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Women's DMR wins at Penn Relays

By Kyle Stephan
On May 2, 2012


The women's and men's track and field teams proudly represented the University in the 118th Penn Relays this past weekend. 

The Penn Relays tradition has been ongoing since 1895, the longest collegiate track meet in United States history. Villanova arrived at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania with both teams looking to leave a mark and take back some historic hardware. 

The women's team took center stage this past Thursday night, by winning the Championship of America title in the distance medley relay, which it last won in 2006. 

The winning lineup consisted of sophomore middle distance runner Emily Lipari, senior sprinter Christie Verdier, sophomore middle distance runner Nicky Akande and senior middle distance runner Sheila Reid. 

During the contest, Lipari, Verdier and Akande all produced career best splits, with Akande handing off to the highly capable Reid for the anchor leg. 

Villanova and Tennessee were at a virtual tie, but Reid would pull away to help the Wildcats capture a two-and-a-half second victory over the Volunteers. Villanova fans traveled well, and Reid fed off of the emotion from the crowd. 

"There is so much emotion involved with the Penn Relays, especially being here with Villanova," Reid said. "When you get to the final backstretch and you can hear the 'Go 'Nova' chant from the crowd the emotion definitely gets the best of you. I couldn't help myself but to smile at the finish line when I knew I had the race in hand." 

This is the 10th time the Wildcats have captured the distance medley title at the Penn Relays, and the 30th title overall for the women's team. 

For Reid, the victory is special for her incredible career as it is her first Penn Relays win. 

Villanova women's track Head Coach Gina Procaccio echoed praise for the win not only for Reid but for her teammates. 

"It is extremely exciting to bring home this win," Gina Procaccio said. "I am blown away by our first three legs of the race. Emily, Christie and Nicky all stepped up and did a great job." 

The Villanova men's team would follow with a strong showing in their respective relays during the Friday and Saturday meets against the likes of Penn State, Oregon and Columbia. Both races certainly kept the crowd entertained, whether Villanova-affiliated or not, with last-second finishes. 

On Friday, the men's team was able to place sixth in the Championship of America distance medley relay at Franklin Field. All teams in the field were separated by mere margins of a second.  The Wildcats runners were freshman distance runner Rob Denault, freshman sprinter Brian Murphy, sophomore distance runner Samuel Ellison and freshman middle distance runner Samuel McEntee, who combined to finish just two-tenths of a second behind the top three teams. After a crowded finish, Head Coach Marcus O'Sullivan was still proud of his young team's efforts and the unique experience of a thrilling race at the Penn Relays.

"It is all a positive for us," O'Sullivan said. "When you come to the Penn Relays with Villanova, the expectations are phenomenal. This is bigger for us than anything. I am disappointed not to win but this race was pure entertainment. These are the kinds of races you wait for at the Penn Relays, and for our team this was a great learning experience." 

The men's team also placed fourth this past Saturday in the 4x800 Championship of America race, which featured another heart-wrenching, last-second contest. 

The team lineup was fifth-year senior Brian Tetreault, McEntee, sophomore distance runner Chris Fitzsimons and Ellison. The team registered a time of 7:21:04, with the race not being decided until the final 200 meters. 

Ellison again finished among the top of the pack during the last leg. The Wildcats can be confident for the future knowing that several of their team members are underclassmen. In addition for this race, only two seconds separated the top five teams at the finish line.

Finally, for the Villanova women's team, senior sprinter Shericka Ward automatically advanced to the finals of the 100-meter hurdles by coming in second in her heat, making this the third straight year she has advanced to the finals in the event. 

Ward posted a time of 13.41 and advanced to a field of nine participants in the final. Unfortunately, Ward posted a DNF (did not finish) in the final race, but represented Villanova well by securing a final spot in the race. 

Both Wildcat squads have accomplishments to bring home after the Penn Relays, whether big or small. Villanova's men and women's teams next travel to Tampa, Fla., for the Big East Championships, which start tomorrow.

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