PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/24/2014 – The Villanova Wildcats got the hat trick winning the Distance Medley Relay Championship of America at the Penn Relays. It was the 13th overall DMR title for the Wildcats. However, they needed a big finishing kick from senior Emily Lipari, the reigning NCAA Indoor Mile champion, who chased down Aisling Cuffe of Stanford in the last 100 meters to win the race. Villanova won in a time of 10:57.35 beating Stanford by .29 seconds.
“Nice deja vu,” said Villanova Coach Gina Procaccio. “This is the race I worry about the most. I feel the DMR is the most prestigious. It’s the one for Villanova that we really want to win. This year it (the DMR field) was loaded. I always tell them, it’s our turf. They know how to win. They competed tough and it worked out.
Lipari has the ability to finish, and it could not have come at a better time for the Wildcats. The lead pack consisted of Villanova, Stanford, Georgetown, and Oregon. After the third leg Stanford led and the race would become a duel between Lipari and Cuffe. The Cardinal held the lead after three laps of the 15oo. Cuffe appeared to be in position to land the championship for the west coast squad. Lipari made a move to the outside with 150 meters left to run. She caught Cuffe with 100 meters left, and ran to the title.
“Coming down the straight she (Cuffe) was looking strong, and I knew I had to give everything I had,” said Lipari.
“I know Emily has the kick,” said Procaccio. “She (Cuffe) opened up a little bit, but I was still confident that Emily could run her down.”
The opening 1200 meter leg was run by junior Stephanie Schappert who turned in a split of 3:25 handing the baton to sophomore Michaela Wilkins who ran the 400 leg in 54.40. Wilkins handed off to senior Nicky Akande who ran a 2:04.51 pulling Villanova from fourth to second place, and a chance to retain the title.
“I know Emily has a great kick, so I felt confident,” said Akande. “Handing off to her I could see the lead, so I was confident.”
Lipari brought the title home running a 4:33.44 split in the 1500 meter leg.
“I was definitely relaxed,” Lipari said. “All the girls that were out there before me were out there being really tough, and for me not to give that same toughness would have been a shame.”
Stanford finished second with a time of 10:57.64. Georgetown took third place turning in a time of 11:06.14. Dartmouth, anchored by Abbey D’Agostino grabbed fourth place with a 11:06.31 time, followed by Oregon running a 11:06.89.
The Wildcats won the championship in 2012 and 2013, and claimed the championship in 1994, 95, and 97.. From 1987 – 91 the main liners took home the wheel five consecutive years. Challenging that record is down the line. Procaccio was focused on the here and now, and the formula of giving Lipari a chance to win it for Villanova.
“Put her (Lipari) in position and she’ll get it done,” Procaccio said.