PHILADELPHIA, PA. 4/28/2018 – The Villanova Wildcats women’s distance relay teams capped a sweep of their races at the 2018 Penn Relays winning the 4 x 800 Relay Championship of America crossing the finish line in 8:19.98. It was the second fastest time in this event for the Wildcats behind only the 2013 team that set the national record of 8:17.45. It was the 14th overall victory in the 4 x 800 and 5 of the last 6.
Winning Wheels is a standard for Nova. It is a legacy, and the team has done it in different ways. The team swept the distance relays last year (Distance Medley Relay, 4 x 1500, and 4 x 800), and now this year. A source of pride for Coach Gina Procaccio.
“We got some good runners in Angel Piccirillo and Emily Lipari, then everything kind of changed,” said Procaccio. “I thought it would be great to win all three. To win it back to back, it is something we think we can do, but I am prouder because we got more girls involved. Last year three girls ran on all three relays, this year nobody ran on all three. I am proud of that.”
Lead runner and senior Kelsey Margey ran lead on both of the standard setting teams.
“This very near and dear to our hearts,” Margey said about the victory. “I was trying to give it to Rachel in the best position I could. I want to savor it being part of many championship teams.”
“It is a team effort, it’s about everyone coming together, and just trying to do your part.”
Senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner anchored in her last Penn Relays race. She has been on eight Wheel winning teams, and reflected on how special the event has been for her.
“It is a special event for Villanova and it being the last time I would be able to carry for Villanova,” Cleirigh Buttner as she kissed the baton after crossing the finish line. “Last year Angel (Piccirillo) got very emotional, and that is hitting me now. I realize how important it was to me.
Cleirigh Buttner took the baton from McKenna Keegan who pulled ahead in the far turn, passing off to the anchor to take it home.
“I made eye contact with Siofra and she was pointing to her heart, and I knew it was all heart out there,” said Keegan. “I knew I had to lay it all out on the line. I was able to give a little lead for Siofra for her to bring it home to us.”
The tradition lives on for the Wildcats. Two runners wrap up their Penn Relays participation. And a new runner got to live it first hand.
“Being able to compete on this team is an amazing experience, and to walk away with two with this team is really great. I love being part of this team and this legacy,” said second runner and freshman Rachel McArthur.
This meet was wildly successful for Villanova track as the men’s and women’s distance relay teams won all five events they entered. And it was highly significant that both teams inspired each other.
“It definitely underlines the while tradition of all you need is four kids in a white vest who know that level and get the job done,” Cleirigh Buttner pointed out.
Written By: Glenn Papazian