NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb University men and women’s cross country teams will kick off the 2011 campaign Friday evening on the Vaughn’s Gap course at Percy Warner Park in the Belmont Opener. The women’s four-kilometer race is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., while the men’s five-kilometer run is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Vaughn’s Gap course, in addition to being the home course of the Bison cross country teams, factors heavily into the schedule for the Lipscomb teams this season. September 15, the Bison will run the Vanderbilt Invitational on the same course, and will hit it once more at the end of October for the Atlantic Sun Championships.
Eleven teams will take the course for this one. In addition to the Bison and host Belmont will be squads from Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee and MTSU, among others.
The women’s squad, recently ranked as the 10th-best squad in the south region in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Associations (USTFCCCA) preseason poll, returns 2010 A-Sun Female Freshman of the Year Dani Walker from a squad that finished less than 20 combined spots behind champion North Florida for the 2010 A-Sun Championships.
Walker isn’t the only returner for a strong Lady Bison side. Lipscomb’s women’s squad returns its top five runners from last season, including all-conference performers in senior Ashley Lehman and sophomore Alex Newby, the latter whom joined Walker as an all-freshman runner in 2010.
In all, 19 upper class athletes return and are joined by 11 freshmen runners, including all-state honorees Maggie Lawrence (Pennsylvania), Kaitlyn Llewellyn (Ohio) and Renee Menzie (Indiana).
Though talented and experienced, the Lady Bison runners are short on seniors in 2011, with only Lehman, Catherine Beals and Louisa Van Batavia reaching the end of their eligibility at the end of this year.
On the men’s side, all-conference honoree Geoff Musick returns for the Bison, as one of the veterans from a squad that finished ninth at last season’s A-Sun Championships. The top six runners from Lipscomb’s A-Sun Championship line-up in 2010 return this season, highlighted by talented upperclassmen Ashton Fisher, Isaiah Greer and Ben Fennell.
The men’s squad also earned a spot on the South Region preseason poll, taking a 13th-place spot just behind rival Belmont’s 11th ranking.
Twelve upperclass Bison runners are joined by seven freshmen this season, including local products Ryan Gadsey and Cliff Long. Beginning their final season of Bison cross country on Friday night will be Ben Fennell, Alexander McMeen, Benton Reed and Aaron Todd.
Following this weekend’s meet, the Bison cross country squads will regroup for a week of training before traveling to Chattanooga for the Powerade Invite Friday, Sept. 9 on the Moccasin Bend race course.
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