Women’s Track and Field Finishes Second at Big East Championship


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Maggie Smith (above) was a member of the distance relay team who won gold at the meet.

Catherine Browne, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, Villanova’s women’s track and field team returned home with a second place finish and 11 medals from the Big East Conference Championships, an event the Wildcats have been preparing for all indoor season. 

“From the first meet on, we are always pointing to be at our best around conference time,” head coach Gina Procaccio said. 

Following the first day of the competition, Villanova earned the second place position with six events scored out of 18, totaling 39.5 points behind UConn, with 81.5 points.

Graduate student Sade Meeks placed second in weight throw, becoming the first female thrower to place top-three in the weight throw event in school history. She marked a throw of 19.12 meters, which is the second longest throw in school history, following her own record from earlier in the season of 20.88 meters. 

Graduate student Jul Thomson threw a new personal best of 16.65 meters, putting her in third place on the all-time Villanova performance list in the weight throw event. 

A highlight from Friday’s competition was the first place win in the distance medley relay, marking the 18th time a Wildcat relay team has won this event in school history. Junior Anna Helwigh, graduate student McKenna Keegan, freshman Emma McGill and junior Maggie Smith beat out all nine teams in this event by more than 1.5 seconds, with a time of 11:26.08. DePaul ranked second in the race, with a time of 11:27.76, and Providence followed close behind at 11:28.32, ending in third place. 

Senior Ashley Preston stepped on the podium for the fifth time in her career for her second place finish in the pole vault by clearing the bar at 3.85 meters. 

In the preliminary rounds, Keegan ran the fastest qualifying time in 2:08.56 in the 800 meters, while junior Madison Martinez came in second in 2:09.04. Freshman Maya Dorer competed in the second heat and finished in 2:12.23, filling the final qualifying spot. 

Helwigh, Smith and freshman Emily Robinson all qualified for the finals in the mile. Helwigh finished in third, with a time of 4:56.35, followed by Smith in fourth in 4:56.48, both in the first heat, while Robinson competed in the second heat and finished in 4:58.34. 

Senior Jada Thomas qualified for the finals in the 60 meter hurdles, with a time of 8.87 in her preliminary heat. 

The Wildcats closed out the first day of the competition in second place and began the second day of the conference championships on Saturday, where the team remained consistent throughout the competition.

  “We are a pretty well balanced team, meaning we have representation in a lot of events,” Procaccio said. “We have sprinters, jumpers, throwers, hurdles, middle-distance runners and runners, [which] enables us to score in a whole lot of different areas.” 

Following her silver medal in the weight throw from Friday, Meeks earned the gold medal for her performance in the shot put, with a throw of 15.07 meters. Behind these two strong performances, Meeks became the first thrower in Villanova history to earn an Outstanding Field Performer award at the Big East Championship.  

Keegan earned the championship title in the 800 meter event for the third time in her career, with a time of 2:06.02 while Martinez appeared on the podium as well finishing in third, with a time of 2:07.80, her third career medal in the 800 meter event at the Big East. Both Keegan and Martinez were two of the four athletes who earned the bronze medal in the 4×800 meter relay. Smith and junior Nikki Merrill joined their teammates in the relay with a combined time of 8:49.01. Among the 39 years that Villanova has competed at the indoor Big East Championships, this marks the 35th podium win in the 4×800 event. 

Smith and Helwigh competed in the mile, with Smith winning the bronze in 4:48.81 and Helwigh finishing in fifth place in 4:49.56. 

A highlight for Procaccio was Jada Thomas’ performance, where she earned the silver medal in the 60 meter hurdle event, with a season-best of 8.62. 

“[Thomas] was dealing with a concussion and she had Covid,” Procaccio said. “She missed a lot of training time but it was great for her to get on the podium.” 

Senior Lydia Olivere and freshman Sadie Sigfstead competed in the 3000 meter event. Olivere finished in second place in 9:17.04 only half a second behind Georgetown’s champion Sami Corman. Sigfstead crossed the finish line in 9:27.42 placing seventh. 

Senior Sanaä Barnes earned the silver medal in the high jump when she cleared the bar at 1.81 meters, and freshman Taylor Woodeshick finished in seventh and set a new personal best of 1.61 meters. Procaccio explained that Woodeshick did not have the numbers on paper that would suggest her to be in scoring position, but they wanted to give her the experience. 

“Track is a big tradition at Villanova,” Procaccio said. “We have won numerous Championships in the Big East. I am happy they fought hard to try to do the best [they] can. (…) We are still one of the top two teams in the country and I think that everybody is in a good place going into the outdoor season.”