VILLANOVA, Pa.--Backed by victories in five different events and a total of 14 top-three finishes, the women’s track & field team scored 176 points and finished second in the team race at the BIG EAST Championships which wrapped up at Villanova Stadium on a soggy Saturday afternoon. Middle distance runners Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dublin, Ireland) were the champions of the 800 meters and the 1500 meters, respectively, and also ran the final two legs of the Wildcats first-place 4x400 meter relay.
Freshman sprinters Danielle Burns (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Amari Onque-Shabazz (Plainfield, N.J.) were the first half of the winning relay, while sophomore Bella Burda (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) won the 5000 meters. Villanova scored its first win of the weekend in Friday’s action when senior thrower Caroline Hamilton (Nottingham, Pa.) defended her title in the javelin. This is the fourth straight year that the Wildcats have made the awards podium in the team results.
Villanova had the top two finishers in both the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters. Cleirigh Buttner won the 1500 meters in 4:28.17, while sophomore Nicole Hutchinson (West Vancouver, B.C.) was the runner-up. Burda had a winning time of 17:51.92 in the 5000 meters, and Campbell impressively pulled away from a charging Providence runner in the final 250 meters to hold onto second place with a time of 17:55.64.
Piccirillo won the BIG EAST outdoor 800 meters for the second time in her career. She set the existing meet record of 2:04.25 when she won the event in 2015, while her winning time in Saturday’s race was 2:07.45. She outkicked Emma Keenan of Georgetown to cross the finish line with a winning margin of just over a second.
St. John’s had the lead halfway through the 4x400 meter relay, with the Wildcats in second place after Burns ran a strong leadoff leg and Onque-Shabazz followed with an equally solid second leg. Piccirillo took the baton for the third leg and was initially pushed into third place behind the Red Storm and DePaul, before she ran both teams down coming around the last turn and handed off to Cleirigh Buttner with Villanova holding a quarter-second lead.
Piccirillo split 56.12 for the third leg of the relay and Cleirigh Buttner anchored in 54.48 despite the heavy rain and a wind chill that was only in the low 40’s. Cleirigh Buttner also anchored the 4x400 relay indoors, and in a similar finish to that race she quickly put distance between herself and the chasing runners at the beginning of the anchor leg. She wound up crossing the finish line nearly three seconds ahead of the St. John’s anchor.
Villanova had a terrific day in the sprints, with Burns, Onque-Shabazz and senior Veronica Scott (Plymouth, N.H.) all recording top three individual finishes. Burns came in third in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 14.11 and later returned to the track to finish fifth in the 400 meter hurdles in 1:04.53. Onque-Shabazz was the runner-up in the 400 meters in 56.69, and Scott finished third in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:02.38.
Sophomore Kaley Ciluffo (LeClaire, Iowa), Scott, junior Rebecca Del Rossi (Canton, N.Y.) and Hutchinson led the Wildcats to a second place finish in the 4x800 meter relay. They had a time of 9:04.72 and held off third-place Marquette by a quarter of a second.
Villanova has finished in the top three of the team standings at the outdoor conference championships a total of 17 times. With their five event titles over the last two days, the Wildcats increased their record combined total of individual and relay championships to 146 all-time.