By David F. Cohen
Emily Lipari is only five feet tall but she stood and ran a lot taller in the just-completed Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
Lipari anchored the Villanova women to Championship of America titles in the distance medley relay, the 4 x 1,500 and on Saturday, the 4 x 800.
None meant more to the 5-foot Lipari, named the Women’s College Athlete of the Meet for relay events, than wearing out Oregon rival Laura Roesler on the final leg of the 4 x 800. At that point, wind and rain were blowing in her face at Franklin Field.
“All I could think about is I know Laura is a great person and that she was probably going to be looking to do the same thing to me that I did to her last year,” said Lipari, who used a tenacious kick to defeat the 5-foot-6 Roesler in the 4 x 800 here last year. “She can run 2-flat. She’s had a fantastic year. I had a bit of a lead on her and I could just feel her coming and the crowd cheering. She was right there. I didn’t really want to give her an opportunity to kind of edge me out at the line. So I really just took off with everything I had left in the tank at 200 to go instead of giving her the chance to do that.”
Almost caught by Roesler on the backstretch, Lipari won by eight meters, running mates Kelsey Margey, Angel Piccirillo and Nicky Akande cheering her every step as the Wildcats clocked 8:21.49.
Oregon was next in 8:22.54, Georgetown third at 8:31.03.
Akande, who ran a 2:05.67 split, joined Lipari, who brought the baton home with a 2:03.50 split, on all three winning Wildcats relays.
Margey, who got the Wildcats the lead Saturday with a 2:06.33 leg, was running her first race of the relays; Piccirillo, who turned in a 2:06.00 leg, her second.
It was the first time the Wildcat women won three races at the Penn Relays since 1997, when they captured four. Saturday’s winning 4 x 800 team was the first Villanova women’s team to repeat at the Penn Relays with the same four runners.
Wildcats coach Gina Procaccio, who hails from Sun Valley High, quietly hid her Penn Relays expectations from the team in the weeks leading up to the competition.
“When I really started seeing the fields,” Procaccio said, “I said to my husband, ‘I’ll be happy to win one.’ He called me after the DMR (Thursday) and said, ‘You still going to be happy to win one?’ We love to win. We love the Penn Relays and we love to win and it’s contagious. Obviously the momentum grew.”
After the Wildcats won one Thursday and one Friday, Procaccio tried to motivate them for their Saturday finale by giving them the old whatever happens, she’s proud of them talk. It must have had a settling effect.
“I told myself I’d be happy with the two and I just wanted them to have fun today,” Procaccio said. “But I know myself. And yeah, I don’t really have a lot to say. I’m just so proud of them. They deserved to win.
“It’s amazing, it really is. And all of the races were extremely, extremely competitive this year.”
Lipari feels more comfortable pursuing than being pursued. She likes to see what’s ahead of her. It made her last Penn Relays race for the Wildcats a little bit more pleasurable.
“When you get an opportunity like that you’ve got to take it and run with it,” Lipari said. “That’s the great thing about running. You don’t know what you’re going to get. So you better be prepared for every situation and just roll with it.”