Bill Cosby challenged me to a race

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.”


Good advice

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

110 percent.”


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.

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