Malik Cunningham (St. Andrew, Jamaica), a fifth-year Villanova athlete, qualified for first-team All-American status in the triple jump Friday night at Mike A. Myers Stadium with the highest mark of his school career. At the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Cunningham jumped 16.17 yards, good enough for seventh place overall and the best finish in any jump by a male Wildcats competitor in 44 years. Villanova earned two team points at the NCAA championships thanks to Cunningham’s top-eight finish, and junior distance runner Liam Murphy (Millstone, NJ) placed eleventh in the 1,500-meter final earlier Friday. evening.
In 1979, when Nate Cooper won the national triple jump title, the last time the Wildcats scored a male competitor in an NCAA championship jump event. Cooper had previously been the only Wildcats athlete to do better than Cunningham in the triple jump. Together they are a pair of the only two male jumpers in Villanova history to achieve All-American status. Cooper finished in the top four in outdoor competition in 1978 (t-4th) and 1979 (t-1st), and both athletes were named All-Americans twice. In 2022, Cunningham finished 14th indoors and made a strong first impression at the NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday night, earning second-team All-American honors.
Cunningham only needed two consecutive successful jumps in triple jump trials to make history. In the first of two triple jump flights of the night, he was in second place and fouled on his first down. Cunningham’s second jump was determined to be 15.78 meters, which put him in sixth place at the time of the jump and, for now, puts him in the top nine which would proceed from the first round of three jumps for take three more. final attempts. At the end of the tests, ten competitors had cleared 16 meters.
On his third try, Cunningham had his greatest moment in the sport as he sprinted down the track and cleanly launched himself into a 16.17 meter jump. It was five centimeters longer than Cunningham’s previous personal best and seven centimeters longer than his previous longest outdoor jump. His new outdoor triple jump record is the ninth-best in Wildcats history and sixth-best in school history. Since Cooper set the school record with a jump of 17.10 meters on June 2, 1979 and won the national title, Cunningham’s jump is the longest by a Villanova athlete.
Just after 8 a.m., two flights of the triple jump started simultaneously, but the first flight immediately outpaced the second. With his distance of 16.17 meters, Cunningham moved up to fourth place on the numerical results board displayed alongside the race. Cunningham had to wait for the remaining jumps in the two flights to be sure his place was secured, but with this score he had a good chance of making it to the final. The nine athletes who made it to the final only had 10 more clear jumps out of a potential 27 attempts, so his position in the standings didn’t change much.
This spring, Cunningham ended his undergraduate career on a high by winning the BIG EAST Outdoor Championship for the second time in his career. He qualified for the national championships by placing second in the triple jump at Penn Relays and eighth at the NCAA Eastern Preliminaries two weeks earlier. The Wildcats scored at the NCAA outdoor championships for the 59th time in the last 76 seasons thanks to his two team points collected on Friday night. Only 27 other schools nationwide have scored more 59 times in the national outdoor meet than Villanova. The Wildcats were left with two team points, which tied them for 61st place.
The Wildcats have had at least one national championship entrant in the 1,500 meters nine times in the past 12 seasons. After a stellar year of racing, Murphy placed 11th in Friday night’s race with a time of 3:45.72. He ran the 1,500 meters for the first time at the NCAA outdoor championships this week and will be a second-team All-American when the results are released the following week. With Murphy’s result, Villanova now had a 1,500-yard All-American for the 36th time.
The first half of Friday night’s championship race saw plenty of fights between the 12 competitors for position. Approaching the last 700 meters of the race, Murphy was surrounded by several runners and seemed to want to head outside. Although Murphy didn’t move at the time, he found himself near the back of the field as the race approached the bell and had to swing wide to give himself a chance to catch up in the last 400 meters.
Murphy had to venture to the middle of lane three, just as he had in the semi-final two nights earlier; in fact, he took a few steps in Friday’s run when his right foot landed on the fourth lane line. It worked, as the official splits revealed that with 400 yards to go, Washington’s Joe Waskom, Wisconsin’s Adam Spencer and Murphy were separated by less than two-hundredths of a second. According to the gaps, seven riders were less than a quarter of a second behind the leader at the final bell.
The 2022-23 season will go down in history as one of Villanova’s most successful and memorable seasons in recent memory, thanks to Murphy’s long list of accomplishments. In the fall, he competed in cross-country competitions and was named the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Top Runner and Top Athlete. During the indoor season, he clocked a personal best 3:55.58 in the Mile, broke the Wildcats indoor record in the 3,000 meters, and led them to a school record and a BIG EAST title in the medley distance relay.
When did the outdoor performance end? His personal best in the 1500 meters was 3:39.42, which he achieved at Princeton. Two weeks later at the Penn Relays, he was the anchor of the Villanova 4xMile Relay Team that won the Americas Championship. The 4×800 meter relay team then set a new meet record of 7:17.96 and a stadium record of 13:43.32 to win the BIG EAST Championship. In last month’s NCAA East Preliminaries, Murphy was a lock to advance to the 1,500-meter final after leading after the first two rounds. To top it off, he qualified as the fastest athlete in the East for the national championships taking place this week.
Two nights ago in the national semifinals, Murphy ran the second-fastest 1,500-meter race of his career (3:39.82), capping an incredible year with a second-team All-America performance on Friday. . Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. In addition to finishing in the top 25, Villanova was also one of only two BIG EAST schools (the other being Butler) and one of only five institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region (the others being Navy, Princeton, Penn State and Fairleigh Dickinson) to do so. Eastern Time (7:30 p.m. Central Time), Roschell Clayton (Montego Bay, Jamaica) will compete in the junior women’s high jump event at the NCAA Championships.