March 8, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - In a race dominated by the teams at the front of the pack Villanova registered a second place finish in the distance medley relay at Randal Tyson Track in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday night. Strong and steady runs in each of the four legs of the relay enabled the excellent finish for the Wildcats, whose time of 10:57.96 was well over two seconds ahead of the third place finishers and the rest of the 12-team field.
Villanova led off the relay with freshmen Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and Michaela Wilkins (Ellicott City, Md.) running the first two legs, while juniors Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) brought the Wildcats home in the final two legs of the race.
Throughout the entire anchor leg of the relay Michigan and Villanova were far in front of the rest of the field. Lipari and Amanda Eccleston, who anchored for the Wolverines, had a lead of as much as 15 meters over the chase pack after their first two laps around the banked 200-meter track. They had an unofficial split of 2:14.6 for the first 800 meters and the gap between them and the other 10 teams never closed. Eccleston opened a gap of her own over Lipari with 400 meters left in the race and Michigan wound up with a winning time of 10:56.46.
Akande did her part to keep the Wildcats in excellent position during her leg of the relay. She took the baton with Villanova in second place, although at that point in the race Notre Dame was in front by 10 meters and had owned the lead since the very beginning of the leadoff leg. Akande wound up with a split of 2:06.43, nearly 2.5 seconds faster than the Fighting Irish for the third leg of the relay.
With four BIG EAST teams leading the rest of the field Akande gradually closed the gap between the Wildcats and the Notre Dame, while Georgetown and Connecticut battled for third place. Akande moved into the lead with one lap to go in the third leg, with the chase pack quickly moving towards the leaders at that point. Michigan took the lead 100 meters before the start of the anchor leg and never let it go.
Piccirillo opened up for Villanova with a split of 3:23.77 for the first 1200 meters. She had established herself in second place behind Connecticut during the first half of her opening leg. Notre Dame made a big move at the 800 meter mark and surged into the lead but Piccirillo quickly picked up the pace to retake second place for good with 300 meters left.
At the start of the second leg of the relay the Fighting Irish pulled away from the rest of the pack but Wilkins did a terrific job in her second lap around the track to keep the Wildcats within striking distance. She had a split of 54.25 for her 400 meters leg.
Lipari will be back in action on Saturday night when she runs in the finals-only 3000 meters national championship race. The race begins at 8:40 p.m. Eastern time and can be seen live on ESPN3.