Saturday morning in the NCAA South Regional Qualifier in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Bisons finished 16th out of 26 teams and the Lady Bisons were 19th out of 23 teams.
“Those are the highest men's and women's team finishes at the NCAA I South Regional Championship,” said Taylor.
Senior Ryan Chastain crossed the finish line in 38th place for the Bisons with a time of 31:46.15, making him the highest finisher for the men's program in the NCAA I South Region meet.
“Our goal all season was to finish in the top 15,” said Taylor. “That's where we have been ranked and we wanted to justify that ranking. We finished 16th, just 10 points behind 15th, with four freshmen in our top five and three of our regular top five not competing because of injury.
“Ryan ran tough today. It wasn't easy for him and I know it wasn't the race he wanted, but he fought through stuff to stay up there. He will be very tough to replace, but I think we have guys who can run up where Ryan has. I said that with a plural. The foundation is being set for a big future.”
Helping to form that foundation for the future will be Tim Muller, Jeff Musick, Ashton Fisher and Mike Yang, the top four freshman finishers to the Bisons.
“There is certainly a lot of room to improve, however I feel like 16th is really incredible under the circumstances,” said Taylor. “It's not easy for a freshman to face an NCAA I Regional Championship and a 10-k race, much less to put four freshmen out there.
“If the guys want to be an incredible program, they have shown they will have that opportunity. They have to want it, and from what I've seen I believe they do.”
Junior Caitlin Anderson paced the Lady Bisons with a 77th place finish with a time of 22:34.74.
“Caitlin ran very strong,” said Taylor. “She really fought hard.”
The finish might have been even better for the Lady Bisons as a team had sophomore Catherine Beals not been forced to deal with an injury during the race. She was the Lady Bisons top finisher at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships.
“Catherine had her hip lock up on her and went from second on the team very close to Caitlin, to seventh on the team with less than a mile to go I think,” said Taylor. “She couldn't even walk after the race, but told me she was determined to finish for the team.”
Anderson, sophomore Ashley Lehman, freshman Shelby Marvel, sophomore Louisa Van Batavia and freshman Priya Pappu all set person records for a 6-kilometer race.
“We've had five all-time PR's in both championship races this year,” said Taylor. “It's a very good way to finish the season. I'm proud of the way the women resurrected the season.
“They moved from being a team all year of individuals trying to survive to a team that has started to learn what it means to fight for each other. I'm pleased with the direction we are headed now.”
But like the men’s team Taylor is going to be expecting even more from the women’s team next season.
“We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go,” said Taylor. “I expect to take big steps forward this off-season and through the track season. We are moving in a very positive direction now, but we must keep moving, growing and building.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Media Relations Director