Oct. 24, 2007
On Saturday Lipscomb University will host its first ever Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championship meet at Vaughn's Gap in Percy Warner Park.
In addition to Lipscomb University, eleven other teams from the A-Sun Conference will compete: Belmont University (Nashville, Tenn.), Campbell University (Buies Creek, N.C.), East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.), Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, Fla.), Gardner-Webb University (Boiling Springs, N.C.), Jacksonville University (Jacksonville, Fla.), Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.), Mercer University (Macon, Ga.), North Florida University (Jacksonville, Fla.), University of South Carolina Upstate (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.).
Belmont University is the favorite to win both the men's and women's races. Both teams have been ranked first in the conference since the pre-season ranking and appear ready to defend their 2006 conference titles. Belmont's men have won the past five conference titles, while the women have won five of the past six.
Chasing hard on the men's side will be East Tennessee State University. The Buccaneers have had a terrific season and have even earned first place votes in the A-Sun rankings. Belmont and ETSU should be clear of the field in the team race, with five or six teams fighting it out for third behind them.
The women's team race is a bit more open. While Belmont is the unanimous choice to win, teams from Kennesaw State, North Florida and Campbell are very good and could mount a serious challenge to the Bruins hopes of defending their title.
The individual races should be exciting as well. Defending conference individual champion Colin Magut of Belmont will face steep competition from ETSU's Kenneth Rotich who has posted the fastest 8K time in the conference this season. Other contenders on the men's side include Jeff Crane (ETSU), Ryan Chastain (Lipscomb), John Brigham (Belmont), Hillary Cheruiyot (Belmont), Verelle Wyatt (Campbell), Lucas McAneney (Gardner-Webb) and Peikko Solla (Kennesaw).
In the women's individual race Lauren Weaver (Belmont) will be the favorite. The three time All-Conference selection was the runner-up last year and finished third in 2004 and 2005. Other individual contenders include Mackenzie Howe (Kennesaw), Brittany Thune (Belmont), Emily Tangwar (USC Upstate), Carolyn Latham (Lipscomb), Amanda Davy (North Florida), Erin Sutton (Kennesaw) and Bailie Lock (Campbell).
Lipscomb enters the Championship meet ranked 7th on the men's side and 5th on the women's side. Both teams feel they are better than their ranking suggests. Lipscomb has never finished higher than 5th on the men's side and 6th on the women's side in Atlantic-Sun conference history. Both teams feel they have a good chance to surpass those finishes, though they know it will be tough.
"We've had a terrific season." said head coach Bill Taylor. "These teams have been faced with extraordinary challenges this season and have grown amazingly. Through it all they've come together as strong and close teams. Athletically they've improved in every meet. Most of the men and women have run big PR's. Our season has been an incredible success no matter what happens at the A-Sun Championships. Saturday's championship is like a bonus for us, and we are ready to race. It will be fun!"
The A-Sun women's 5-K race begins at 9 a.m. at Vaughn's Gap in Percy Warner Park (the corner of Hwy 100 and Old Hickory). The men's championship 8-K follows at 10a.m. Awards will be at 11a.m.