Nov. 14, 2012
NEW ORLEANS--For the fifth consecutive season a Villanova runner has been chosen as the Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Junior Nicky Akande (Lawrenceville, Ga.) was announced as this year's winner on Tuesday night after winning the individual title at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional last week.
Akande made great strides as a sophomore last season to emerge as one of the Wildcats most dependable runners and this year she has become a fixture at the top of the team's lineup. At the NCAA regional last Friday she cruised to a nine-second margin of victory and registered a career-best time of 20:14 on a 6,000 meter course.
This is the second straight year that Akande has earned All-Mid Atlantic Region honors for a top 25 finish at the regional meet. She also earned All-BIG EAST accolades for the second straight year after coming in third at the conference meet last month.
Led by Akande, fellow junior Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y.) - the BIG EAST individual champion - and senior Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) the Wildcats have earned a team berth to the NCAA Championships for the fifth straight year. Villanova was selected as one of 13 at-large bids to the field of 31 teams that will compete in the national championship meet this coming Saturday afternoon.
In four scored meets this season Akande has been the top Villanova finisher two times and has been the team's second runner in the other two races. Prior to the first two postseason meets she led the Wildcats with an eighth place finish at the Paul Short Run and also came in 26th at the Pre-NCAA Meet.
The NCAA Championships are being held at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville and the women's race begins on Saturday at Noon.
NOTES: Villanova has produced the Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year in cross country every year since 2008 ... That year Frances Koons was the winner, while most recently Sheila Reid was a three-time recipient of the award from 2009-11.