Feb. 19, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - For the fifth time in the last seven years the BIG EAST Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held at the New York Armory, with competition beginning on Friday morning and wrapping up on Saturday night. Villanova has had an outstanding season to this point and looks ready to have across-the-board success at the conference meet.
Over the years the Wildcats have had incredible success at the BIG EAST Championships and have won a league record 12 team titles at the meet. Villanova won the team championship eight times in a nine-year span from 1983-91 and most recently took home the 2010 team title. Among current conference teams only the Wildcats and Georgetown (7) have won the team championship before.
From an individual standpoint, Villanova has won at least one event at the BIG EAST meet in each of the last nine years. Senior Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) is the defending conference champion in the 1000 meters and also anchored the Wildcats to their fourth consecutive title in the 4x800 meter relay last season on her way to being named the Most Outstanding Performer of the Meet.
Villanova has athletes that rank in the top three on the BIG EAST performance list for this season in eight different individual events, including four running events and four field events. In addition, the Wildcats have the league's top-ranked distance medley relay entering the conference meet.
Below are some of the top Villanova storylines to look for during this week's BIG EAST Championships.
Lipari is a five-time conference champion indoors. She has won the 1000 meters and been part of a winning 4x800 meter relay in each of the past two years, while also running on the Wildcats champion distance medley relay as a freshman in 2011. Lipari has already had an impressive season this year and currently ranks third in the nation in the Mile after posting a personal best time of 4:35.24 in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games last weekend.
Seniors Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Stephanie Schappert (Delray Beach, Fla.) are each veterans at the conference meet. Akande has scored team points in the 800 meters twice in her career, including a fourth place finish last season. She has also been a conference champion in the 4x800 meter relay and an All-BIG EAST performer in the DMR in each of the last two years. Schappert is ranked third in the conference and 26th in the nation this season in the Mile. Her personal best of 4:39.45 was set in her most recent race, which came at the Armory Collegiate Invitational earlier this month. Schappert earned All-BIG EAST honors in the Mile as a freshman in 2012 and has also been a part of the last two 4x800 relay champions, as well as last year's runner-up distance medley relay squad.
Villanova will get additional firepower in the distance events from sophomores Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.). Piccirillo burst onto the scene last season with an All-BIG EAST finish in the 1000 meters in addition to running on both the 4x800 and DMR teams. Margey scored team points as a freshman in the 800 meters.
Potential Among the Sprinters
Juniors Emerald Walden (Lafayette Hill, Pa.) and Varonica Johnson (Charlotte, N.C.) can each draw upon their previous experiences at the conference championships as well as their performances to date this season. Walden has the fastest time among BIG EAST athletes in the 60 meter hurdles this season after posting a mark of 8.60 at the Penn State National last month. She has scored points in the event in each of the last two seasons, including a fifth place finish last year.
Johnson is also a returning scorer to the conference meet. She finished eighth in the 200 meters as a sophomore last season and enters this year's meet ranked third in the league. Johnson had a season-best time of 24.47 at the Great Dane Classic, also held at the Armory, last month.
Freshman Danielle Wheatley (Greenbelt, Md.) ranks third in the BIG EAST in the 60 meter hurdles after registering a time of 9.25 at the Armory Collegiate Invitational two weeks ago.
Pole Vault Group is one of Villanova's Deepest Ever
Junior Alexandra Wasik (Medina, Ohio) was the runner-up in the pole vault at the BIG EAST Championships as both a freshman and a sophomore. This year her conference leading height of 4.01 meters is a personal best.
Over the past several years the Wildcats have had a great deal of success in the pole vault, but this season is one of the best groups the team has ever had. Villanova accounts for each of the top five athletes in the event so far this season and will have four entries at the conference meet.
Sophomores Abigail Nolte (Branchburg, N.J.) and Virginia LaMacchia (Bloomsburg, Pa.) each scored points at a conference meet last season. Nolte tied for seventh place indoors and LaMacchia placed fifth outdoors. So far this season LaMacchia ranks third in the conference and Nolte is fourth. Graduate student Bianca Reo (Parsippany, N.J.) cleared a height of 3.70 meters at the Tiger Open at Princeton last month and is currently ranked fifth in the conference. She competed for the Tigers as an undergraduate and finished as high as third in the pole vault at the Ivy League Championships.
Villanova also has plenty of depth in the jumps. Senior Samantha Yeats (Califon, N.J.) and sophomore Anne Yahiro (Downers Grove, Ill.) rank second in the BIG EAST in the high jump and the triple jump, respectively. Yeats is a five-time BIG EAST scorer in the high jump between the indoor and outdoor conference meets, while Yahiro notched a sixth place finish in the triple jump outdoors last season.
Junior Kathleen McPhillips (Carlisle, Pa.) is third on the league performance list in the long jump this season. She posted a mark of 5.41 meters at the Tiger Open and has plenty of experience in both the long jump and the triple jump. So does senior Victoria Profit (Nissequogue, N.Y.), who comes into this week's championships ranked fourth in the conference in the triple jump and fifth in the high jump.