Villanova swept the distance events at Penn Relays for the first time since 1997
Villanova named Coaching Staff of the Year; Emily Lipari repeats as Most Outstanding Track Performer
Villanova sets collegiate mark with time of 8:17.45, wins second title in three days at Penn Relays
Villanova wins 31st Penn Relays championship and 12th DMR title
Five time national champion is fifth Villanovan athlete to earn a spot in this Olympics
The women's track & field team set a new collegiate and Penn Relays record in the 4x800 meter relay on April 27, 2013.
Last Updated September 9, 2014
For a full bio of Coach Procaccio, including awards won by her and the Villanova student-athletes during her tenure, click here.
During her prolific career, Gina Procaccio has achieved success at the highest levels as both a coach and an athlete herself. She is in her 15th season as head coach of the women's cross country and track & field teams in 2014-15 and previously spent a total of five seasons as an assistant coach with the program.
The list of accomplishments for the Wildcats during Procaccio's tenure is staggering. Since taking over as head coach in the fall of 2000, Procaccio has guided Villanova to two national championships in cross country and a combined seven BIG EAST team titles. In addition she has mentored nine individual national champions, 86 All-Americans and 125 individual BIG EAST champions while also leading the Wildcats to seven Championship of America titles at the Penn Relays. Procaccio is a two-time National Coach of the Year and a seven-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
Villanova has enjoyed an incredible run of success over the past several years and the 2013-14 academic year was an especially good one. Procaccio led the Wildcats to the team title at the BIG EAST Championships both indoors and outdoors, marking the first time since 2000 that Villanova swept the two conference meets. From an individual standpoint senior Emily Lipari became the Wildcats latest distance runner to win a national championship under Procaccio's watch. Lipari won the Mile indoors at the NCAA Championships and finished her career as a 10-time All-American. Meanwhile, Nicky Akande was a first team All-American in the 800 meters and Villanova received a total of eight All-America honors at the indoor NCAA meet.
At the outdoor BIG EAST Championships the Wildcats set meet records for highest team score and largest margin of victory in the team standings. Villanova won six events and both the indoor and outdoor meets and extended its all-time league records by winning the indoor title for the 12th time and the outdoor championship for the ninth time. Junior Alexandra Wasik won the pole vault title both indoors and outdoors and the Wildcats also won the 4x800 meter relay at each meet. Villanova has now been the conference champion in the 4x800 relay for five straight years indoors and three consecutive years outdoors. During the indoor conference meet Lipari became the first athlete in conference history to be a three-time champion in the 1000 meters and also the first BIG EAST athlete in 20 years to be a repeat winner of the Most Outstanding Track Performer award.
Lipari enjoyed a remarkable run which saw her rack up a national championship, eight All-America honors and nine BIG EAST titles just in her final two years of competition. During the 2013 cross country season she came in fifth at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors for the second straight year. She was also the individual champion at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, where she and Akande finished first and second in a virtual dead heat to lead Villanova to the team title. Lipari wrapped up her stellar career with a fourth place finish and first team All-America honors in the 1500 meters at the 2014 outdoor NCAA Championships.
Over the past three years (2012-14) the Wildcats have made history at the Penn Relays, most recently by sweeping the Championship of America distance relays in 2014. Lipari anchored Villanova to repeat titles in both the distance medley relay and the 4x800 meter relay, while also leading the Wildcats to their first 4x1500 meter relay title since 2000. This marked the first time since 1997 that Villanova swept the three distance relays, while Lipari became the third woman in program history to anchor three winning relays in a single year. She is now the only woman in Wildcats history to have anchored five relay wins in her career, while both Lipari and Akande have racked up six Penn Relays titles in the past three years. Lipari was named the 2014 Women's Athlete of the Meet for the relay events and received the award for the second straight year.
At the 2013 Penn Relays the Wildcats set an all-time collegiate record in the 4x800 meter relay with a winning time of 8:17.45. That performance came just two days after the team repeated as champions of the distance medley relay. Lipari anchored both of those relays and was selected as the Women's Athlete of the Meet for the relay events. Lipari won four All-America honors and five BIG EAST titles during 2012-13 and her first place finish at the conference championships in cross country gave Villanova the individual BIG EAST champion for a fourth consecutive year.
Procaccio has continued the Wildcats legacy as the most successful women's cross country program in NCAA history. She led Villanova to consecutive team titles at the national championships in 2009 and 2010, giving the Wildcats nine all-time team titles and four more than any other team has won. Procaccio also coached Sheila Reid to consecutive individual national titles in 2010 and 2011. Just six women have ever won multiple individual titles in cross country but Reid became the third Villanovan to accomplish the feat. At the BIG EAST level Procaccio led the Wildcats to four straight team titles (2008-11) and has coached six individual conference champions.
During the 2011-12 academic year Reid wrapped up a sensational collegiate career which included five national championships, 12 All-America honors and 13 BIG EAST titles. Reid anchored Villanova to the Championship of America crown in the distance medley relay at the Penn Relays, giving the Wildcats their first Penn Relays crown since 2006. Reid began the 2011-12 campaign by winning the BIG EAST cross country championship for the third straight season and then successfully defended her individual national title. She wrapped up the campaign with an All-American performance in the 5000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and then went on to represent her native Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Reid was already established on the national scene when she broke through in a big way in 2010-11. She became the sixth Villanova runner to win at least one cross country national championship and it marked the seventh time in school history that the Wildcats won both the team and individual titles in cross country. During the 2011 indoor track & field season Reid anchored Villanova to a national championship in the distance medley relay, where she headlined a team that also included Emily Lipari, Ariann Neutts and Christie Verdier. The best performance of the year was yet to come, however, as Reid went on to win national titles outdoors in both the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters. She remains the only woman in history to win championships in each of those events outdoors in the same year. Reid was presented with the prestigious Honda Award for cross country in both 2010 and 2011, while also receiving the 2011 award for track & field. That same year she was chosen as one of three finalists for the Honda-Broderick Cup, which is presented annually to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.
The run that the Wildcats are currently gained steam during the 2009-10 academic year, when Procaccio led the cross country team to its eighth national title. Villanova surged into the NCAA Championships with team victories at the BIG EAST Championships and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional before capturing the national title by a wide margin. All five scoring runners for the Wildcats earned All-America honors and it marked the first ever that Villanova placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 30. On the track side, the Wildcats won the team title at the indoor BIG EAST Championships.
In celebration of the 2009 national title Villanova joined more than 30 other team national champions in a reception at the White House. The team was also recognized with a state resolution from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives recognizing the success of the national champion cross country and football teams from Villanova during the 2009 season.
Success for Villanova student-athletes has gone far beyond athletic competition during Procaccio's time as head coach. When the cross country team won its national championships in 2009 and 2010 the Wildcats were also named the Scholar Team of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Sheila Reid was the Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year for cross country in both 2010 and 2011, as well as the Track Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011.
Other academic awards for Villanova have also been plentiful. Reid was a two-time Capital One Academic All-American during her time at Villanova and was selected as the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year in cross country in both 2010 and 2011. Nicole Schappert, who was a three-time All-American and a two-time BIG EAST champion for the Wildcats, was selected as the Villanova Female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year in 2009-10 for the combination for athletic accomplishments and academic success. Reid went on to win the same award a year later.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the Wildcats academic success, however, is not the major awards won but the constant stream of successful student-athletes. In her time as head coach Procaccio has seen her student-athletes be named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team a total of 355 times, while the women's track & field team has consistently received public recognition from the NCAA for ranking in the top 10 percent of its sport in multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores.
It comes as no surprise that Procaccio has returned the Villanova to a program that is perennially in the national spotlight. Procaccio was an NCAA champion and a U.S. national champion during her own racing career. The same passion which allowed her to compete at such a high level also led her into coaching.
Even before the highlights of the past few years Procaccio had already established her Wildcats as a team that consistently made its mark at the national level. During the 2008-09 academic year the cross country team won a BIG EAST championship and Frances Koons was the individual champion at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year. Koons was also an All-American in 2009 in the 5000 meters both indoors and outdoors, giving her a total of nine All-America honors during her career.
The 2008 track & field seasons produced one individual BIG EAST title indoors and four more outdoors. Koons was among the four Wildcats who advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and she went on to reach the semifinals of the 1,500 meters in her first appearance at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
In addition to achieving success at the highest levels of collegiate competition, Procaccio has also seen her student-athletes go on to make their mark internationally. Sheila Reid (Canada) and Marina Muncan (Serbia) each competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, marking seven consecutive Summer Olympics dating back to 1988 that the Villanova women's track & field program has been represented by at least one athlete. Procaccio has had terrific success preparing her student-athletes for competition in the USA Track & Field ranks. Most recently, current team member Kelsey Margey won a silver medal for Team USA in the 1500 meters at the 2013 Pan-American Junior Championships. Earlier in the year she has been the champion of the 1500 meters at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Procaccio is a 1987 graduate of Villanova who made her mark on the school's women's track record book despite having only one year of eligibility left after transferring from Florida. In her senior season on the Main Line, Procaccio ran the leadoff leg of the 4x800 meter relay that won an NCAA Championship and set a world, American and collegiate record with a time of 8:24.77.
In addition to being part of a world record team in the 4x800 meter relay, Procaccio also achieved individual success at the 1988 NCAA Championships. She placed fifth at the meet in the 1000 meters to earn individual All-America honors with a time of 2:42.68 which remains the current school record. During the 1988 campaign, Procaccio also was a part of relay teams that set collegiate, American and World records in the distance medley relay (11:00.76).
Following the end of her Villanova career, Procaccio continued to enjoy success as a runner in national and international competition. She participated in three World Championships meets and qualified for the finals of the 5000 meters at the 1995 World Championships, the same year she was the U.S. champion in the event.
Procaccio also qualified for four U.S. Olympic Trials and finished as high as third in the U.S. National Cross Country Championships. During her racing career, she won six individual Penn Relays watches to go with the distance medley relay crown she won while at Villanova. Procaccio had her most successful season in 1995, in which she won her first national title and finished the year ranked first in the nation in the 3000 meters, second in the 5000 meters and fifth in the 1500 meters.
It was then that Procaccio's career was cut short by injury, however, the year before the 1996 Olympics, when she would have had her best chance at becoming an Olympian following a fifth-place finish in the 1500 meters at the 1992 Olympic Trials. Procaccio views the lessons learned from her trials and tribulations of dealing with her setback as powerful coaching tools when it comes to helping her student-athletes achieve their ultimate success.
Procaccio enjoyed a great deal of success during her two stints as a Villanova assistant coach (1994-97, 1998-00) before taking over as head coach June 7, 2000. She was part of a coaching staff that saw the Wildcats win 10 individual national titles from 1994-00, including a national champion in cross country, five indoor national championships and four outdoor national titles. In 1999, Carrie Tollefson became the first woman ever to win outdoor titles in both the 3000 meters and the 5000 meters in the same year at the NCAA Championships. Tollefson also won indoor titles in the 3000 meters in consecutive years (1999-00) and Carmen Douma was an indoor national champion in the Mile in 2000. During Procaccio's first stint as a Wildcats assistant, Jen Rhines was the individual national champion in cross country in 1994, when Villanova won its sixth straight team title. Rhines captured national championships in the 5000 meters both indoors and outdoors in 1995, and repeated as the outdoor champion in 1996. Overall, Procaccio coached 40 All-Americans while serving as a Wildcats assistant coach.
Villanova also furthered its winning tradition at the Penn Relays during Procaccio's years as an assistant coach. The Wildcats swept the Championship of America distance relays (distance medley relay, 4x1500 meter relay, 4x800 meter relay) in both 1995 and 1997, with the 1997 squad also winning the 4x400 meter relay title. Villanova added another championship in the 4x1500 meter relay in 2000.
Prior to joining the Wildcats coaching staff, Procaccio spent one year as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1987-88 and one year as an assistant coach at Georgetown in 1990-91.
Procaccio and her husband, Steve Santaniello, make their home in Wayne, Pa.