PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/26/2018 – The Villanova women’s Distance Medley Relay team won their 16th Championship of America at the Penn Relays, and have taken 6 of the last 7 in this event. The past few years came down to the anchor leg. This year the Wildcats started strong and held a comfortable lead throughout with a time of 11:01.94 in a race that challenged them in a different way.
“It was little tougher,” said Villanova Coach Gina Procaccio. “Nicole (Hutchinson) opened it up and the rest are racers, tough to be out there by themselves. It wasn’t the most comfortable race for them, but that’s where your heart and guts take over.”
Anchoring the team was senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner. She has been on four Wheel-winning DMR teams, this time as the anchor. Buttner took the baton for the final leg with a sizable lead and maintained it until the final straight-away. With daylight she could approach the leg running with time as her opponent and covered the 1600 in 4:36.09.
“It’s a group effort,” Cleirigh Buttner said. “When you’re anchoring you see them leave it all on the track.”
“You can’t look at the clock because the clock is always running.”
Notre Dame finished second at 11:03.71 and Penn State crossed the finish line in 11:09.15.
Sometimes the race does not always go as planned. Nicole Hutchinson started and sent Nova to a lead of thirty-plus yards turning in a time of 3:21.86. The opponent did not make a move, so Hutchinson took it to the front. The beginning gave a lift to the Wildcats.
“I got a little daylight and decided to go with it,” said Hutchinson.
The baton went to McKenna Keegan far in front who ran a fast 55.71 400 meter leg.
“I was thankful for it,” Keegan said about the advantage.
Keegan gave the stick to freshman Rachel McArthur in her first event a a Villanova runner. McArthur maintained the lead. She cited the support of her teammates as a source of success.
“There is a lot of support going into it,” McArthur said. “My teammates are very encouraging. I wasn’t super nervous like I get for a lot of races.”
The women’s relay teams from the Main Line will continue their quest for another Wheel. For Cleirigh Buttner this was her seventh overall. This team won with a team comprised of a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Success at the Penn Relays are a source of pride for this group, something to keep going.
“Once you step on campus and in recruiting, we place a big emphasis on this event,” Cleirigh Buttner said. It’s kind of an unsaid thing how important this meet is for us. We are always so excited in a very quiet way for this event. You walk down the halls and see all of the Wheels. Every year is different, but you carry on that tradition. You feel as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, there is no going back.”
Next up for the Cats will be the 4 x 1500 on Friday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian