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 16th year as head coach of the Villanova women’s cross country and track & field teams in 2015-16 and previously spent a total of five seasons as an assistant coach with the program.
The list of accomplishments for the Wildcats during Procaccio’s tenure is staggering. Since taking over as head coach in the fall of 2000, Procaccio has guided Villanova to two national championships in cross country and a combined nine BIG EAST team titles. In addition, she has mentored nine individual national champions, 94 All-Americans and 142 individual BIG EAST champions while also leading the Wildcats to nine 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 a combined six times in the last six years. There have also been school records set during Procaccio’s tenure in four individual running events, three relays, five throwing events and the pentathlon.
Villanova has enjoyed an incredible amount of recent success and Procaccio has the Wildcats in position to perennially remain one of the nation’s elite programs. Over the past four years (2011-12 to 2014-15), Villanova has produced an individual national champion in the Mile and earned a total of 33 All-America honors while also winning eight Penn Relays titles. In the same period of time, Procaccio has coached two individual BIG EAST cross country champions and the Wildcats have won a total of 35 events at the indoor and outdoor conference championships.
Procaccio was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) for both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2014-15. Villanova also had the top athlete in the region in both seasons last year, with Angel Piccirillo winning the award indoors and Stephanie Schappert earning the honor for the outdoor season. Piccirillo and Schappert were a dominant duo last year as the latest members in the Wildcats long line of champion middle distance runners. They each earned All-America honors both indoors (Mile) and outdoors (1500 meters), and they both were the anchors of a winning Championship of America relay at the Penn Relays. Schappert anchored Villanova to its fourth consecutive title in the distance medley relay and Piccirillo led the Wildcats to a third straight championship in the 4x800 relay.
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 last year. Senior sprinter Varonica Johnson won the 200 meters at each meet and was also the outdoor 100 meters champion, while junior Shanice Grant won the 60 meter hurdles indoors and the 100 meter hurdles outdoors. Multi-event competitor Katherine Petruzzellis was the outdoor heptathlon champion after winning both the pentathlon and the high jump indoors. Petruzzellis was also selected as the Outstanding Field Performer at the indoor conference meet, and her winning score of 3,723 points in the pentathlon set a school record.
Outside of athletic competition, Villanova student-athletes continued to achieve at a high level academically in 2014-15. Schappert earned a prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarship and was selected by the BIG EAST as the Wildcats female recipient of the conference’s Institutional Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor. She and freshman Siofra Cleirigh Buttner were named to national All-Academic teams by the USTFCCCA for both cross country and track & field, while seniors Kathleen McPhillips and Alexandra Wasik earned track & field All-Academic Team recognition. Villanova also had a total of 40 student-athletes named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team for the 2014-15 academic year.
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 94 All-Americans during her head coaching career, including 19 in cross country, 53 during the indoor track & field season and 22 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 during the 2010 cross country season 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 two times during their careers.
The distance medley relay is one of many events in which the Wildcats have consistently been nationally prominent. Villanova registered a top-eight finish 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, while Frances Koons accomplished the feat three times in the same event. There has been at least one first team All-American indoors from the Wildcats in seven straight years. Most recently, Villanova had two All-Americans in both the 800 meters (Nicky Akande, Kelsey Margey) and the Mile (Lipari and Stephanie Schappert) in 2014, while Schappert and Angel 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 current 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, while Piccirillo has been a second team All-American in the 1500 meters in each of the past two seasons.
Reid, an 11-time All-American overall during her collegiate career, and Lipari (10-time All-American) are two of just six women in Villanova history to earn at least 10 career All-America honors. The success for the Wildcats at the national level has not been limited to the middle distance events, however. Procaccio has also seen standout sprinters Monique Morgan and Shericka Ward become All-Americans both indoors in the 60 meter hurdles and outdoors in the 100 meter hurdles.
Villanova has won Championship of America wheels at the Penn Relays a total of 36 times. Procaccio has coached 17 of those 36 relay teams, including nine during her head coaching career and another eight while she was an assistant coach. She has guided the Wildcats to eight Penn Relays victories in the last four years alone and has been the driving force behind a number of historic accomplishments during that time span.
Procaccio has led Villanova to three consecutive Championship of America titles in the 4x800 meter relay. The first of those championships came in 2013, when the Wildcats set an all-time collegiate record with a winning time of 8:17.45. Villanova has also won four consecutive titles in the distance medley relay, a streak surpassed only by five straight Wildcats titles in the DMR from 1987-91.
Beginning with its record-setting performance in the 4x800 relay in 2013, Villanova has incredibly won each of the last six Championship of America races it has entered. The streak includes a sweep of the distance medley relays in 2014, when the Wildcats 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.
The current run of dominance at the Penn Relays began with the Wildcats winning the DMR title in 2012 with a lineup that included Lipari, Christi Verdier, Nicky Akande and Sheila Reid. Villanova also won the DMR in 2006 when Marina Muncan anchored a squad that featured Frances Koons leading off, followed by Tiera Fletcher and Akilah Vargas.
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 both 2013-14 and 2014-15. Procaccio is a nine-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year and has mentored a total of 142 conference champions as head coach.
Sheila Reid won three straight BIG EAST cross country titles from 2009-11, a feat that no other male or 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 six 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 eight times during Procaccio’s head coaching career, with Reid and Emily Lipari each setting meet records in the event. Lipari was named the Outstanding Track Performer at the indoor meet in both 2013 and 2014, with Reid (2010) and Koons (2007) also winning the award. Procaccio has also seen her athletes win BIG EAST titles six times each in the Mile and the 60 meter hurdles, as well as three times in the 800 meters. Under her watch, the Wildcats have won the 4x800 meter relay indoors nine times and have claimed two titles in the distance medley relay.
The outdoor BIG EAST Championships have followed a similar script to the indoor meet. Procaccio has coached Villanova to seven conference titles in the 4x800 relay outdoors, in addition to six championships in the 800 meters and five titles each in the 100 meter hurdles and 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 also anchored three straight 4x800 relay wins from 2012-14 and won individual titles outdoors in the 1500 meters (2013) and the 800 meters (2014).
Six current school records were set during competition at the BIG EAST Championships, including four outdoor records and two indoor marks. The outdoor records include Sarah Morrison winning the conference title in the 3000 meter steeplechase with a time of 10:12.4 in 2009, while Shericka Ward and Varonica Johnson established new Villanova standards in the 200 meters (2011) and the 100 meters (2014), respectively.
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 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 Acadmeic 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, was selected as the Villanova Female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year in 2009-10 for the combination of her athletic accomplishments and academic success. Reid won the same award a year later and Emily Lipari was the recipient of the 2013-14 honor. Schappert won an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship at the conclusion of her Wildcats career, an honor which was also earned by her younger sister Stephanie in 2015. Stephanie also was voted the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Overall Female Performer of the Year in 2014-15.
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 the BIG EAST All-Academic Team a total of 395 times. The women’s track & field team has consistently received public recognition from the NCAA for ranking in the top 10 percent of its sport nationwide in multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores.
In addition to achieving success at the highest levels of collegiate competition, Procaccio’s student-athletes have gone on to make their mark internationally. Sheila Reid (Canada) and Marina Muncan (Serbia) each competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, marking seven consecutive Summer Olympics dating back to 1988 that the Villanova women’s track & field program has been represented by at least one athlete. Procaccio has had terrific success preparing her student-athletes for competition in the USA Track & Field ranks. Most recently, current team member Kelsey Margey won a silver medal for Team USA in the 1500 meters at the 2013 Pan-American Junior Championships. Earlier in the year she was the champion of the 1500 meters 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 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 with a time of 2:42.68 which remains the current school record. During the 1988 campaign, 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 had her most successful season in 1995, in which 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.