PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/25/2014 – The Villanova Wildcats added the Women’s 4 x 1500 Championship to their collection at the 2014 Penn Relays. The Wildcats won it in the same fashion as the previous day’s Distance Medley Relay title as senior Emily Lipari used her finishing kick to pass Aisling Cuffe of Stanford in the last 50 meters to take the championship. Villanova took the two titles in these events for the first time since 1997, and was the first 4 x 1500 championship wheel since 2000. The winning time was 17:16.52, the eighth all-time at the carnival. The victories are cherished by this group and program.
“It’s something pretty special,” said Lipari. “It takes four girls to win a relay, not just one. When you come here there is a lot of Villanova support. We’ve been together three, four years now, and being together is special. To be part of this, to step up, is hard to put into words.”
The lead leg was run by junior Stephanie Schappert for the Blue and White. She turned in a split of 4:27.3. Schappert ran comfortably handing the baton to sophomore Angel Piccirillo just behind Stanford. Form held as Piccirillo ran a 4:17.4 time giving the baton to senior Nicky Akande. The race became a back and forth affair as both Villanova and Stanford tried to establish a lead. Akande needed to keep Stanford in sight, and did running a 4:20.4 split.
“You want to try and win the leg, Akande said. “I got the baton to her (Lipari) where she wanted it. I definitely wanted to give it to her in the lead, but if we were close or right there not giving an inch, and we would be fine.”
Cuffe took the baton ahead of Lipari who stayed off the leader’s shoulder for three laps around the track. In the bell lap Cuffe was determined to keep her lead and lengthened it around the far turn. Lipari, much like the day before called on her sprint and got in range around the last turn. Lipari was getting support from Piccirillo who kept imploring her by asking ‘how bad do you want it?’
“I knew she (Cuffe) was going to take it at me hard,” Lipari said.
It was a sprint to the finish. Lipari went past Cuff in the last 50 meters, and Villanova won the event. Lipari ran a time of 4:16.4 with Cuffe turning in a split of 4:16.6. Lipari wanted it badly.
Stanford covered the distance in 17:16.74, a scant 22 tenths of a second behind. Dartmouth, behind anchor runner Abbey D’Agostino (4:08.0), took third with a time of 17:20.87.
The Wildcats made their mark in the Penn Relays Carnival due to their success at this distance. Coach Gina Procaccio feels this group lived up to the expectations.
“This one is special because we haven’t won this race since 2000,” said Procaccio. “It was my first Penn Relays win. We’re known as middle distance runners. For us not to win this event in that many years really bothered me. The girls understood that and knows what Villanova is all about, the legacy, and went out and did their job.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian