PHILADELPHIA, Pa.--One day after she led off the distance medley relay and blew open the race with an aggressive opening leg, junior Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) anchored a race for the first time at the Penn Relays and found herself in the opposite position when she got the baton with Villanova needing to make up ground in the Championship of America 4x1500 meter relay. She quickly closed the gap and went on to help lead the Wildcats to their second title in as many days at Franklin Field during the 124th running of the world’s oldest and largest track & field meet.
Villanova’s lineup of sixth-year senior Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.), junior Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa), freshman Lauren Ryan (South Yarra, Australia) and Hutchinson posted a winning time of 17:35.48 in the 4x1500 relay and surged past runner-up Indiana by nearly six seconds. It is the 12th title all-time for the Wildcats in the 4x1500 relay, the 14th Championship of America wheel for the Villanova women in their last 17 starts since 2012 and the 42nd title overall for the women’s program.
“It was an interesting race,” Wildcats head coach Gina Procaccio said. “One thing I’m most proud of with my girls this year is that we really have a lot of depth. They understand what Penn Relays is all about. I was a little nervous [during the race] but I had confidence in these four and I’m proud that they got it done.”
Margey, previously a three-time Championship of America relay winner for Villanova but who had not raced at Penn since 2015, led off with a split of 4:29.2 on the first leg of the race. She ran near the front of the pack for the better part of three full laps before pulling into the lead with less than 400 meters to go before the first exchange.
On the middle two legs of the relay both Ciluffo and Ryan were running their first Penn Relays races for the Wildcats, and they posted splits of 4:24.2 and 4:25.1, respectively. Indiana took the lead during the second leg of the relay and started to widen the gap on the third leg. With less than 200 meters to go before the anchors got the baton, Ryan started to reel in the Hoosiers runner ahead of her and put Hutchinson within striking distance of the lead.
“I told all of them that you don’t have to be a hero,” Procaccio said. “All they had to do was put [Nicole] in the race and she would get it done. I was confident that we had an anchor that could beat anybody, so they didn’t have to blow it open and risk going out too hard. My girls get it done on heart and guts. I look at this as the start of championship season. I tell them this is the time to throw away the splits and this is where they learn to compete hard and compete tough.”
Hutchinson is of course no stranger to the Villanova’s Current run of dominance at the Penn Relays. She has run in six Championship of America races in her collegiate career and has come away with six watches following Wildcats victories. Running an anchor leg for the first time was the next step in the progression of her career.
“I was super excited watching them all run with so much heart and watching Lauren kick it in to give it to me as close as she could,” Hutchinson said about the three legs of the race before she got the baton. “That’s what Penn Relays is all about.”