One might say that Drew Eckman was born to run.

His father, Greg Eckman, was a standout runner at Perkiomen Valley High and Villanova in the 1970s. In 1975, he helped Villanova's distance-medley relay team triumph at the Penn Relays by running a 440-yard split of 46.7 seconds.

His grandfather, Lester Eckman, was a hurdler and high jumper at Coatesville and Gettysburg College. In the high jump, his personal-best mark was 6 feet, 7 inches.

Following almost directly in his father's footsteps, Drew Eckman is starring at Villanova. He will be a part of the school's distance-medley and 4x800 relay squads at the 113th running of the Penn Relays.

"It's a great atmosphere, something I've looked forward to ever since my dad took me to the Penn Relays when I was little," Eckman said.

As a competitor, this will be Eckman's fifth trip to Franklin Field. His first was in 2003, when he ran for Oxford High's 4x400 relay team.

Last year, anchoring Villanova in the college men's 4x800 Championship of America race, the 6-foot-1, 155-pound Eckman ran an 800-meter split of 1 minute, 47.7 seconds as the Wildcats clocked in at 7:19.06 and finished second to Oral Roberts (7:18.74).

Outdoors, Eckman is an individual standout in the 400-meter hurdles and 800 meters. His personal record in the 400 hurdles is 51.00 seconds. In the 800, his mark is 1:49.9.

Overall, the 22-year-old from Oxford owns six Big East championships. He has claimed three outdoor titles in the 400 hurdles. Indoors, he has won the 500 - this year's winning time of 1:01.8 was the third-fastest in school history - and been part of two winning 4x400 relay teams.

At the Big East outdoor track and field championships next month, Eckman will try for a four-year sweep in the 400 hurdles. Last year, with a clocking of 51.00, he nipped Rutgers' Jahmone Duhaney (51.35) for the title.

"He's done a tremendous job of representing the school, his father and his family," said Marcus O'Sullivan, Villanova's head track and field coach.

Greg Eckman ran at Villanova under legendary coach Jumbo Elliott. At the Penn Relays, he was part of three championship distance-medley relay teams. In 1975, he joined Ken Schappert, Tom Gregan and Eamonn Coghlan in posting a world-best time of 9:28.2.

"My dad definitely influenced me," Drew Eckman said. "He didn't push track, however. He let me try out every sport. It just turned out that I excelled in track."

Eckman has also excelled in the classroom. Majoring in biology, he has a 3.62 grade-point average.

In February, Eckman was named the 2006-07 Big East male scholar-athlete of the year. He was chosen from a pool of 17 candidates from the 10 Big East men's sports.

"It's something I really never expected to get," said Eckman, who will receive a $4,000 scholarship that can be applied to graduate or professional studies.

Said O'Sullivan: "Drew Eckman is a super kid, a really great inspiration to the guys on the team in terms of his professionalism and in terms of his focus to do well in the athletic and academic arenas."

Again taking after his father, Eckman has decided to pursue a career in dentistry. He will begin attending the University of Maryland Dental School in August. Greg Eckman, 52, has had a private practice in Oxford for the last 26 years.

"I'm proud of him," Greg Eckman said. "He was always interested in the medical field in one way or another. It was just a matter of which direction he was going to go in."

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.