In the eight edition of our memorable moments stories, this one focuses on a continued a long term run of success for the Villanova Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams. Many shining moments from over the years.
Over the course of the program the Wildcats claimed the team NCAA Women’s Cross Country championship 9 times, the most of any team in the history of the event. Stanford ranks second with five, and Oregon and BYU claimed four trophies. Nova took the title consecutively from 1989 through 1994, then in 1998, followed by back to back wins in 2009 and 2010. There were seven individual champions who won the race nine times. The winners were;
Vicki Huber (1989)
Sonia O’Sullivan (1990 and 1991)
Carole Zajac (1992 and 1993)
Jennifer Rhines (1994)
Carrie Tollefson (1997)
Sheila Reid (2010 and 201) who was also the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Amateur Athlete of the Year in consecutive years.
Reid, Rhines, O’Sullivan, and Zajac competed in the Olympics.
Twice the individual NCAA Men’s Cross Country champion was claimed by a Villanova runner.
In the men’s competition the Wildcats won it all as a team four times. The championship came back to the main line from 1966 through 1968, then in 1970.
Victor Zwolak was the individual champion in 1963. The most recent individual champion was Patrick Tiernan in 2016 when being named the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Amateur Athlete of the Year.
The string of success was started a long time ago by legendary coaches James Elliott, the Marty Stern. Since that time the mantle of leadership was passed into the capable hands of Marcus O’Sullivan, a four-time Olympian competing for Ireland, and Gina Proccacio, both were Villanova runners.
At the championship meets for the squads this past season the Wildcats finished second in the men’s Big East race with five runners in the top-twenty to place third. The women’s team placed second. Lyida Olivere was the individual titlist crossing the line in 21:29.5. She also took the Mid-Atlantic individual crown. The men’s team won the Mid-Atlantic meet, and both teams were an NCAA qualifier.
At the national meet the team placed 23rd in the men’s race, the women came in at 24th place.
Villanova will continue to have a recognized place in collegiate Cross Country.
Written By: Glenn Papazian