Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Emily Lipari: "No Mercy, Never Say Die" Attitude is Back

Renewed competitiveness has helped Villanova’s Lipari


RADNOR, PA — The drive that made Emily Lipari a two-time outdoor national champion in the mile at Roslyn High School in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., is back.

The junior from Villanova turned to her soccer roots to regain that edge.

“When I played soccer, it was do or die,” Lipari said. “You’re competing for a team and that’s easy because you don’t want to let your teammates down so I would do anything to help my team win. It’s the same in cross country and on relay teams. You’re not out there for yourself. You’re out there for the rest of the team so you do whatever it takes to win.

Lipari anchored the NCAA-record 4x800 at Penn Relays
“But running in individual events, especially in the outdoor season was different. I had lost that do-or-die feeling. I didn’t know what it took to be a champion at this level and that’s where soccer came in. I thought back to how I used to compete on the soccer field and applied that same approach to track.”

The result has been a breakout season for Lipari. She anchored two winning relay teams at the Penn Relays, won the Big East title in the 1,500-meter run for the first time in her career and anchored the Wildcats to victory in the 4 x 800 relay at the conference championship meet.

Now Lipari is one of four Villanova athletes in Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships. She is the seventh seed in the women’s 1,500-meter championship. The preliminary round is this evening with the final Saturday.

On the men’s side, Sam Ellison is seeded No. 21 in the 800, while teammates Robert Denault and Sam McEntee are seeded sixth and 18th, respectively, in the 1,500. Strath Haven’s Chris Williams and Penn Wood’s Eric Futch, the 2012 Daily Times co-Athletes of the Year, also are in Eugene. Williams, a freshman at the University of Washington, qualified for the national championships in the 110-meter high hurdles and was part of the 4 x 100-meter relay team. Futch, a freshman at the University of Houston, is in the 400-meter hurdles.

For Lipari, it is her first trip to outdoor nationals.

“I’m so pumped,” she said. “The first goal was to get there, and I’ve done that. Now the goal is to make it to the final and take it from here.”

Don’t bet against her. Lipari may be on the short side (5-0), but she is competitive.
“I’ve always been that way,” Lipari said. “My brother (Tom) and I used to compete at everything. I’ll compete with my friends to see who can eat a meal faster or eat more of something. We’ll also compete to see who gets the highest grade in a certain subject.”

It was a quality that drew recruiting interest from several major Division I soccer programs while she was an outside midfielder and forward for the Syosset Sting soccer club on Long Island. It also was a trait that earned her a scholarship for track and cross country from Villanova.

Yet she lost a little bit of that edge in individual events when she got to Villanova.

“That happens,” Villanova coach Gina Procaccio said. “It takes time to make that adjustment from high school to college. Emily had success in cross country and indoor track, she just needed to take that to the outdoor season and she did. She’s really had a breakout year.”

Lipari earned All-America honors in both cross country and indoor track and smoothly carried that success to the outdoor season. She anchored the Wildcats to victories in the DMR and 4 x 800 at the Penn Relays. That transformed into two wins at the Big East Championships and a berth in the outdoor nationals.

“I’m definitely a different runner than I was when I started college,” Lipari said. “I didn’t know what it took to be a champion and soccer helped me with that. On the soccer field, if I got knocked down I got back up. I did whatever it took to win.”

I kind of lost that no mercy, never-say-die mentality in track, but I have it back.”

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