JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the 10,000-meter national semi-final held Wednesday night at Hodges Stadium, Haftu Strintzos (Melbourne, Australia) came from 48th place to tie the lead in a single lap. Strintzos qualified for his third straight trip to the NCAA championships by placing sixth in the 10k race on the opening night of the NCAA Eastern Preliminaries. Villanova competed in the javelin, 1,500-meter, 800-meter and 10,000-meter events during the first four days of competition this week at the University of North Florida.
Also on Wednesday, three Wildcat riders advanced to the quarterfinals of their national championship events. Liam Murphy (Millstone, NJ) (junior, distance running) and Sean Donoghue (Dublin, Ireland) (sophomore, distance running) both finished the first lap of the 1,500 meters, with Murphy winning his heat and Donoghue finishing top five to earn a bye to Friday’s quarterfinals. Senior middle distance runner Sean Dolan (Ewing, NJ) qualified third fastest for the quarterfinals by qualifying in the first round of the 800 meters.
Villanova’s first opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships came in the evening’s final competition. After 2800 meters (7 out of 25 laps) of the 10km race, Strintzos was still trailing near the very end of the peloton. After eight homers of the Hodges Stadium track, he and Tennessee’s Dylan Jacobs were neck and neck for first place. After the first mile, Strintzos had recorded lap times of 1:12.50 and 1:13.02, but he quickly rebounded with a 1:08.03 on the next circuit and stayed at or near the front of the peloton for the rest of the race.
Cutter qualified for the 10k semifinals for the second consecutive year, improving his position from last year by 27 places. He finished in 29:45.91, good enough for 17th overall, and his final solid kick saw him beat competitors Iona and Providence by a single second. Phillips had competed in the 5,000-meter semifinal at the NCAA Eastern Preliminaries for the past two seasons, making it his first appearance in the 10k in that event.
Murphy, Donoghue, redshirt rookie Devon Comber (Ambler, Pennsylvania) and senior Charlie O’Donovan (Cork, Ireland) were split into three different runs for the Wildcats’ first track race on Wednesday, the first round of the 1,500 meters. . Donoghue crossed the finish line with a blistering final sprint, making his 3:46.30 the fastest of the three runners. On Friday night, the fastest four times plus the top five in each heat advanced to the quarter-finals. Comber finished fourth in his group and needed a bye to advance; the four competitors who arrived on time were from the second and fourth heats. Donoghue started the bell lap in seventh place in the third moto, but a four-tenths-of-a-second advantage from a tilt at the finish line propelled him into the quarterfinals.
Donoghue was the last of the automatic qualifiers in his heat, finishing less than half a second behind the winner. Murphy finished first in his heat and fifth overall to advance to the next round. His 400-meter final time of 53.89 seconds was more than four tenths of a second faster than the next fastest split time on the bell lap. Friday at 5:15 p.m., he and Donoghue will face off to see who of 24 runners will finish in the top 12. Murphy and Comber both made their professional basketball debuts Wednesday night at the NCAA East Preliminary. In the first moto, Comber was eighth in 3 minutes, 47.91 seconds, just 0.01 seconds ahead of O’Donovan, who was ninth in 3 minutes, 47.99 seconds. Last week at the BIG EAST Championships, Comber and O’Donovan placed.
Dolan cleared the first lap of the 800 meters with a time of 1:48.34, putting him in the last of three guaranteed spots in his race to qualify directly for the quarter-finals. The top two qualifiers on time Friday night both came from the Dolan section, which was the fastest of the night. There was less than a second separating the top nine of the heat. The gap between the top five runners was less than 0.5 seconds. Dolan beat Virginia Tech’s Ben Nagel by a hair’s breadth to secure his spot in the finals. When the quarterfinals begin Friday at 7:05 p.m., he will go for his second consecutive NCAA outdoor championship berth.
The day started for Villanova with the javelin competition between sophomores Grinnell and Coffey in the NCAA East prelims. Grinnell’s first throw of the day was a 56.96-yard effort, the longest of his three steals. Coffey started the second flight with a throw of 61.74 meters on his second attempt, making him the first athlete to throw in that group. On Thursday, the Wildcats will face off in the javelin throw (1:30 p.m.), pole vault (6:30 p.m.), 800 meters (7:50 p.m.) and 10,000 meters (9:10 p.m.) as competition moves to the women action.