Haftu Strintzos Finishes Ninth at NCAA Championships in Fastest Cross Country 10K in Villanova History

09 Dec 2021 | 10:28 | Cross Country

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Senior Haftu Strintzos (Melbourne, Australia) ran the fastest cross country 10K in Villanova history and powered his way to a ninth place individual result at the 2021 Division I Cross Country Championships on Saturday morning. Strintzos covered the 10,000 meter course at Apalachee Regional Park in 28:57.3 in a remarkably fast race that saw each of the first 64 runners across the finish line eclipse the previous course record. The trio of Strintzos, redshirt freshman Jack Jennings (Mendham, N.J.) and senior Josh Phillips (Belrose, Australia) represented the Wildcats at the national meet.

The top-10 finish by Strintzos is the best by a Villanova runner at the NCAA Championships since Patrick Tiernan won the national title five years ago. Tiernan had run the previous fastest 10K cross country race in the Wildcats record book one year before his championship run when he posted a time of 29:11.1 in a second place finish in Louisville one year earlier. Strintzos beat that mark by nearly 12 full seconds on Saturday in a smart and steady race that showed what he is capable of as his career continues to evolve.

Jennings had an impressive NCAA debut and finished in 73rd place with a time of 29:57.1. As proof of how fast Saturday’s championship race was, Jennings’ time would have ranked as the fourth-fastest ever on the course prior to this meet. Phillips ran at the NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive year and finished 167th overall with a time of 30:46.8.

Despite being a senior academically and running in his third career national cross country race, Strintzos is only in his sophomore year of cross country eligibility as a result of a redshirt year and retaining a season of eligibility from 2020-21 due to the COVID pandemic. His career progression has been impressive, as Strintzos has moved up from 142nd place at the national championships in 2019 to 66th this past Spring and to ninth in Saturday’s strong performance.

“The critical thing in this race was getting out to a good place,” Strintzos said of his approach going into the meet. “My plan was to get out at least into an All-American (top-40) place to start off and then just hold my place from there. I think I made the most of the downhill on the outside of the course in all four laps and as we were coming up to the finish line stay up there with the top 20 guys.”

This year is the first time that the cross country NCAA Championships have been held in Florida and the men’s race went out just after 11 a.m. in ideal conditions. The lightning fast pace of the field of 253 runners was also partly a result of a unique characteristic of the course at Apalachee Regional Park, a feature known as “The Wall” which is a 400 meter downhill approach to the finishing chute. Strtintzos used the weather and the course layout in his favor.

“This is my kind of weather,” Strintzos said. “In the cold I can’t feel my limbs because I’m not used to it, so it worked out well for me. I try not to worry about how fast we’re going [during the race]. It’s just the feel of my body and staying within myself to know that I can stay with a pace I can keep going throughout the whole race and then tough it out to the finish.”

Jennings capped off a terrific first season of collegiate competition with his 73rd place finish. After not running in any races during the cross country, indoor or outdoor seasons as a true freshman last year, he emerged as one of the Wildcats most dependable runners this Fall. He finished in ninth place at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional and in 10th place at the BIG EAST Championships last month while earning both first team All-BIG EAST and Mid-Atlantic All-Region accolades for the season.

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