PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/26/2012 – To know how much a Penn Relays Championship means to Villanova and to Sheila Reid, the smile on the face of Reid as she crossed the finish line winning the 2012 Penn Relays Distance Medley Relay explains it all. Villanova took its first Distance Medley Relay title since. For Reid, a senior, it was her first Penn Relays championship.
“I couldn’t hold it in,” said Reid. “I’ve been here so many years. It means a lot to all of our girls. I knew we had it.”
Last year Villanova suffered a huge disappointment in the race as the Wildcats lost the baton early in the race taking away any chance they had to win it. This year the team ran strong and relaxed the whole way winning in a time of 11:01.3. Rival Tennessee finished second in 11:03.53.
“It was a big relief for them, especially for Sheila,” Procaccio said. “She is a senior, she’s really been feeling the pressure to not leave Villanova without winning Penn Relays. But in order to get that done we needed to have three studs in front of her to put her in the race and pull away in the end. We have two sophomores and two seniors on this team and we needed all of them to really step it up and get the job done. I was just looking at their splits thinking they are running great. Lead off 3:22, that’s what I led off with when we won in 1987. 52.8 for Christy (Verdier)which I don’t think she’s ever split. We’ve always been happy when she’s given us 53’s, so that was her best ever. And then Nicky (Akande), before a week ago her best eight was 2:09, and ran 2:04.5 today, so I thought they’re doing it and I was really excited.
The race started with Tennessee leading most of the way. Villanova 1200 meter runner Emily Lipari trailed Channel Price by just over a second. The baton went to 400 meter runner Christie Verdier. These were the two runners that had the baton mishap last year. Not this season. Verdier turned in a time of 52.8 keeping Villanova in proximity with Tennessee. Nicky Akande ran the third leg of the race, the 800 meter and made of most of the deficit turning in a split of 2:04.5. The race would come down to the anchor runners, Sheila Reid and Brittany Sheffey.
Reid was in a great position just behind Sheffey. Reid kept the same distance all the way around the first three laps. Kara Millhouse of Penn State made a run to catch up with the leaders. In the last 200 meters of the race Reid showed her well-known finishing kick, passing Sheffey, and coming down the straight away winning the race and the title.
“I like to treat Penn Relays as all business but it never really is,” Reid said. “There is a lot of emotion in it; your school puts emphasis on this and it means a lot to the alumni too, who come back to watch. Once I have the baton in my hand, I want it to be strictly business but you can’t help but let the emotions get to you when you are going down the backstretch and people are chanting ‘Nova. It feels really good (to win this) because I train with these girls all the time and we wanted it so badly. I really didn’t have to do anything; they gave it to me in a perfect position and I just did my job. We all did our jobs today.”
And her smile said it all.
Written By: Glenn Papazian