PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/27/2013 – The Villanova Wildcats set a collegiate and Penn Relays record as junior anchor runner Emily Lipari passed Laura Roesler down the stretch winning the 4 x 800 Championship of America at the Penn Relays. Villanova finished with a Penn Relays and Collegiate record-setting time of 8:17.45 seconds eclipsing the previous record of 8:17.91 set by Tennessee in 2009. Oregon finished the race in 8:17.62 as Lipari edged out Roesler at the finish line.
The team consisted of Freshman Kelsey Margey, freshman Angel Piccirillo, junior Nicky Akande, and junior Emily Lipari. The victory for Villanova was characterized by Coach Gina Procaccio as a total team victory.
“It was all four of them,” said Procaccio. “It was such a team effort. We had two freshman on the first two legs. They know what the Penn Relays is about. I told Kelsey to get us the lead, stay calm and just explode the last 400 meters. Angel, I knew she could run with anybody. She wasn’t going to let anybody go by. Nicky is so super solid. She ran the 800 in the DMR, so I knew she would be solid. She gave the baton to Emily to see if she could get it done. It’s so amazing and so exciting. A collegiate record, I never would expected that.”
This team pulled together after running three tough races during the three-day event. Villanova won the Distance Medley Relay, finished third in the 4 x 1500, and capped the weekend winning the Championship Wheel since 1997. That year the Blue and White won four events, all in which they participated in this year and the 4 x 400. For Villanova it is a matter of coming to the Penn Relays and competing in the races.
“Running for three straight days is what we’ve always done,” said Procaccio. “It’s Villanova, it’s what you do. If you are one of the top girls on the Villanova team at the Penn Relays, you are going to run in all three relays. You get to that last day and you have to run on emotion and you have to run on heart. You may have tired legs, but if you put that aside, you can do it. You do it for your teammates and you do it for the program and the tradition. You come to Villanova to be a part of it. I’m proud of all four of them, they did it and stepped it up.”
The race started with freshman Kelsey Margey setting the tone leading after the first leg with a split of 2:07.04. She passed the baton to fellow freshman Angel Piccirillo who kept the lead despite being challenged by LSU and Oregon. Piccirillo ran her leg in a time of 2:04.12, then passed the baton to junior Nicky Akande in front of the pack. The freshman set it up for the upperclassmen to finish in front.
Akande fended off an effort by Anne Kesselring of Oregon to keep Villanova in front. Akande turned in a time of 2:04.04 while Kesselring ran the distance in 2:02.74.
“We have two freshman that literally gave everything for us, and [Emily and I] couldn’t help but do the same,” said Akande. “I saw them hurting, and I saw them hurting two. I knew that if we all ran our best, we could do it.”
Lipari took the baton for the last 800 meters with the lead. During the first lap Roesler took the lead on Lipari. At the bell lap the race was undecided as Oregon, Villanova, and LSU took off for the final lap. Roesler put some distance between herself and Lipari as LSU dropped out of contention. Lipari made her last charge around the final turn, kept chopping the lead, and caught Roesler just before the finish line giving Villanova two Penn Relays championships in the meet.
“I saw the green and yellow before me,” said Lipari. “I saw the pain on their faces. My teammates were cheering for me at different points in the race saying ‘come on Emily, you can do it.’ It was a group effort and we’re going to enjoy it for a little bit.”
The team gets ready for the Big East Championships before moving on to the NCAA Championships. Villanova won a race their coach enjoys the most. And they will return next season to Franklin Field.
Written By: Glenn Papazian