Most track and field programs would consider their season a success if they had accomplished all that Georgetown has this year. Sub-four-minute miles and record-breaking performances have highlighted an indoor campaign that Director of Track and Field Pat Henner and his athletes are proud of.
“I think the key is, more than ever, both the men’s and women’s teams, everybody’s focused on the team, and team running,” Henner said.
Nevertheless, the Hoyas will seek a championship and more accolades for its runners when they head to the Big East Championship this weekend. Held in New York, the meet brings together programs from across the conference on Feb. 28 and March 1 in the first postseason test for the Hoyas.
Both the No. 20 men’s and No. 10 women’s teams finished second to rival Villanova at last season’s championship meet. Junior Ahmed Bile, then a sophomore, led a group of four Georgetown athletes who finished in the top six of the 800-meter race.
The men’s team will look to continue its top finishes and push some of its top runners in other events during the meet. Bile ran sub-four-minute miles twice this season, the first of which marked the first time that Bile ran a mile competitively.
In addition, last weekend in the Penn State Tune-Up, two Georgetown runners — sophomore All-Americans Ryan Manahan and Sabrina Southerland — broke records in the 800m event.
“I was thrilled. I was happy that, one, that time would get me into nationals, and two, that I could drop the school record a little bit in the 800,” Manahan said.
Georgetown is the favorite by a large margin entering the weekend, as the men are the only ranked Big East team, and the only other women’s team in the top 25 is No. 19 Providence. Defending champion Villanova sits at 37th on the men’s side and 36th on the women’s.
“The team’s mindset will change in that we’re throwing time out the window and just focusing on really competing against the other people, competing against the bodies around us and trying to beat people,” junior Samantha Nadel said.
For the men, Bile, Manahan and graduate student and former All-American Billy Ledder will seek to help their team redeem last year’s 32.5 point loss to Villanova. All three are top competitors in the 800m event, and the Hoyas anticipate that they will field an elite team for the 4×800 event.
“I think we (Manahan, Ledder and freshman Joe White) will all go to nationals. I think that one of us might compete in the DMR instead of the open 100, but I think there’s a 100 percent chance that we’ll all be going,” Manahan said, mentioning three of Georgetown’s best 800m runners.
Southerland and fellow All-Americans senior Katrina Coogan and Nadel will lead the women. Nadel set a personal best time of 16:04.71 at the Valentine Invitational on Feb. 13. Coogan was named the Big East Athlete of the Week after the Penn State National Invitational on Jan. 31, where she anchored a distance medley relay team that was the first in the NCAA this season to break the 11-minute mark.
Outstanding performances from the Hoyas’ runners throughout this season provide a source of encouragement and pride for Henner, who is expecting his team to earn more NCAA qualifying times this weekend.
“Right now, Sabrina Southerland is ranked fourth in the country, [graduate student] Becca DeLoache is ranked eighth, and so those two will definitely get in. [Freshman] Piper Donaghu ranked twelfth right now, so she’ll probably get in as well … Ryan Manahan will definitely get in, but I think it’s going to work out well either way, because if Joe and Billy don’t get in, then that just means that they can go on that Distance Medley Relay and be fresh, and that’s just going to make that relay a lot better,” Henner said, discussing the team’s impressive stable of 800m runners.
Hoya Staff Writers Kara Avanceña, Jimmy McLaughlin and Tyler Park contributed to reporting.