Villanova wins Penn Relays women's distance medley relay

PHILADELPHIA -- Stephanie Schappert led Villanova to its fourth straight Penn Relays women's distance medley relay championship Thursday, running the anchor leg at Franklin Field

The Wildcats finished in 11 minutes, 9.06 seconds for their 14th overall title in the event. They held off favorite Stanford by 2 seconds in the marquee race of the meet's first full day.

"Everything I read was, 'Can anybody stop Stanford?' That just fueled us," Villanova coach Gina Procaccio said. "I feel like we always have pressure to win at Penn. We're Villanova and we're expected to win here."

Coming into the race, Villanova looked weaker than in past years because of the graduation of Emily Lipari, who anchored the Wildcats to wins in the DMR and 6,000- and 3,200-meters relays last year.

But Schappert pulled away from Stanford freshman Elise Cranny with about 150 meters left and finished her mile leg in 4:39.61 in front of 22,537 fans on an unseasonably cold day.

"It was completely different," Schappert said. "I had never run a relay at Penn where I hadn't led off. I'm used to running the first leg and getting out there and cheering. We all talked about how this is the first race where Emily wasn't here. You're never going to replace an Emily Lipari but we find a new role and step up. That's what we do at Villanova."

Angel Piccirillo sent Villanova to an early lead with a 3:23.25 leg in the 1,200. Michaela Wilkins followed with a 56.30 leg in the 400 and freshman Siofra Cleirigh Buttner ran a 2:09.91 in the 800.

Georgetown finished third in 11.16.83 and North Carolina, which was running alongside Villanova and Stanford heading into the final lap, was fourth in 11.17.29. Host Penn finished seventh, behind Ivy League rivals Columbia and Yale.

"You never get tired of winning," said Procaccio, who will be inducted into the Penn Relays Wall of Fame this weekend for her achievements as a runner and a coach. "This means a lot to us. Losing Emily Lipari was huge but I'm really happy for these girls, especially for Stephanie. It was her first shot at anchor and she came through like a champ."

In other events, Princeton's Julia Ratcliffe successfully defended her hammer throw title with a mark of 217 feet, 6 inches.

LSU brought home a pair of titles with Nataliyah Friar winning the women's long jump at 20-7 3/4 and Tori Bliss winning the women's shot put at 56-5 3/4.

Clemson's Lauren Terstappen won the women's pole vault at 13-5 1/4 and Florida's Fawn Miller won the women's javelin at 172-11.

Rushell Clayton from Jamaica's UWI Mona won the women's 400 hurdles in 57.81.

The meet continues with a full slate of high school and college events Friday and Saturday, as well as the 16th annual USA vs. The World competition Saturday. Among the past Olympians scheduled to compete in the six USA vs. The World races are Americans Justin Gatlin and DeeDee Trotter and Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Kerron Stewart.