March 15, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Senior distance runners Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) and Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) each pulled double duty on the first night of the NCAA Championships and both moved on to the finals of their respective individual events in addition to running a leg on the distance medley relay. Lipari was an automatic qualifier for the final in the Mile and Akande advanced on time in the 800 meters at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Friday night.
Villanova finished ninth in the DMR with a time of 11:20.40 and had a lineup that consisted of sophomores Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and Michaela Wilkins (Ellicott City, Md.) ahead of Akande and Lipari on the final two legs. The eventual top two finishers in the relay - Arkansas and Stanford - pulled away from the pack by the second leg of the race and never looked back.
Piccirillo opened the DMR with the 1200 meters leg and produced a split of 3:28.77. She was in sixth place at the first handoff with the pace being a rather slow one for all 12 teams to that point. Wilkins had a split of 55.59 for her 400 meters leg but by the midpoint of the relay the top four teams were all three seconds ahead of the pack. Akande had an 800 meters split of 2:08.37 and Lipari closed with a 1600 meters split of 4:48.67.
In the preliminaries of the Mile both Lipari and junior Stephanie Schappert (Delray Beach, Fla.) ran in the first of two heats. The top four runners in each heat advanced automatically to Saturday night's final and Lipari came in third with a time of 4:43.27 to earn one of those automatic spots. She started out in the middle of the pack in her heat and was in fifth place out of eight runners with as little as 200 meters remaining before moving up to third down the stretch. Lipari beat out Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State for the final automatic qualifying spot by less than two-tenths of a second.
Schappert came in fifth in the heat with a time of 4:45.94 to conclude a terrific indoor campaign. She earned All-BIG EAST honors in the Mile and qualified as an individual for the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career. Schappert earned her berth in the national meet with a personal best time of 4:36.40 at the Boston University Last Chance Meet two weeks ago.
In the preliminary heats of the 800 meters the top three finishers and the next two fastest times moved on to the final. Akande raced in the second heat and had the advantage of knowing exactly what she had to do in order to advance. The second heat immediately started out at a much faster pace than the opening heat and with that in mind Akande ran a very smart race. She worked hard to stay within striking distance of the top three runners for the majority of the race and down the stretch comfortably held on to fourth place with a time of 2:07.03 and advanced on time to the finals.
Sophomore Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.) came in eighth in the first 800 meters heat with a time of 2:12.53. Like Schappert, she was making her first individual appearance at the indoor NCAA meet. Margey raced to a runner-up finish and All-BIG EAST honors in the 800 meters. She and Akande punched their NCAA tickets with times of 2:05.43 and 2:05.77 in the 800 meters at the conference meet.
On Saturday night Lipari will run in the Mile final at 8:10 p.m. Eastern time (Albuquerque is two hours behind) and Akande will compete in the 800 meters at 9:30 p.m.