Main Line Times Thursday, May 1, 2008
Villanova runner Frances Koons fights back strong at Penn Relays
By David Block
PHILADELPHIA – Long-time Penn Relays fan, Bill Cosby, watching the races in
75-degree weather while wearing a heavy sweatshirt, noted, “It’s a
beautiful day. These runners are as happy as they can possibly be – except
for those who’d have to run 10,000 meters in the heat.”
He then quipped to this (visually challenged) writer: “I challenge you to a
race in 2010. We’ll race blindfolded for 100 meters across the field.”
While Cosby joked, Villanova senior Frances Koons was ecstatic to compete -
not just because of the conducive weather, or that she ran one of her
fastest 1,500 meter times of 4:18.6 in the 4×1,500-meter relay.
Koons’ euphoria stemmed from her successful recovery from kidney cancer,
which put her track career on hold last year.
Villanova women’s track head coach Gina Procaccio said, “Last outdoor track
season, Frances wasn’t performing as well as she had during the indoor
(track) season. At first I thought that she overdid it in the winter.
Toward the end of the outdoor season, I had her take a month off.”
During that time, Koons’ doctor discovered that she had kidney cancer.
Last August, Koons had the golf-ball-size growth removed in a laproscopic
procedure – the least-invasive procedure possible.
She took three months off, then the following month started 20-minute runs.
The next month, she ran no more than for 30 straight minutes at a time.
“She skipped the indoor track season,” said Procaccio. “I said, `Why rush
to get back? Get really strong for the outdoor season.”
The advice paid off. In Koons’ first meet last March at the 2008 Danny
Curran Invitational at Widener University, she was a double winner,
triumphing in the 800-meter run (2:14.43) and in the 1,500-meter race
Procaccio said that one of Koons’ best performances was when she anchored
the 4×1,500 at the Penn Relays. Her teammates were freshman Callie Hogan
(4:30.5), senior Akilah Vargas (4:27) and senior Liz Haglund (4:30.9).
When Koons anchored, she was near the back of the pack, yet she fought her
way up to third place. The Wildcats’ finishing time was 17:47.01.
“I felt like I was reeling in Georgetown, so I gave it an extra pop at the
end,” said Koons, who out kicked Georgetown’s anchor Meghan Noecker for the
third place spot.
Koons’ surge at the end did not surprise Procaccio.
“Frances is a fighter and winner,” said the coach. “She will always give
Koons added, “I feel stronger than ever. I count my blessings. I’m glad to
be running again. Being sick gave me that extra momentum.”
In the Distance Medley Relay, the Wildcats finished seventh (11:09.48) with
a quartet of freshman Ali Smith (3:28.4), sophomore Makalia Griffith
(55.0), Vargas (2:11.5) and Koons (4:34.6).
The Villanova men’s distance medley relay team of senior Michael Kerrigan
(2:56.7), sophomore Garrett Kroner (47.2), junior Sean Tully (1:51.2) and
senior Bobby Curtis (3:59.3) finished third (9:34.39).
The Wildcats placed seventh in the 4×800 meter relay, posting 7:28.91 with
a quartet of Curtis (1:52.2), Kerrigan (1:52.7), senior Mark Korich
(1:52.0) and freshman Carl MacKenzie (1:52.0). Senior Patrick Gazzini was
10th in the 400-meter Hurdles Championship, clocking 52.52.