PHILADELPHIA, April 29, 2011 – The Villanova Wildcats won their 24th Men’s Distance Medley Relay Championship at the Penn Relays as anchor runner Matthew Gibney took to the front in the last 150 meters to give Villanova an unexpected, but exciting victory. There were as many as five teams who had a chance to win the race in the last 200 meters, but Gibney used his tactical skills to get the win. Villanova finished with a time of 9:37.93.
“I am incredibly proud of these guys,” said Villanova Coach Marcus O’Sullivan. “Coming into it we knew it was going to be competitive. The way they handled the race was great. The anchor [Matt Gibney] said what if I get it in first place, and I said you won’t. When he did, he somehow quite masterfully managed to maneuver himself back into second place. I started to realize at the top of the turn that he has so much left in him. I think we were in a great position coming in, BYU were overwhelming favorites, and Arkansas has a lot of experience in this event. We ended up right there and a bunch of other teams were right there as well. I really can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.
The Wildcats did not get off to a good start as Brian Tetrault,the 1200 meter runner, got pushed to the back of the pack.
“The plan was to get into the mix,” said Tetrault. “I got pushed to the back, but fought back top the front. I was worried, but I started coming back.”
Tetrault ran a 2:57.86 split.He handed the baton to 400 meter runner Carlton Bower who got his team back into contention with a blistering time of 46.89. Samuel Ellison was next up running a 1:51.03 800 meter leg, giving Gibney the baton for the 1600 meter leg.
The pace was not fast which was to Villanova’s advantage. Entering the last 200 meters Providence, Arkansas, Indiana, Villanova, and favored BYU all were in a position to win. Gibney used his mental skills and was patient making his final kick at the right time.
“My strategy was wait to the last 100 and give it all I had,” said Gibney.” You can sort of tell how fast people are going and how much they’ve got. There weren’t that many people coming right up on my shoulder. If there were people really waiting you can feel them coming up and it didn’t look like BYU in front of me was cruising. There weren’t any people really coming right up on my shoulder so I felt pretty confident. The thing I love most about racing is the tactical aspect and you really get that in a slow race like this. I was really hoping to wait until I got to the home straightaway but I had to go a little bit earlier.”
Gibney ran a 4:02.16 split.
Arkanasas finished second with a time of 9:37.93. BYU was third recording a time of 9:38.60. Indiana finished fourth in 9:39.24, and Providence was fifth running the distance in 9:40.94.
The championship was the 90th overall for the Villanova men. The Wildcats have 160 in total. The number does not matter as much, it was thrill for O’Sullivan as he needed to switch runners and positions all the way up to race time.
“I’ll relish this team for the rest of my life,” said O’Sullivan.
It was also a thrill for Tetrault, Bowers, and Ellison who are local residents. They know the Penn Relays, and what it means. It was also a thrill for the Villanova faithful whose rooting section is loudest in Franklin Field.
“The Go Nova Chant is so cool up there,” said Tetrault. “I’ve been up in the stands the past three years. It’s a whole different experience do be down here racing. It makes us feel at home”
Written By: Glenn Papazian