PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/27/2017 – The Villanova Wildcats women’s distance medley team won their 15th Distance Medley Relay Championship Wheel at the 2017 Penn Relays in 10:53.97 which is the 8th fastest winning time in this event. Villanova won comfortably with Penn State making a late charge at the finish. For Villanova it was important to win this event after losing to Georgetown last year. The Cats wanted to continue its winning tradition in the DMR.
“The girls know the Villanova tradition of the Penn Relays,” said Villanova Coach Gina Procaccio. “We wanted this DMR as last year we weren’t strong enough to compete. My hats off to the girls. They are the ones who go out and do it. I am fortunate enough to have great athletes who get out there and take advantage of the opportunities.”
The Wildcats broke away in the third leg, the 800 meter, when Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner separated herself from the pack in the second lap of the segment running the distance in 2:05.78. Cleirigh-Butter passed the baton to anchor runner Angel Piccirillo who stretched the lead to as many as 25 meters in the 1600 part of the race.
“It was slow,” Cleirigh-Buttner said about the pace. “My legs wanted to go in the back stretch. When you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go.”
“Everyone’s splits were right on,” said anchor runner Angel Piccirillo. “I was going to go and we were going to win it no matter what. I wanted to make sure I brought it in the same way I got the stick which was first.”
Early in the race the runners were in a bunch. Villanova needed to stay close during the first two legs. Nova got a split of 3:21.39 from 1200 meter runner Nicole Hutchinson. Trailing early Hutchinson went to the outside and made the first pass leading Notre Dame and Penn State. Notre Dame runner Payton Miller went to the front and posted a time of 53.57. Tichina Rhodes ran a 53.77 split, but McKenna Keegan of Villanova ran her best time covering the distance in 54.05 keeping the Wildcats in contention.
“It was crucial,” Procaccio said about being near the front. “I told Nicole (Hutchinson) you have to bring it in with the lead. McKenna (Keegan) was going to need daylight. She ran amazing. She was not able to break 56 seconds in her freshman year.”
Piccirillo, who missed last year due to injury, tied a school record winning her seventh-career Penn Relays Championship.
The Nittany Lions of Penn State ran the distance in 10:56.07, the fastest time in program history. Notre Dame was third with a time of 10:58.22. Indiana was fourth in 11:02.25.
The University of Pennsylvania finished sixth in the event covering the distance in 11:15.76. The team was Ella Wurth (3:28.96), Cecil Ene (54.57), Maddie Villalba (2:11.13), and Ashley Montgomery (4:41.11).
Villanova turns their attention to the 4 x 1500 Championship of America race on Friday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian