PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/27/2018 – The Villanova Wildcats won their 12th overall Women’s 4 x 1500 Championship of America at the Penn Relays covering the distance in 17:35.48 at a cloudy Franklin Field.
Nova won the Distance Medley Relay the day before by going out quickly and were not threatened. This day was different as Villanova Indiana and Eastern Michigan stayed in proximity with each other. Indiana had a lead, but Nova anchor Nicole Hutchinson, the only athlete who ran yesterday, erased it and capped the come from behind victory for a deep Wildcat squad. The Cats are still winning, but this year are showing how deep and versatile this roster can be.
“It was interesting,” said Villanova Coach Gina Procaccio. “I am proud that we really have a lot of depth. They understand what the Penn Relays are about. I thought this could be a group that could get it done.”
It appeared to be a tactical race. Lead runner Kelsey Margey (4:29.3) and Kaley Ciluffo (4:24.2) were able to keep the Wildcats in the top three along with the Hoosiers and EMU. Nova was first at the initial hand off, third going into the third leg.
Freshman Lauren Ryan (4:25.1) ran in the third spot. She fell behind Haley Harris (4:26.5) of the Hoosiers by as many as 25 yards. Here is where the race turned. Just prior to the exchange Ryan made a move cutting the gap considerably, and turned the race to a duel between anchors Hutchinson and Katherine Receveur.
“I knew coming into the race, what we wanted to do,” said Ryan. “I thought my best bet was to go out and get in good position. I think it was the right decision. I wanted to have enough at the end and put Nicole in a good position.”
Hutchinson, running a time of 4:16.9 and confident in her kick, erased the lead early then pulled away down the stretch. Receveur ran 4:23.5.
“I was super excited watching them run with so much heart, and Lauren kicking it in getting as close as she could,” Hutchinson said. “I knew I was going to work my way up in the first lap, then I felt confident that I could get it done. That’s what the Penn Relays are about, watching them run as hard as they could.”
Indiana finished second in 17:41.32. Eastern Michigan was third running a 17:42.74. Villanova knew what they had to do and executed.
“I felt good about the race,” Ciluffo said. “We didn’t need tactics as much as just race with as much as we had, and got it done.”
This is the 4th win in the last 5 years for the Wildcats. And a Penn Relays Wheel is a great source of pride for the team from the Main Line.
“There is nothing like this so I am grateful to have the opportunity,” said Margey.
Saint Joseph’s also competed in the event and were third early in the race. The Hawks finished tenth crossing the finish line in 18:29.23. The SJU team was Lucy Harmon (4:37.4), Emily Bracken (4:32.3), Cassidy Weimer (4:34.3), and Lindsey Oremus (4:40.2).
Villanova will go for the sweep of the middle distance races on Saturday competing in the 4 x 800 with a different team, but one with the same goal.
“It comes down to heart and guts,” Procaccio said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian