April 26, 2014
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Villanova head coach Gina Procaccio said it best when she described her team's performance this weekend as "running with big old Villanova hearts at the Penn Relays." Those words came just after the Wildcats finished off a sweep of the distance relay events at Franklin Field on Saturday afternoon. The lineup of sophomore Kelsey Margey (Huntington, N.Y.), sophomore Angel Piccirillo (Homer City, Pa.) and seniors Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) defended their title in the Championship of America 4x800 meter relay and won with a time of 8:21.49.
This is the first time ever that the Villanova women's team has won repeat titles at the Penn Relays with the same exact lineup. The team won the 4x800 relay for the second straight year and 11th time overall and the Wildcats have now won 35 Championship of America titles all time, including six in just the last three years. Lipari, who anchored Villanova to titles this weekend in the distance medley relay and the 4x1500 meter relay in addition to today's 4x800 crown, was named the Women's Athlete of the Meet for the Relay events for the second straight year.
"I don't even know what to say about these girls anymore," Procaccio said. "This is all the athletes. They are the ones who did it. I put the same lineup out there because it worked last year and I was hoping that lightning would strike twice. But they still had to go out and do it. They ran with big old Villanova hearts. I am so proud of them because they deserve it. They really competed the way that true Villanovans do at the Penn Relays."
The third victory of the weekend for the Wildcats did not follow the same script as the two titles over the past two days. Margey went out with a split of 2:06.33 on the first leg of the relay and had Villanova in the lead at the first exchange.
"My teammates had run two or three relays already this weekend and I was fresh so I wanted to bring it in with us in the lead," Margey said. "I knew that they all had a tough job to do, especially Emily running the anchor leg, so I just wanted to set them up as best I could."
The lead for Villanova would only increase during the second two legs of the relay. Piccirillo ran an even split of 2:06 on the second leg and Akande split 2:05.57 on the third leg to deliver the baton to Lipari with the Wildcats well in front of the pack.
"I am more comfortable running from behind because I like to see how everything is shaping up but if my teammates are going to give me a two to three second lead I have to be prepared to roll with it. I always have the mindset that I have to go into every race with no expectations and just be prepared for anything and everything."
Lipari had a split of 2:03.50 over the final 800 meters and never surrendered the Villanova lead, although the race was far from over. Oregon anchor Laura Roesler went all out to narrow the gap between herself and Lipari, while simultaneously trying to hold off the Georgetown and Tennessee anchors behind her. Roesler got within striking distance of the lead before Lipari made her final push to secure the outcome.
"I know that Laura is very competitive and that she wanted to come for me," Lipari said. "I heard the crowd cheering and I knew that she was right there but I didn't want to even give her a chance to push me off the finish line. With 200 meters left I took off with everything I had so that she couldn't get to me."
Lipari and Akande each won their sixth Championship of America titles in their final go around at the Penn Relays. Only five Villanova women before them had been Penn Relays champions at least six times. Kathy Franey (1986-90) and Michelle Bennett (1988-91) share the program record with seven titles, while Vicki Huber (1985-89), Sonia O'Sullivan (1989-91) and Krestena Sullivan (1993-97) have also won six titles.