PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/23/2015 – A strong finishing kick in the last 150 meters by senior Stephanie Schappert propelled her by Elise Cranny of Stanford and the Villanova Wildcats to their fourth straight Women’s Distance Medley Relay Championship at the 2015 Penn Relays. This was the 14th DMR Penn Relays Wheel for the Wildcats who covered the distance in 11:09.06.
“You never get tired of winning,” said Villanova Coach Gina Procaccio. “I am happy for these girls, especially for Stephanie who had her first shot at anchoring. She came through like a champ. It was an awesome four person victory. This is our turf and they ran like true Villanovan’s.”
The wining team for the Wildcats consisted of lead runner Angel Piccirillo (1200 meters), Michaela Wilkins (400 meters), Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (800 meters) and Schappert who ran the 1600 meter leg.
Villanova expected strong competition from Stanford who finished second with a time of 11:11.07. A strong start was needed and Piccirillo gave the lead with a split of 3:23.5 and the lead.
“We knew there were going to be a lot of good teams in this relay, so I wanted to go out and give help to the back end of the race,” said Piccirillo. “I wanted to stay relaxed and bring it home hard and give Michaela as much space as I could.”
Wilkins, who has been on three DMR Championship teams, ran the second leg keeping the lead running the 400 meters in :56.30. Stanford and LSU trailed going into third leg. Buttner took the baton and kept her composure holding off Claudia Saunders of Stanford. A time of 2:09.91 allowed Buttner to hand the baton off to Schappert for the final 1600 meters. Cranny took aim on Schappert moving behind her shoulder in the first lap. Cranny and Annie LeHardy of North Carolina moves past Schappert in the third lap, but Schappert moved back into second place setting up a bell lap contest between Villanova and Stanford.
It was the first time Schappert ran the anchor in a Penn Relays Championship. She usually runs the first leg. However, she did appear to learn from her predecessors Sheila Reid and Emily Lipari. Schappert stalked Cranny and made her move running past the Stanford anchor with 150 meters left and past the finish line first. Schappert ran her split in 4:39.61 while Cranny ran a time of 4:40.87.
“I’m pretty confident in my kick,” said Schappert. “When Elise (Cranny) went by me and the North Carolina runner went by me I knew it was one lap at a time and I got it right back. I was pretty confident throughout the race.”
“Stephanie’s kick is a good as anyone’s,” Procaccio said. “It was her turn and she understands what the Penn Relays and Villanova is about.”
Stanford was the runner up with an effort of 11:11.07. Georgetown took third in a time of 11:16.83 while North Carolina was fourth covering the distance in 11:17.29.
Penn finished seventh turning in a time of 11:31.68. The Quakers team consisted of Ashley Montgomery, Candace Taylor, Carey Caleta, and Cleo Whiting.
Villanova holds the Relays record for most consecutive Distance Medley Championships with 5 winning the Wheel from 1987 to 1991. The Wildcats continue to roll along winning the titles.
“You’re never going to replace an Emily Lipari or a Sheila Reid,” Schappert said. “We continue to find new roles and someone steps up. That’s what we do at Villanova.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian