“We had a great year and took another step forward in the rapid progression of this program,” said Bisons head coach Bill Taylor. “The men’s team really stepped it up, despite being very young and there is a lot of excitement about the future within the program. The guys are now talking openly about gigantic goals for the future.
“The women are such an incredibly nice group, but struggled early with running as a team and being aggressive on the race course. However they stepped it up at the conference and regional meets, which has them very excited for what will happen this track season and next cross country season. We had ten all-time PR’s in the two championship meets. The women really raced hard and for each other in those races. The program is about to explode forward and I expect us to contend for the conference championship next year.
“Both teams have the highest character and get along incredibly well. They are fun to coach. It’s very exciting to be a part of this.”
Both teams posted their best ever NCAA I South Region finish this season.
Team awards (team awards were voted on by the team members and coaches):
MOST IMPROVED AWARD:
Ashley Lehman, Soph., Harrisonburg, Va.: Ashley earned this award for her progress throughout the season. Although she improved dramatically last cross country season, she incurred an injury during the winter break last year and lost her whole track season. She was unable to run all spring and was sidelined for most of the summer. Despite this setback, and some expected struggles early in the season, Ashley kept working hard and ended the season as a top five runner for the team. She also set a new all time PR for the 5000m at the A-Sun Conference meet (18:56) , and a new all time PR for 6000m at the NCAA South Regional meet (23:02).
“It was obviously tough on Ashley missing the entire track season last spring,” said Taylor. “It’s not easy coming back and getting into race mode again. She also lost a significant amount of summer training before the season.
“I won’t say that Ashley didn’t struggle at times with her confidence early-mid season. She did. However, she kept working, kept believing and ran her best race of her running career in the biggest meet of the year. She was proof that even when things don’t go the way you expect, if you keep trying and continue believing, you can succeed.”
Hunter Hethcoat, Soph., Franklin, Tenn.: Hunter really stepped up his performance both in races and especially in practice this year. After barely making the conference roster last year, Hunter was solidly in the top seven this season. More impressively, Hunter became a totally different runner in practice and showed that he has the potential to be among the elite.
“Hunter stepped up to be a solid top seven runner on a team that was much better than last year’s team," said Taylor. "More than that, Hunter showed us in practice that he has incredible talent and really increased the quality of practices for the whole team.
"I also watched Hunter start to develop as a leader, showing in word and deed that he cares about each person on this team. Despite Hunter’s progress, he has tons of room to get better and better. I keep telling him that he can be absolutely incredible and I will keep telling him that until he is.”
FIGHTIN’ BISON AWARD:The Fightin’ Bison Award is the person who demonstrated the most guts, mental toughness and physical toughness.
Catherine Beals, Soph., Glasgow, Ky. : Catherine really fought hard throughout the season. After missing time early in the season, she attacked practices and the course to be the best she could be.
Her toughness paid off with a big 5000m PR at the A-Sun Conference meet where she ran 18:39 and finished as the top Lipscomb runner, just missing All-A-Sun honors.
She was a top two runner for the team at every meet she competed in, except the Regional meet. At the NCAA I South Regional Championships her hip locked up late in the race. Despite the pain she finished the race to show her team how much she cares about them.
“Though Catherine has improved dramatically here, she just scratched the surface of her ability,” said Taylor. “She has an incredible desire to be great. It has already paid off; however it will pay off much more in the future.
“I really appreciate her toughness. She is an example to everyone on the team about how to be aggressive. She has shown her teammates that she truly cares about their success. She is a really wonderful person and her effort will certainly help her reach even higher, and will help our whole program continue to advance. “
Isaiah Greer, Fresh., Johnson City, Tenn.: Isaiah came to Lipscomb with modest high school distance PRs. That did not stop him from giving everything he had all season long. He was an incredible example of toughness for his teammates and inspired the men’s team with his fight. There was never ever any doubt about how much effort Isaiah was giving.
“Isaiah was a wonderful surprise for the men’s team,” said Taylor. “He’s such a great person and truly gave all he had. He earned a top five spot on the team and pushed himself and others in practice. I love it when an athlete comes in and just doesn’t care about where they are ranked coming in.
“College running is a whole new thing and I’ve developed athletes dramatically, but I need them to be open to what is possible for them. Isaiah was definitely open. He just went out, listened, and gave his best. The results, which were great, took care of themselves.”
FOR THE TEAM AWARD: The For the Team Award is given to the person who is the best teammate and the person who is the most positive, motivating and caring.
Meredith McFarlin, Fresh., Memphis, Tenn.: Meredith redshirted her first year of cross country for Lipscomb. Despite not competing for the team, her teammates and coaches voted her the best teammate. In practice she was encouraging. Before competitions or team travel, she would get the team together to wish them success. She gave the girls little gifts and notes. She showed all season long she was a team player.
“Meredith is great,” said Taylor. “She wants to improve so much, but I believe she wants her team and her teammates to improve just as much as she wants herself to improve. She easily could have decided that because she was a freshman and because she was redshirting, she shouldn’t step up. She did the opposite. She ran the workouts hard, she rallied the team and she put it all out there, physically and psychologically for the team.”
Andrew Shankles, Senior, Knoxville, Tenn.: Andrew served as a team captain for his third season with the program. He motivated the team as a leader and as a teammate. He was an overwhelming choice for this award.
“It’s hard to describe Andrew for this award,” said Taylor. “I really think his enthusiasm and desire for team success can only be experienced. He is incredibly positive, cares deeply about his team and is one of the most vocally encouraging people I have coached. He was a top five runner when I arrived at Lipscomb three years ago.
“As our team has rapidly improved he has fallen out of the top ten athletically. Yet he has risen to the top in being a leader for the team, and was as responsible as anyone on the team for our rapid improvement this year. Andrew is a great example of the attitude each person on the team must have.”
HEART OF GOLD AWARD: For the runner who demonstrates the highest character, who doesn’t compromise and who does the right thing even when nobody is looking.
Louisa Van Batavia, Soph., Burns, Ore.: Louisa has high character and a strong desire to take care of her team. She works hard whether she is with the team or by herself. She is genuine and her teammates trust her.
“Louisa is always seeking more information to get better,” said Taylor. “That is so important for improvement. I also see her doing the right thing at all times. She has improved so rapidly and is a person her teammates can trust.
“Because of her class schedule, Louisa couldn’t practice with the team on Wednesdays. She went out every Wednesday quality session and gave her best by herself. She strives to grow as a person in every way and be the best person she can be.”
Andrew Shankles, Senior, Knoxville, Tenn.: Andrew’s high character and care for the team have made a huge impact and been an example to everyone.
“I just think Andrew is such an incredible example of a person striving to grow closer to God and to serve all people in love,” said Taylor. “I asked Andrew to be a team captain three years ago when I arrived. He was surprised and thought that being a sophomore was too young. However, I saw immediately that he had such a huge heart for others.
“Over these three years he has grown so much as a leader. I’m very proud of the person Andrew is and am excited for him to have the opportunity to unleash his talent and heart for others on the world, wherever he goes from here.”
TOTAL COMMITMENT AWARD: For the runner that did it right, did it all, did it all the time and did all the little things.
Jenny Randolph, Jun., Knoxville, Tenn.: Jenny is one of the most respected members of the program. A team captain, she takes the sport and her commitment to it very seriously, not only doing everything right herself, but organizing and encouraging her teammates to do it all and do it right all the time.
“I created these awards last cross country season,” said Taylor. “So this is the third time they have been voted on (XC 08, track 09, XC 09). Jenny has been voted ‘For the Team’ (XC 08) and ‘Fightin’ Bison’ (Track 09) previously.
“It makes sense she would now be voted the Total Commitment award. She always receives votes in all categories, and is just loved by her teammates. I think receiving three different awards from the team shows how much she cares about her team, how well rounded she is as a teammate and leader and how hard she works. She has grown as a leader and is one of the most positive people you will ever meet.”
Chad Martin, Soph., Coppell, Texas: Chad earned this award for the second consecutive time (track 09), which is a testament to the level of commitment to excellence he demonstrates. His teammates see him doing his core work, getting his sleep, strength training, cross training, and everything else, not to mention training as hard as anyone on the team. They have immense respect for his work ethic and commitment level.
“Chad is such a hard worker,” I never have to worry about him or wonder if he is doing what he needs to do. He is driven to succeed and is an amazing example of doing this sport right.
“Unfortunately, Chad had an injury in the middle of this season. However, he attacked his cross training, by himself, the way he attacks everything else. He made the most of the situation and continued to seek excellence. That commitment to even attacking his cross training when times are tough sent a message to the team about the right way to do this sport.”
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: For the runner who was most valuable to the team in every way and who contributed the most to the teams success.
Caitlin Anderson, Jun., Franklin, Tenn.: Caitlin, a team captain, was the number one runner for the team most of the season and never finished lower than second on the team. She led as a captain, she led in practice striving to hit the mark in everything, and she led on the race course.
“Caitlin strove to be the best she could be and made an invaluable impact on the team,” said Taylor. “Our team would not have been the same without her from a team finish standpoint, from a leadership standpoint and from a practice standpoint.
“She set the tone for the team and was vital to the women’s teams improved performance at the end of the season. Although she has already dropped nearly three minutes off her high school 5k PR, she will drop even more time and will lead the women’s team to an even higher level this track season and next year."
Ryan Chastain, Sen., Mitchell, Ind.: Ryan led the team in every meet he participated and finished in the top of every race. He was a true low point scorer and set the pace in all practices. He earned All ASUN Conference honors for the second year in a row.
He is the only All-A-Sun runner in Lipscomb Cross Country history. Ryan is also a team captain.
“What can I say about Ryan?,” said Taylor. “He is such a talented and smooth runner and a really great person. He has improved dramatically in every way since I arrived here three years ago, and I don’t just mean in terms of time.
“For three years Ryan has been stopping by my office to ask questions about his racing, his practices, his team, etc. He has listened very well and has been willing to make tough changes in his racing and training. It has been a joy to coach him these three years and a bigger joy to watch him grow as a person and as an athlete. He will be greatly missed, however he has shown the returners what they need to do to rise up to that level.”
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: For the freshman that made the biggest impact on the team.
Shelby Marvel, Ashland City, Tenn.: Shelby was consistently the highest freshman finisher on the team throughout the season, finishing in the top five for the team in every meet.
“Shelby had a solid freshman season,” said Taylor. “She came to us with very little distance running experience; having joined cross country for the first time after the season started her senior year of high school, and missing all but two meets in her only season of track.
“This year was certainly a learning experience for her as she had to adapt to a higher level of training and the team concept. She picked things up throughout the season, had a great conference race where she set a new all time PR, and showed that she is going to be an incredible collegiate distance runner. She is freshman of the year and she is just learning how to be a distance runner. Once she learns how this all works, she will run extremely fast and will help our team succeed as well.”
Tim Muller, Denver, Colo.: On a team that had as many as four freshmen in the top five this year (and no less than three), Tim clearly stood out as the top freshman from day one. He finished first overall in the team time trial and led the team at the Belmont Opener. The rest of the season he was consistently one of the top runners for the men and set the tone for both the freshmen and the whole team.
“Being freshman of the year on this year’s men’s team is saying something,” said Taylor. “We had so many freshmen step up in a huge way this year, so the competition was fierce.
“Yet Tim was the clear choice for this award. His effort in practice and races really pushed our program forward. And Tim is nowhere close to reaching his potential. I really think he is going to be a force in collegiate distance running nationally very soon and he is one of the many reasons the returning men are so excited for the future of the men’s team.”
TEAM CAPTAINS: The team captains for the Lady Bisons are Caitlin Anderson, Jenny Randolph. The Bisons team captains are Ryan Chastain, Benton Reed and Andrew Shankles. All comments in this story are from cross country coach Bill Taylor.