09 Dec 2021 | 10:32 | Cross Country
BETHLEHEM, Pa.—A balanced lineup with a spread of less than one minute between the scoring runners helped Villanova score 57 points and finish third out of 26 teams in a close race at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Friday afternoon. There were just 17 points separating the top three teams in the race and the Wildcats score was low enough to have won the meet in five of the previous 20 seasons. Senior Haftu Strintzos (Melbourne, Australia) was the individual runner-up in a field of 174 runners in the men’s 10,000 meter race on the Goodman Campus Course at Lehigh.
Villanova placed each of its first six runners among the top 25 finishers and matched the most all-region honorees it has ever had in a single season. It is the fourth time since the current system of NCAA regional competition began in 2000 that the Wildcats have had as many as six athletes earn Mid-Atlantic All-Region acclaim. Each of the top 25 individuals received a medal in an awards ceremony following the race. The top three teams in the race – Princeton, Georgetown and the Wildcats – accounted for 17 of the 25 all-region performers.
Strintzos and redshirt freshman Jack Jennings (Mendham, N.J.) matched their performances from the BIG EAST Championships two weeks ago by posting top 10 finishes. Strintzos ran the 10K race in 30:13.1 and Jennings came in ninth overall with a time of 30:25.8. The other scoring runners for Villanova were senior Josh Phillips (Belrose, Australia), senior Charlie O’Donovan (Cork, Ireland) and redshirt freshman Liam Murphy (Millstone, N.J.). Phillips placed 12th in 30:38.4 and O’Donovan was on his heels in 14th place just three-tenths of a second back with a time of 30:38.7. Murphy was 20th in the race in 31:05.4 and the Wildcats had a spread of just 52.4 seconds separating its top five runners.
Graduate student Justin Weber (South Milwaukee, Wis.) was the sixth Villanova runner to earn all-region accolades as he placed 23rd overall and posted a time of 31:10.2. The seventh member of the Wildcats lineup, graduate student Ryan Cutter (El Sobrante, Calif.), also had a strong race and came in 28th with a time of 31:18.5. Weber and Cutter were each All-BIG EAST performers at the conference meet last month.
A three-team race was expected entering the meet and the runners from Princeton, Georgetown and Villanova separated themselves early in the race. All three squads were in close contention for the entirety of the race, with Princeton eventually finishing first with 40 points to edge out Georgetown (49) and the Wildcats (57) at the finish line. Princeton and Villanova were the only teams in the field to have six of the top 25 finishers.
Villanova has had a total of 91 all-region performers since 2000 and has finished in the top three of the team standings in 18 of the 21 years that the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional has been held. The season to date has resulted in plenty of accolades for the Wildcats, who had five runners earn All-BIG EAST honors for the fourth straight year at the conference championships two weeks ago.
There are nine regional meets around the country and the top two teams from each region earn automatic berths to the NCAA Championships, while 13 other teams will be selected for at-large bids to the national meet. In addition, the top four individuals at each regional meet who are not on a team that qualifies for the NCAA Championships will be chosen to compete as individuals at the national meet.
The complete field of teams and individuals for the NCAA Championships will be announced in a live selection show on NCAA.com on Saturday at 5 p.m. A link to the selection show will appear on the front of the website when the show goes live.