New Zealand) were 13th and 14th, respectively. Kane finished in 23:57.3 and Mildenhall recorded a time of 23:58.6.
Villanova beat runner-up Georgetown (94 points) by a wide margin, with Louisville (96), Syracuse (97) and Providence (116) rounding out the top five. The winning margin for the Wildcats is the largest by any team at the BIG EAST meet since 1982 and the third-largest margin of victory in the history of the conference championships. Only the 2002 championship team for Villanova had a lower team score along the way to a league title.
Villanova entered the championships ranked second in the Mid-Atlantic Region and 16th in the nation. Only Providence at No. 14 was ranked ahead of the Wildcats among BIG EAST teams.
Reid and Mimic Lead Wildcats to Fourth Consecutive BIG EAST Title
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Led by the one-two punch of seniors Sheila Reid (Newmarket, Ont.) and Bogdana Mimic (Pancevo, Serbia) the Villanova women's cross country team captured its fourth consecutive BIG EAST title at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park on Saturday morning. This is the record 14th conference championship for the Wildcats and the fourth for head coach Gina Procaccio.
Reid garnered her third straight individual crown with a winning time of 19:40.09 on the 6,000 meter course and was followed by Mimic, sophomores Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) and senior Callie Hogan (Bay Shore, N.Y.) to round out the top five.
"It took a complete team effort for us to win today and that is exactly what happened," Procaccio said. "Everyone had to set up for us and I am so proud of our runners for getting their job done. It was a great team effort and that is what makes this championship so fulfilling for us."
Reid had a sizable lead over the rest of the field with 1000 meters left and surged to a margin of victory of more than 10 seconds. Mimic passed the top runners from West Virginia and Providence in the final 100 meters of the race and crossed the finish line with a time of 19:51.2.
Villanova won with a team score of 54 points and came in ahead of Providence (63), Georgetown (77), Syracuse (92) and West Virginia (92) atop the team standings.
Akande finished in 12th place for the Wildcats with a time of 20:26.1 and was followed by Lipari in 16th place (20:36.4) and Hogan in 23rd place (20:54.5). As strong as Villanova is at the top of its lineup with Reid and Mimic, the performances of the rest of its top five were just as important in the Wildcats victory.
Each of the top five runners for Villanova were in front of the fifth runners from the Friars and Hoyas with 800 meters left and those positions remained unchanged down the home stretch as the Wildcats clinched the title.
The top three runners for Villanova each earned All-BIG EAST honors for finishing in the top 15 individually.
Entering the conference meet Villanova was ranked No. 4 in the nation and was atop the Mid-Atlantic Region rankings. Georgetown, Providence and Syracuse were also ranked in the nation's top-10, while West Virginia, Notre Dame and Connecticut are also nationally-ranked in the top-30.