No one shot at the Lipscomb Bisons and Lady Bisons but their trip to Minneapolis, Minn. Saturday for the Roy Griak Invite, hosted by the University of Minnesota, was a tough experience for almost everyone involved.
The competition was fierce. The course was saturated with water and featured constantly rolling hills. Just a week after winning the Vanderbilt Invite, the men finished 18th out of 18. The women fared slightly better, finishing 16th of 17.
“Even though this was a tough day, it was a valuable experience for both teams,” said Lipscomb coach Bill Taylor. “They just need to learn and grow from it.
“Big days are coming for us. It's just a matter of time.”
The men’s field included Iowa State, Oklahoma, Duke, Washington State, Michigan State, Dayton, the Air Force Academy, Navy, Army and Missouri.
Some of the top teams in the women’s field were Iowa State, Michigan State, Washington State, Connecticut, Oklahoma, the Air Force Academy, Army and Northwestern.
“We had a rough day,” said Taylor. “It happens. Twelve of the 17 teams in the men’s race were regionally or nationally ranked, so we knew it was going to be very difficult, and we didn't rise up for this one.
“It hurt not having Jared Carlson out there. Then Benton Reed fell out of the race with an injury.”
The freshmen, which have been the heart of the Bisons team so far this season, may have been too impressed by their fellow competitors.
“The freshmen looked like freshmen finally,” said Taylor. “I could tell they were getting nervous as the race approached.
“It's by far the most competitive race any of our runners have ever been in. When the announcers started introducing each team and their accomplishments, you could tell that it really hit some of them even more.”
Senior Ryan Chastain led the Bisons, finishing the 8-kilometer race with a time of 26:35.2.
Freshman Ashton Fisher was second for the Bisons with a time of 27:39 followed by freshman Tim Muller (27:54), freshman Jeff Musick (27:55), sophomore Hunter Hethcoat (28:36) and freshman Isaiah Greer (29:14).
“We actually ran very well early,” said Taylor. “Things fell apart mid-race, probably right after Benton fell out.
“It really is a learning experience. We had one of the youngest men’s teams out there…with four freshmen, one sophomore and one senior finishing. We have to go to these types of races and get used to it.”
Taylor realizes that such experiences are part of the building process. He has no problems with that as long as his runners get better as a result of the experiences.
“Mostly though, they have to learn that they can run with upper tier teams…right now,” said Taylor. “Last week we had less than a minute gap between our No. 1 and No. 7 runners.
“Today we had 2:01 just between our No. 1 and No. 5. That increase in gap is a result of nerves and inexperience. They understand that though and they will bounce back.”
Sophomore Catherine Beals led the Lady Bisons with a time of 24:12. Junior Caitlin Anderson was second best on the team (24:32) followed by sophomore Louisa Van Batavia (24:34), freshman Shelby Marvel (24:38), junior Jenny Randolph (25:12), sophomore Ashley Lehman (26:08) and freshman Priya Pappu (26:21).
“The women did some good things today too,” said Taylor. “They have a lot of work to do and they let too many places slip away in the second half. However they started well and improved in some key areas.
“A big key though is keeping our pack together. Last week we had a 34-second one to five gap, this week it was 1:00. We just can't afford that kind of gap with this team. They will bring that back down though. It will help when Amanda Twigg is back and as Ashley Lehman gets back in race shape.”
The Lady Bisons were facing their first 6-K challenge of the season.
"I think a 6-K this early in the season is pretty tough for the women,” said Taylor. “That’s not an excuse; it's just early for that length of race, especially with a young team that is still working through things at the 5-K distance. They will be better at 5-K as a result of this though.”
Taylor was most impressed by Beals who continues to make steady improvement.
"Catherine Beals was a big bright spot,” said Taylor. “She looks better each week. She is our most aggressive runner right now and she looks like she expects to be there.
“If Catherine continues to be aggressive great things will happen for her. Hopefully others will stick right with her in the next few races.”