Villanova has three of the top four finishers to earn sixth consecutive NCAA bid
Quotes from head coach Gina Procaccio and Emily Lipari
Villanova junior is the team's fourth consecutive individual champion at conference meet
Nicky Akande is individual runner-up, posts Wildcats top time in season opener
Reid and Mimic both All-Americans as Villanova finished third as a team
Wildcats finish third in team standings at the national meet.
Wildcats earn ninth NCAA crown, while Sheila Reed brings home the individual title.
Villanova women are crowned 2009 NCAA Champions
For a full bio of Coach Procaccio, including awards won by her and the Villanova student-athletes during her tenure, click here.
During her prolific career as an athlete and a coach, Gina Procaccio has achieved success at the highest levels. She is in her 17th year as head coach of the Villanova women’s cross country and track & field program in 2016-17 and previously spent a total of five seasons as a Wildcats assistant coach.
The list of accomplishments for Villanova during Procaccio’s tenure is staggering. Since taking over as head coach in the fall of 2000, she has guided the Wildcats to two national championships in cross country and a combined nine BIG EAST team titles. In addition, Procaccio has mentored nine individual national champions, 98 All-Americans and 148 individual BIG EAST champions while also leading Villanova to 10 Championship of America titles at the Penn Relays. Procaccio is a two-time National Coach of the Year and a nine-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year. She has also been the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year six times, all in the last seven years. There have also been 29 school records set during Procaccio’s time as head coach.
Procaccio has built the Wildcats into a powerhouse that is in position to perennially rank among the nation’s elite programs. The past five academic years alone (2011-12 through 2015-16) have been particularly impressive, and during that span Villanova has produced individual national champions in both cross country (Sheila Reid won her second straight national title in 2011) and indoor track & field (Emily Lipari, Mile, 2014). Over the past five years, the Wildcats have also earned a combined 37 All-America honors and have won a total of 44 events at the various BIG EAST Championships meets. Villanova won the BIG EAST team title in cross country in 2011 for a fourth straight year and also swept both the indoor and outdoor conference team crowns in 2014 and 2015. The Wildcats have won nine Penn Relays titles since 2012, including setting an all-time collegiate record in the 4x800 meter relay in 2013 and sweeping the three distance relays (4x800, 4x1500, distance medley) in 2014.
The highlight of the 2015-16 indoor track & field season came at the BIG EAST Championships when Angel Piccirillo broke the collegiate record in the 1000 meters with a time of 2:40.82, eclipsing the previous record of 2:41.00 which had stood for five years as well as the existing Villanova standard of 2:42.68 which Procaccio herself set nearly 29 years earlier. Piccirillo went on to register a runner-up finish in the Mile at the indoor NCAA Championships last season, and was also a second team All-American in the 3000 meters. She was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Track Athlete of the Year for the second straight season. Siofra Cleirigh Buttner earned second team All-America honors in the 800 meters both indoors and outdoors in 2016, in addition to anchoring the Wildcats to a Penn Relays championship in the 4x1500 meter relay.
Procaccio has maintained an emphasis on the complete collegiate experience for her student-athletes, and her teams have consistently achieved at a high level academically. Villanova earned an Academic Progress Rate (APR) public recognition award for track & field for the 2014-15 academic year as a result of having a multi-year APR score that ranked in the top 10 percent of all Division I women’s track & field teams nationwide. Since the NCAA instituted the APR program for the 2004-05 academic year, Procaccio’s teams have earned public recognition awards a total of 11 times. At the end of each academic year, the Wildcats team with the highest grade-point average for the year receives the Nnenna Lynch Award. Either the women’s cross country or women’s track & field teams have won this award seven times since Procaccio has been head coach.
Villanova has also had a lengthy list of individual academic all-stars. Five student-athletes – Sammy Bockoven, Bella Burda, Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, Nicole Hutchinson and Angel Piccirillo – were named to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national All-Academic Team in 2015-16. Women’s track & field athletes have been selected as the Wildcats female recipient of a BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete of the Year award in each of the last two years. Piccirillo earned that honor in 2015-16 and Stephanie Schappert won the award one year earlier, when she also was selected for a prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarship. Procaccio’s student-athletes have been named to BIG EAST All-Academic Teams more than 400 times during her time as head coach, including 37 selections for the 2015-16 academic year and 40 honorees in 2014-15.
Villanova is the most successful women’s cross country program in collegiate history and Procaccio added to that legacy when she guided the Wildcats to national championship seasons in 2009 and 2010. Villanova has now won nine national titles in cross country, with no other school having won the championship more than five times. In celebration of the 2009 national title, the Wildcats joined more than 30 other team national champions in a reception at the White House. The team was also recognized with a state resolution from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives recognizing the success of the national champion cross country and football teams from Villanova during the 2009 season.
In addition to the consecutive team titles, Sheila Reid was the individual national champion two straight years in 2010 and 2011. Her first national title in 2010 marked the seventh time that the Wildcats won both the team and individual national titles in the same year. Just six women have ever won multiple individual titles in cross country but Reid became the third Villanovan to accomplish the feat.
Procaccio has coached four national champions during the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons, with Reid winning three career titles. She remains the only woman ever to win outdoor national championships in the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters in the same year after pulling off that double in 2011. Reid anchored a distance medley relay squad that also consisted of Emily Lipari, Christie Verdier and Ariann Neutts to an indoor national title in 2011. The winning time of 10:52.52 in the DMR stands as the indoor school record and is the third-fastest time overall in program history. Reid was presented with the prestigious Honda Sports Award for cross country in both 2010 and 2011, while also receiving the 2011 award for track & field. That same year she was chosen as one of three finalists for the Honda-Broderick Cup, which is presented annually to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. Lipari became the latest Villanova national champion when she won the Mile title indoors in 2014.
Procaccio has mentored 98 All-Americans during her head coaching career, including 19 in cross country, 56 during the indoor track & field season and 23 outdoors. When the Wildcats won the national title in cross country in 2009, they became the second program ever to have all five scoring runners on a national championship team earn All-America accolades. Villanova also had four All-Americans in cross country in 2010, and has had two or more All-Americans in a season five times since Procaccio became head coach. Six of Procaccio’s cross country athletes – Emily Lipari, Amanda Marino, Bogdana Mimic, Marina Muncan, Sheila Reid and Ali Smith – have been cross country All-Americans at least twice during their careers.
Villanova has had at least one first team All-American indoors in each of the last eight seasons. Most recently, Angel Piccirillo was the national runner-up in the Mile in 2016 and added second team All-America honors in the 3000 meters. She is an eight-time All-American during her Wildcats career, with six of those honors being for the indoor season. The distance medley relay is one of many events in which the Wildcats have consistently been nationally prominent. Villanova registered top-eight finishes in the DMR at the NCAA Championships six times between 2004 and 2013, with Muncan (2004, 2005) and Reid (2010, 2011) each anchoring two relay teams to All-America honors. Reid was also a two-time first team All-American indoors in the 3000 meters (2010, 2011), while Frances Koons accomplished the feat three times (2006, 2007, 2009) in the same event. Since then, the Wildcats had All-Americans in both the 800 meters (Nicky Akande, Kelsey Margey) and the Mile (Lipari and Stephanie Schappert) in 2014, while Schappert and Piccirillo were All-Americans in the Mile in 2015.
A big part of the Wildcats success at the national level has come outdoors in the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters. Procaccio has guided her athletes to a combined 19 All-America accolades in these two events, including a streak of eight consecutive years (2008-15) with at least one All-American in one of those events. Muncan finished in the top five in the 1500 meters at the NCAA Championships three times during her career, including a runner-up finish in 2004. Reid earned a pair of All-America honors in both the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters, while Koons and Mimic each were two-time All-Americans in the 5000 meters. Lipari registered consecutive top-10 finishes in the 1500 meters in 2013 and 2014, Piccirillo has twice been a second team All-American in the 1500 meters (2014, 2015) and Schappert tallied a sixth place finish to earn first team All-America accolades as a senior in 2015. Reid (11 career All-America honors) and Lipari (10) are two of just six women in Villanova history to be All-Americans 10 or more times. The success at the national level during the outdoor season goes beyond the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters. Arusha McKenzie was an NCAA qualifier in the 800 meters in 2008 and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner earned second team All-America recognition in the 800 meters in 2016.
Villanova has won Championship of America wheels at the Penn Relays a total of 37 times. Procaccio has coached 18 of those 37 relay teams, including 10 during her head coaching career and another eight while she was an assistant coach. She has guided the Wildcats to nine Penn Relays victories in the last five years alone and has been the driving force behind a number of historic accomplishments during that time span.
Procaccio led Villanova to three consecutive Championship of America titles in the 4x800 meter relay from 2013-15. The first of those championships saw the Wildcats set an all-time collegiate record with a winning time of 8:17.45. Villanova also won four consecutive titles in the distance medley relay from 2012-15, a streak surpassed only by five straight Wildcats titles in the DMR from 1987-91. The incredible string of victories by the Wildcats continued in 2016 when a team comprised of three true freshmen and one sophomore surged to a win in the 4x1500 meter relay.
Beginning with their record-setting performance in the 4x800 relay in 2013, the Wildcats have incredibly won seven of the last eight Championship of America races they have entered. This stretch includes a sweep of the distance medley relays in 2014, when Villanova won titles in the distance medley relay, 4x1500 meter relay and 4x800 relay in three consecutive days. Emily Lipari anchored all three of those races and was named the Women’s Athlete of the Meet for the relay events for the second straight year. She became the third Villanova woman to anchor three winning relays in the same year and the first in school history to anchor five career victories. Lipari also anchored the wins in the DMR and the 4x800 relay in 2013. In 2015, the Wildcats won both the distance medley relay and the 4x800 relay. Piccirillo anchored the 4x800 relay team and was named the Women’s Athlete of the Meet for the relay events, while Stephanie Schappert anchored Villanova to the win in the DMR.
Procaccio’s first Penn Relays title as a head coach came in 2006 when the team of Frances Koons, Tiera Fletcher, Akilah Vargas and Marina Muncan won the distance medley relay. Six years later, the Wildcats lineup of Lipari, Christie Verdier, Ariann Neutts and Sheila Reid gave Procaccio another DMR title and launched the dominant stretch that Villanova is currently in the midst of.
BIG EAST CHAMPIONS
Procaccio has led Villanova to nine team titles at the BIG EAST Championships over the years, including winning four straight cross country crowns from 2008-11. She also guided the Wildcats to the 2010 indoor conference title in addition to winning both the indoor and outdoor championships in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Procaccio is a nine-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year and has mentored a total of 148 conference champions as head coach.
Sheila Reid won three straight BIG EAST cross country titles from 2009-11, a feat that no other female athlete in conference history has duplicated. Villanova boasted a fourth consecutive individual champion when Lipari won the 2012 title, while Procaccio previously coached Ann McGranahan (2000) and Frances Koons (2006) to BIG EAST crowns.
The Wildcats have won at least two events at both the indoor and outdoor BIG EAST Championships in each of the last seven years. The streak started during the 2010 indoor season, when an upstart Villanova squad surged to the team title with a total of 12 top-three finishes. Sheila Reid was a double winner in the 1000 meters and the Mile while also anchoring the champion 4x800 meter relay, and the Wildcats also won the distance medley relay and the 3000 meters.
Villanova has produced the BIG EAST champion in the 1000 meters nine times during Procaccio’s head coaching career, with Angel Piccirillo setting a meet, school and NCAA record with her winning time of 2:40.82 in 2016. Prior to her record-setting performance, Reid (2011) and Emily Lipari (2014) had set the previous meet records in the 1000 meters. Procaccio has also seen her athletes win BIG EAST titles seven times in the 60 meter hurdles and six times in the Mile. Under her watch, the Wildcats have won the 4x800 meter relay indoors nine times and have claimed two titles in the distance medley relay.
Frances Koons was named the Outstanding Track Performer at the indoor BIG EAST meet in 2007, while Reid (2010), Lipari (2013, 2014) and Piccirillo (2016) have each won the award since then. In 2015, multi-event athlete Katherine Petruzzellis was the winner of the Outstanding Field Performer award.
The outdoor BIG EAST Championships have followed a similar script to the indoor meet. Procaccio has coached Villanova to seven titles each in the 800 meters and the 4x800 meter relay, in addition to six championships in the 100 meter hurdles and five in the 1500 meters.
Koons was the Outstanding Track Performer in 2008 when she won both the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters, while Reid won outdoor titles during her career in the 800 meters, the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters. Marina Muncan anchored three straight champion 4x800 relay teams from 2004-06 and was also an individual champion in both the 800 meters (2004, 2006) and the 1500 meters (2005). Lipari anchored three straight 4x800 relay wins from 2012-14 and won individual titles outdoors in the 1500 meters (2013) and the 800 meters (2014). Angel Piccirillo was part of the 4x800 meter relay lineup in 2014 and set a meet record of 2:04.25 in winning the 800 meters in 2015.
Villanova won both the indoor and outdoor BIG EAST track & field titles in 2014-15, and at each championship meet set new records for the highest team score in the history of the conference meet. The previous meet records were only a year old, and had been set by the Wildcats themselves when they were indoor and outdoor conference champions in 2013-14. Villanova won eight different events at the 2015 indoor meet and captured six titles at the outdoor conference championships. Piccirillo was the conference champion in the 800 meters both indoors and outdoors, and was one of four Wildcats to win an individual event at both conference meets in 2015. Sprinter Varonica Johnson won the 200 meters at each meet and was also the outdoor 100 meters champion, while Shanice Grant won the 60 meter hurdles indoors and the 100 meter hurdles outdoors. She repeated as the champion in both of those events in 2016. Multi-event competitor Katherine Petruzzellis was the 2015 outdoor heptathlon champion after winning both the pentathlon and the high jump indoors.
Success for Villanova student-athletes has gone far beyond athletic competition during Procaccio’s time as head coach. When the cross country team won its national championships in 2009 and 2010, the Wildcats were also named the USTFCCCA Scholar Team of the Year. Sheila Reid was the Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year in both 2010 and 2011, as well as the Track Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011.
Other academic awards for Villanova have been plentiful. Reid was a two-time Capital One Academic All-American during her collegiate career and was twice selected as the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year in cross country. Nicole Schappert, who was a three-time All-American and a two-time BIG EAST champion for the Wildcats, earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship in 2010. Her younger sister, Stephanie, won the same award in 2015 in addition to being named the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Female Performer of the Year for all sports.
A women’s track & field or cross country student-athlete has been the Villanova Female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year six times during Procaccio’s tenure as head coach. The first to win the award was thrower Christine Heffernan in 2002-03. Since then, distance runners Frances Koons (2007-08), Nicole Schappert (2009-10), Sheila Reid (2010-11), Emily Lipari (2013-14) and Angel Piccirillo (2015-16) have all won the award.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the Wildcats academic success however, is not the major awards won but the constant stream of successful student-athletes. In her time as head coach, Procaccio has seen her student-athletes be named to national All-Academic Teams by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) a total of 86 times. Villanova has also had 432 selections to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team during Procaccio’s tenure, and the women’s track & field and cross country teams have received Academic Progress Rate (APR) public recognition awards for ranking in the top 10 percent of their sport nationwide.
Competing at the highest levels of collegiate competition has prepared Villanova student-athletes to make a mark in the international ranks. Procaccio saw two of her most accomplished runners – Sheila Reid (Canada) and Marina Muncan (Serbia) – compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 5000 meters and the 1500 meters, respectively. Their performances marked seven straight Summer Olympics in which the women’s track & field team was represented by at least one athlete. Former Wildcats sprinter Monique Morgan was an alternate for the Jamaican Olympic Team in the summer of 2016, while Americans Nicole Tully (Schappert) and Stephanie Schappert competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Several current members of the Villanova program have also had international success. During the summer of 2016, rising junior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner won the Irish national title in the 800 meters and qualified to compete in the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam. She also ran a personal best time of 2:01.98 in the 800 meters at a race in England during the summer, with that time ranking as the sixth-fastest ever run by a Villanovan. Rising sophomores Bella Burda (United States) and Nicole Hutchinson (Canada) were selected to compete in the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Burda and classmate Sammy Bockoven each ran at the USATF Junior Championships and Hutchinson competed in the junior events at the Canadian Championships and Rio Selection Trials. In 2013, Kelsey Margey won a silver medal for Team USA following her freshman season when she competed in the 1500 meters at the 2013 Pan-American Junior Championships. Earlier that year, Margey had was the 1500 meters champion at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
VILLANOVA RUNNING CAREER
Procaccio is a 1987 graduate of Villanova who made her mark on the school’s women’s track & field record book despite having only one year of eligibility left after transferring from Florida. In her senior season on the Main Line, Procaccio ran the leadoff leg of the 4x800 meter relay that won an NCAA Championship and set a world, American and collegiate record with a time of 8:24.77.
In addition to being part of a world record team in the 4x800 meter relay, Procaccio also achieved individual success at the 1988 NCAA Championships. She placed fifth at the meet in the 1000 meters to earn individual All-America honors and set a school record with a time of 2:42.68. During the 1988 season, Procaccio also was a part of relay teams that set collegiate, American and World records in the distance medley relay (11:00.76).
PROFESSIONAL RUNNING CAREER
Following the end of her Villanova career, Procaccio continued to enjoy success as a runner in national and international competition. She participated in three World Championships meets and qualified for the finals of the 5000 meters at the 1995 World Championships, the same year she was the U.S. champion in the event.
Procaccio also qualified for four U.S. Olympic Trials and finished as high as third in the U.S. National Cross Country Championships. During her racing career, she won six individual Penn Relays watches to go with the distance medley relay crown she won while at Villanova. Procaccio is the only athlete to win the Penn Relays women’s Mile or 1500 meters five times as a pro, and she was inducted to the Penn Relays Wall of Fame in 2015. Procaccio had her most successful season in 1995, when she won her first national title and finished the year ranked first in the nation in the 3000 meters, second in the 5000 meters and fifth in the 1500 meters.
It was then that Procaccio’s career was cut short by injury, however, the year before the 1996 Olympics, when she would have had her best chance at becoming an Olympian following a fifth-place finish in the 1500 meters at the 1992 Olympic Trials. Procaccio views the lessons learned from her trials and tribulations of dealing with her setback as powerful coaching tools when it comes to helping her student-athletes achieve their ultimate success.
VILLANOVA ASSISTANT COACH
Procaccio enjoyed a great deal of success during her two stints as a Villanova assistant coach (1994-97, 1998-00) before taking over as head coach June 7, 2000. She was part of a coaching staff that saw the Wildcats win 10 individual national titles from 1994-00, including a national champion in cross country, five indoor national championships and four outdoor national titles. In 1999, Carrie Tollefson became the first woman ever to win outdoor titles in both the 3000 meters and the 5000 meters in the same year at the NCAA Championships. Tollefson also won indoor titles in the 3000 meters in consecutive years (1999-00) and Carmen Douma was an indoor national champion in the Mile in 2000. During Procaccio’s first stint as a Wildcats assistant, Jen Rhines was the individual national champion in cross country in 1994, when Villanova won its sixth straight team title. Rhines captured national championships in the 5000 meters both indoors and outdoors in 1995, and repeated as the outdoor champion in 1996. Overall, Procaccio coached 40 All-Americans while serving as a Wildcats assistant coach.
Villanova also furthered its winning tradition at the Penn Relays during Procaccio’s years as an assistant coach. The Wildcats swept the Championship of America distance relays (distance medley relay, 4x1500 meter relay, 4x800 meter relay) in both 1995 and 1997, with the 1997 squad also winning the 4x400 meter relay title. Villanova added another championship in the 4x1500 meter relay in 2000.
Prior to joining the Wildcats coaching staff, Procaccio spent one year as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1987-88 and one year as an assistant coach at Georgetown in 1990-91.
Procaccio and her husband, Steve Santaniello, make their home in Wayne, Pa.