Women’s Cross Country Places Sixth in Regionals


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Lydia Olivere finished in ninth place with a time of 20:32.7.

Catherine Browne, Staff Writer

Friday morning presented the Penn State Golf Courses with wet and rainy conditions as 26 teams prepared for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional race. But, these conditions did not phase the Villanova women’s cross country team, as it chased down the sixth place, earning 152 points. 

Although the team scored well, this performance did not qualify it for the NCAA Championship meet next week, which concludes the season for the Wildcats.

“We were missing some key players…so we didn’t have the success that we normally do in cross country,” head coach Gina Procaccio said. “I thought it was a great opportunity for the younger kids to step up and race in these championship meets and get that experience, which was very valuable to them.”

Four of the team’s top five scorers in the 6,000 meter race finished in the top 34 spots. But, among the 194 total competitors, Villanova is home to one of the top finishers of the meet, graduate runner Lydia Olivere. 

Olivere finished in ninth place with a 20:32.7 time and earned all-region honors for the fourth-time in her outstanding career. This marks Olivere as being the seventh female athlete to be a four-time all-region performer in school history. Beginning in Olivere’s 2018 season, she has earned all-region honors for four consecutive seasons (2020 did not host any regional meets), making her the first Wildcat to earn four consecutive all-region honors since Emily Lipari between 2010-13. 

“[Olivere’s] very consistent, and you can always count on her to be up there leading the team,” Procaccio said.

Olivere’s personal best in the 6,000 meter race was recorded exactly two years ago at the regional meet, where she finished in 20:02.0. 

This weekend’s performance brings no surprise to Olivere’s season as she has been the top Villanova finisher in all four of her appearances this season and has finished in the top 10 in the regional meet all four years. 

Olivere is not the only Wildcat who stood out this weekend. Junior runner Anna Helwigh finished in 30th place, with a time of 21:19.2. 

“I think that was [Helwigh’s] best race,” Procaccio said.

Following behind her in 31st place was graduate runner Ariana Gardizy, finishing in 21:20.5. Sophomore runner Emily Robinson finished in 34th, with a time of 21:21.9, and freshman runner Ameila Arrieta made her regional debut placing 53rd in 21:45.3. 

Robinson cut her time down by 41 seconds from the same race last year, where she finished in 22:02.4.

“Emily Robinson was a completely different runner from a year ago,” Procaccio said.

The team’s top five scorers’ created a spread of 1:13. 

Sophomore runner Margaret Carroll and freshman runner Kinsey Pogue rounded out the race for the team. Caroll finished 108th, with a time of 22:53.7, and Pogue marked 115th place in 22:59.0.

Although the team did not qualify to race next weekend in the championship meet, Procaccio reflected positively on the past season.

“I think with the experience of the younger kids this year, it’s going to make them even stronger next year,” Procaccio said. “I think the future of the program looks really good.”

The cross country runners will rest until they begin focusing on the indoor season when they are joined by their teammates competing in the distance, sprint, jump and throw events.

January marks the beginning of the indoor track and field season for the Wildcats, and the team is starting their training season off on a high note.

“They did a time trial last week, and they looked right on track,” Procaccio said.

As the 2022 cross country season comes to a close, the team looks forward to its winter competitions in the indoor season.

“I think there [were] a lot of good takeaways from the season,” Procaccio said. “Even though it might not have looked good on paper, I think the future of what I see is really exciting for next year.”