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Emily Lipari: Savvy Racer, Furious Finisher

Villanova University – with a long heritage of miler excellence – currently has a women’s middle distance corps that surely ranks as one of its best.  The Lady Wildcats’ marquee performer is Emily Lipari, a senior from Greenvale, New York.

Lipari’s talent and potential was evident early on.  As a school girl at Roslyn High School, the 4-year scholar-athlete was a 9-time state champion, a 4-time national champion in the mile, and a Penn Relays high school titlist in the 3000.  In her earlier years, Lipari’s diminutive stature occasionally led others to discount her middle distance capability.  Don’t be fooled.  She might not sport the classic long-legged, willowy physique often associated with the top women milers.  But few middle distance runners – men or women – can match the agile quickness of Villanova’s premiere miler.  It is her uncanny track awareness and her ability to accelerate quickly to extricate herself from bad race positioning that invariably places her to take full advantage of her powerful finishing kick.  “I credit that a lot to my soccer.  I was very much a soccer player before I was a runner – a lot of the quick movements and swiping with your feet, it just kind of gets you ready to be on your toes ready for anything,” Lipari explained.  “I don’t mind being boxed in because I like seeing what’s going on.  I don’t like to be in the front.  When I can see what is going on, I feel very comfortable about it.  Even when I am boxed in, I just wait for my opening.”


Not long after her arrival on the Villanova campus, Lipari was making her presence known.  By her sophomore year, she led off Villanova’s victorious Distance Medley Relay at Penn.  The next year at Penn, Lipari was moved to anchor and she brought the Wildcats home as winners in the DMR and the 4 x 800 relay.  How do you top that?  Lipari found a way.  This spring at Penn, Lipari anchored three winning relays for Villanova: The DMR – again , the 4 x 1500, and the 4 x 800.  In each of her three anchor battles, Lipari’s racing tenacity allowed her to outduel impressive collegiate talents [Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe twice and Oregon’s Laura Roesler].  That sensational Penn weekend brought her Penn Relays wristwatch total to seven and earned Lipari her second consecutive Athlete Of The Meet  award.

But Emily Lipari’s senior year has not been just about eastern seaboard middle distance dominance.  It has also been the year when the Wildcat miler has become an established national competitor.  Earlier this March, Lipari captured her first national collegiate title when she won the NCAA indoor mile crown, clocking 4:38.82 in the thin air of Albuquerque.  Suddenly, the East Coast star had a top shelf national presence.

Emily Lipari has returned to Oregon to compete in the 2014 NCAA outdoor track & field championships and to write the final chapter of her impressive collegiate career.  And Thursday, Lipari got her last collegiate meet off to a good start by winning her semi-final heat of the women’s 1500 in 4:21.14.  Yet the race was not without excitement.  Her heat’s tactical pace had the field bunched.  And with 180 meters to go Lipari appeared hopelessly boxed and frankly looked miserable.  But just seconds later, the veteran racer nimbly swung wide coming off the Bowerman curve and easily accelerated down the straightaway for a narrow victory.  “I tend to get boxed in a lot so it is not that shocking when it happens all of the time,” stated Lipari matter-of-factly.  “I always find a way to wiggle out of it.  But it normally never happens on the last 150 meters because it is usually the strongest point of my race,” she offered.  “I am just happy to get to the final again.”

The Villanova senior – often animated – has a surprisingly peaceful view of Saturday’s final.  “I am just looking forward to having a good race there,” said Lipari.   “If I run well and have a lot of fun, I think we’ll get some good results.”  Lipari has thought about how she’d like to see the final unfold.  “I would like to see the race go pretty fast, honestly,” declared the Villanova miler.  “I haven’t really been in any races this year that have gone faster than 4:14.  And I know a fast race is in there.  So I am kinda looking forward to it being a fast race.”  But Lipari won’t be rattled if the final becomes tactical.  “Even it is a slow one, I think that also plays into my strength as a kicker,” Lipari explained. “I am just getting prepared for anything.”

For Lipari, this NCAA championship weekend marks her final undergraduate races.  It is time of reflection for the Main Line athlete.  “I try not to think of my time as a ticking clock and for it to be totally over,” said Lipari.  “I just really love Villanova and my past four years.  I just want to give one last hard effort with a ’Nova uniform on.  I know every girl lining up there is going to try to win that race.  You know I want to be one of those girls fighting for that finish, too.”

The Villanova senior wants to make her final competitive efforts in a Wildcat singlet memorable, successful.  The competition will be formidable – national 1500 finals always are.  But Villanova’s multiple-time All American is a crafty racer – the kind who often excels in tactical championship finals. And Emily Lipari – one of best closers in the game – knows that a victory in Saturday’s 1500 final would be the storybook capstone to her decorated collegiate career.  “It would be incredible,” added Lipari with a smile.

Lipari might have a secret weapon for Saturday’s 1500 meter final.  “To be honest, I feel like people think I still can’t win this race.  But I’m totally fine with that,” confided Lipari.  “I really like being an underdog.  And if I could pull this through, it would be just an awesome ending to my 2014 season.”  And Emily Lipari – the architect of many awesome endings of her own – just might be able to pull it off. 


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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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