The Lipscomb cross country teams are in Spartanburg, S.C., this weekend for the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships.
The women, ranked third in the conference, are being projected as one of the teams that could finish in first place. The men, ranked fifth in the A-Sun, are expected to place in the top half of the field.
Nine Lady Bisons runners will compete. There are four freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors. Freshmen Dani Walker and Alex Newby have consistently been at or near the top of the field for the Lady Bisons.
When the races begin Saturday morning coach Bill Taylor doesn’t think the youth of the team will be a factor.
"I've been asked a few times if I have concerns about our freshmen competing well at the A-Sun Championships,” Taylor said. “Not at all. It's a team and they all share the responsibility for what we are together. We have a very deep team and they are all equal partners in what we do and accomplish. I think we will run very well.”
The Lady Bisons have competed at a high level this season. Taylor is confident that those experiences will translate into success in the championship.
“We got a lot of incredible experience this year,” Taylor said. “The A-Sun meet will be the second smallest meet we have competed in all year, and we've faced ranked teams in every single meet.
“If our young runners can go out and succeed against all the teams they faced at Willamette where the course narrows and great teams are packed in tight, or if they can get out with nearly 500 runners at the Chile Pepper, one of the top meets in the nation with nearly half the field regionally or nationally ranked, and step up, they can handle our conference meet.”
The Lady Bisons have competed on all types of courses and against tough teams in every race. Taylor doesn’t expect the A-Sun Championship to pose any challenges the team hasn’t already faced. He stresses that it is a matter of keeping everything simple.
"Finally, what is the worst that can happen, “Taylor asked. “If we don't run well it's really not that big of a deal. It's not life. I want to succeed and they do too. I love to win and my goals for this program are huge.
“We are an incredible program and we will get better and better. We want to run a great race at conference, just like we want to run a great race every time we race. But there is nothing to worry about. If we don't run great, we will regroup, learn from the experience and be better for it. There is something to gain from everything that happens. And we go in ranked third in the conference. External expectations are low. We go to conference pretty relaxed and ready to just find out what we can do.”
This season Tim Muller has led the Bisons team. He has been the most consistent part of a transition season. Taylor admits he is hesitant to make a prediction of where the Bisons will finish.
"I really don't know what to expect from the men,” Taylor said. “That isn't a bad thing. I am hoping for their best race of the season and they are fully capable.
“They are as physically ready as they've been all season. It's really going to be a question of how badly they want it, how they interpret data and if they are willing to risk or settle. If they make the right choices they could finish very well...above our fifth place ranking. If they don't, they could finish seventh or eighth pretty easily. There just isn't a lot of separation between a lot of the conference teams.”
Regardless of the finish, Taylor believes the men’s team is on the right track.
"We've got a lot of work to do over the next few years to get it right, but we are definitely on the right track,” Taylor said. “It will be fun to see what decisions they make Saturday. No matter what, we learn and grow from this."
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.