Villanova falls just short on second day of Penn Relays


Villanova falls just short on second day of Penn Relays

Both the men’s and women’s distance runners from Villanova ran good races Friday at the Penn Relays.

Just not quite good enough to win.

One day after capturing its second straight distance medley relay title, the ’Nova women placed third in the women’s 4x1500 Championship of America relay, just behind first-place Michigan and second-place Oregon.

And the ’Nova men came in second place in Friday’s distance medley relay championship, falling to a Penn State squad that claimed its first DMR title since 1959.

“I’m happy for them,” Villanova men’s track coach Marcus O’Sullivan said of his runners. “And I’m disappointed for them.”

In its first big race of the 119th Penn Relays at Franklin Field, the Villanova men certainly lived up to its billing as one of the nation’s premier track programs.

Sam McEntee ran the 1200 in 2:53.0 to kick things off for the ’Cats. He was followed by Sam Ellison (who ran the 400 in 46.0 seconds), Chris FitzSimons (who ran the 800 in 1:49.4) and Jordan Williamsz (who anchored the mile in 3:58.4).

Meanwhile, La Salle’s team of Nick Crits, Wayne Bartholomew, Paul Reilly and Alfredo Santana placed a very respectable sixth. Interestingly enough, both Ellison and Reilly were teammates at nearby Upper Dublin High School, along with Mike Palmasino, who ran the leadoff leg for defending champion Princeton. Palmasino’s Tigers, however, stumbled to a ninth-place finish.

The biggest local story, though, was Villanova. And after failing to win the first of the three distance relays its entered in this weekend, the Wildcats will now focus on the other two -- Saturday’s 4xmile and 4x800.

“You walk past 20, 30 [Penn Relays] wheels every time you go in the locker room before every run,” McEntee said. “Marcus makes note of it. We have so many guys who have run here and won here. It’s such a rich history. Villanova is the school at Penn Relays.”

The same could be said for the ’Nova women, who already showed how potent they are with Friday’s DMR championship.

In the 4x1500, the Wildcats stayed right with powerhouses Michigan and Oregon for most of the race but found themselves trailing by at least 20 meters when anchor Emily Lipari took the baton.

Lipari ran the best anchor leg at 4:17.5 but it was not enough to close the deficit as Villanova placed third with a time of 17:17.57. Stephanie Schappert ran the leadoff leg in 4:22.9, Nicky Akande the second leg in 4:18, and Angel Piccirillo the third leg in 4:19.1.

“I have faith in my finish,” Lipari said. “My only goal was to catch up to them and worry about the finish later. Unfortunately, they started to bang into second gear and I just couldn’t give any more than I was already giving. It’s frustrating because I keep replaying the race in my head. I know I could do it. But I’m going to take this one and learn from it and apply it to tomorrow.”

On Saturday, the ’Nova women will close out its distance relay events with a spot in the 4x800. Most other teams don’t compete in that many relays, and that was perhaps one reason why Michigan and Oregon -- both of whom didn’t participate in the women’s DMR on Thursday -- edged out the Wildcats on Friday.

But the Wildcats wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re Villanova,” Schappert said. “We run as many races as we can.”

Praise for the Penn Relays
Just in case you needed any reminders just how respected the Penn Relays are, a couple of the world’s premier runners provided a couple.

In a press conference to preview Saturday’s highly anticipated USA vs. the World relays, England’s Christine Ohuruogo noted that “the atmosphere we have at Penn is like nothing I ever experienced, not even in London.” And American star Allyson Felix added that “there’s really no environment like this.”

Keep in mind, Ohuruogo and Felix are both past Olympic medalists.

Felix, who won three gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, will likely run in both the 4x100 and 4x400 USA vs. the World relays on Saturday.

And another Olympic gold medalist, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, hopes to slow her down.

“USA has been dominating the event for so long,” Fraser-Pryce said. “We just want to come at least one year and do something great. So maybe this year is the time.”

The USA vs. the World races will be televised live on NBC from 1-3 p.m.

Strong showing for Penn freshman
Sam Mattis knows a thing or two about the Penn Relays, having already captured three high school discus titles here.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that the Penn freshman put in a strong showing in his first collegiate Penn Relays, placing fourth in the discus championship with a throw of 187 feet, 4 inches.

James Plummer of Rutgers won the event at 194-3.

High school fun
One of the loudest cheers of the day came in the high school girls 4x800 Championship of America when Columbia (Maplewood, N.J.) came from way behind in the final lap to overtake Jamaica’s Edwin Allen High and draw “U-S-A” chants from the Franklin Field crowd.

Of local interest in that race, Great Valley, Pennsbury and Garnet Valley placed fifth through seventh.

Sans Spellman, challenges face Villanova in run to repeat

Sans Spellman, challenges face Villanova in run to repeat

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.

Temple picked to finish 6th in AAC preseason poll

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Temple picked to finish 6th in AAC preseason poll

This is starting to become a trend. One Temple hopes to continue to prove wrong.

For the third straight year, Temple was chosen to finish sixth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll. The poll, which was released on Monday, is voted on by the conference's head coaches.

Also selected to finish sixth last season, the Owls posted a 21-12 overall record and a 14-4 mark in the AAC to reach the NCAA Tournament. In 2014-15, TU tied for third in the AAC with a 13-5 record and was one of the last teams left out of the Big Dance.

Cincinnati was tabbed to win the American title in the poll, just ahead of UConn.

Temple, who returns three starters from last season's team, opens the 2016-17 campaign against city rival La Salle at the Liacouras Center on Nov. 11.