Monday, April 22, 2013

Mix and Match for Villanova's Penn Relays Quartets

Villanova's men and women had a busy weekend, competing at both the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton University and locally at the Widener Invitational in Chester.  As the article below indicates, the performances at these meets are being integrated into the calculations of Marcus O'Sullivan and Gina Procaccio as they make decisions about the composition of the various relays quartets for the Penn Relays.  Competition for a spot on the 4x800, 4x1500 (or 4xmile for the men), and Distance Medley Relay teams -- traditional Villanova areas of strength -- is keen, as Villanova's depth in the middle distances means that some very qualified runners will be left off one or another of the desired relay teams.  In addition, even with relay teams, competition is pronounced for the coveted and prestigious anchor positions on each relay.

Listed below are some of the key results from the weekend that may weigh heavily in the coach's decision-making processes. Best bets for the men's 4x800 are (in some order) Jordy Williamsz, Chris FitzSimons, Sam McEntee, with Sam Ellsion as anchor. Dusty Solis has run 1:50.03 this season, and he could be in the mix here as well in an effort to relieve Williamsz or McEntee, who may be pressed into service across three relays. In the 4xMile are (in some order) Rob Denault, Alex Tully, Jordy Williamsz, with Sam McEntee as anchor. In the men's DMR, it should be (in order) Jordy Williamsz to Sam Ellison to Chris FitzSimons to Sam McEntee as anchor. Of course, substitutions are likely to occur, given the schedule and the physical demands of running in multiple relays.

On the women's side, Villanova has 5 women who are in the mix at both the 4x800 and 4x1500. The 4x800 should include Kelsey Margey, Angel Piccirillo, Nicky Akande/Stephanie Schappert and Emily Lipari. Expect Lipari to anchor here; Piccirillo and Margey have each run faster than Lipari over 800 meters, but one doubts that coach Procaccio would place a true freshman as anchor in their first Penn Relays. In the 4x1500 meters, one might expect some ordering of Angel Piccirillo, Stephanie Schappert, Nicky Akande, and Emily Lipari, with Kelsey Margey a possibility. The women's DMR will likely be Angel Piccirillo to Micheala Wilkins to Nicky Akande to Emily Lipari. Again, Kelsey Margey could find herself in either the 1200 or 800 leg of the DMR depending on the fatigue factor in Akande or Piccirillo.

Sheer speculation, but fun to anticipate coaches' strategies in mixing and matching talent across three relays.

Men's Schedule -- Penn Relays
DMR             Friday     2:25 pm
4 x Mile        Saturday  12:45 pm
4 x 800         Saturday   4:40 pm

Women's Schedule -- Penn Relays
DMR             Thursday   5:25 pm
4 x 1500        Friday     1:10 pm
4 x 800         Saturday   4:10 pm

Princeton's Larry Ellis Invitational

1500 meters -- men
Jordy Williamsz    3:44.43
Sam McEntee        3:44.53

1500 meters -- women
Ariann Neutts      4:32.69

Widener Invitational

1500 meters
Rob Denault        3:46.38
Alex Tully         3:49.06
Pat Tiernan (ua)   3:49.67
Chris O'Sullivan   3:52.30
Greg Morrin        3:56.89
Rob Hurlbut        3:57.15
Dan Harris         3:58.38
Charlie Bates      4:06.55
Richie Bohny       4:07.66

800 meters
Chris FitzSimons   1:50.58
Josh Lampron (ua)  1:51.66
Andrew Golato      1:52.39

5000 meters -- men
Matt Kane           14:35.91
Tom Trainer         14:47.31
Harry Warnick (ua)  14:57.49
John Pickhaver      15:17.96

5000 meters -- women
Courtney Chapman    17:24.47
Megan Venables      17:39.40
Meghan Smith        17:56.18

Villanova sorting out its Penn Relays lineups

The competition to earn a spot on the Villanova teams that will compete in this week's Penn Relays is just as intense as the competition on the Franklin Field track, minus, of course, the screaming crowds and the call of the race by the public-address announcer.

The head coaches of the Wildcats' track and field programs, Marcus O'Sullivan (men) and Gina Procaccio (women), know the pressure of running in the Penn Relays when you are wearing a Villanova singlet, having dealt with that as athletes and coaches. So they take the battle for the last relay spots up to the last minute.

"You're waiting to see all the different nuances right up until the last workout," O'Sullivan said. "I try to tell the kids, 'This is nothing personal. If you're not on the team, don't look at me like, why didn't you put me on the team?' This is about our tradition. It's about Villanova. I'm going to put the best team out there."

Procaccio said it's a matter of being absolutely sure.

"You want to see things leading all the way up to the last workout," she said. "I don't want to say, 'You're on [the team],' and then I see other things. The last thing you want to do is change after you've told somebody something."

With that being said, the two coaches have strong core runners for the six races in which they expect to contend at Penn - the men's and women's distance medley and 4x800-meter relays, along with the women's 4x1,500 and the men's 4xMile.

The Villanova women won the DMR last year and have two returning runners from that team in juniors Emily Lipari, who will anchor this year, and Nicky Akande. The pair ran the final two legs on the Wildcats team that finished a close second to Michigan in last month's NCAA indoor championships.

Procaccio said Akande, Lipari, and freshman Angel Piccirillo, who led off 'Nova's DMR team at NCAAs, might run all three relays, but a different runner could be the fourth participant for each event.

O'Sullivan also thinks his team will challenge in the three races in which it will compete because of its depth.

The Wildcats finished fifth in the NCAA indoors in the distance medley despite a bad stumble by anchor Sam McEntee, who is expected to anchor Friday's race.

Samuel Ellison, a junior who starred at Upper Dublin High School, also was on the team in the NCAA meet and probably will go this week in the DMR and the 4x800 against some tough teams.

"Anything can happen," O'Sullivan said. "I've always preached to the guys over the years that we just have to be there, be in the race, and things can happen. I'm pretty excited about it this year."

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