March 15, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--With less than 50 meters to go before the finish line senior Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) went for it all in the national championship race in the Mile and won her first career individual national title. Lipari had her trademark closing kick in top form and she surged into the lead by passing four runners as she came down the final straight away. Her winning time was 4:38.82 and Lipari is the third Villanova woman to be an indoor national champion in the Mile.
"In the final lap I saw that I had a chance and I thought I may as well go for it or die trying," Lipari said. "I saw that the four runners in front of me were within reach and their heads were bobbing to the side. My head was bobbing all over the place at that point too but I saw that I had a chance to go for it."
Until the final quarter mile Lipari had never been higher up than sixth in the field of 10 finalists. The three front runners for the majority of the race never truly separated themselves from the pack however, and it was a wide open race with 600 meters remaining. Lipari eventually moved from sixth place to first in the span of 150 meters down the stretch and had the lead all to herself 30 meters from the finish line.
"My coach [Wildcats head coach Gina Procaccio] told me to put myself in position to have a chance with 600 meters left and that is what I tried to do," Lipari said. "Gina has always told me that no matter the pace of a race my final kick will always be there at the end."
Lipari joins Villanova legends Carmen Douma (1998, 2000) and Vicki Huber (1988) as the three women in program history to have won the indoor Mile title. Her performance on Saturday night at the national meet was all the more impressive considering it came at high altitude. Lipari's time of 4:38.82 in the race would likely convert to what would be a personal best time at sea level. The slow start to the race did not come as a surprise in Lipari's mind.
"I have raced at this level for a while now so I expected it," Lipari said. "At the national championships all of these women are incredible runners. I felt like I lost the touch for a little bit but I knew I was in position to be in contention."
Lipari was an automatic qualifier for the final in the Mile after coming in third in her preliminary heat on Friday night, which she followed by running another 1600 meters on the anchor leg of the distance medley relay. Her strategy in the final was executed perfectly and Lipari delivers the Wildcats their 20th indoor national title.
This is the second national title winner indoors for Procaccio during her head coaching career. Lipari was a part of the first championship as a freshman when the Wildcats won the distance medley relay. She is one of 12 athletes in program history to win multiple indoor championships. Procaccio also mentored four indoor national champions during her time as a Wildcats assistant coach, including Jen Rhines (1995, 5000 meters), Carrie Tollefson (1999-2000, 3000 meters) and Carmen Douma (2000, Mile).
Earlier this season, Lipari won her third straight BIG EAST title in the 1000 meters and anchored Villanova to its fifth straight championship in the 4800 meter relay. She became the first athlete in 20 years to be a repeat winner of the Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Meet award and helped the Wildcats win the team title for a record 12th time.
Including both the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons as well as cross country, Lipari is now a two-time national champion and nine-time All-American in her Villanova career.
Senior Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) also ran for the Wildcats on Saturday night and came in eighth in the final of the 800 meters. It is the best career individual finish at the national level for Akande, who crossed the finish line in 2:11.60 in the final.
Yesterday night in the preliminary heats Akande advanced on time in the 800 meters by finishing fourth in her heat. Akande earned All-BIG EAST honors in the 800 meters with a third place finish at the conference meet last month and secured her spot at the national championships with a time of 2:05.77 in the BIG EAST final. She also ran on the distance medley relay on Friday night and is now a three-time All-American.