NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb cross country squads displayed a weekend of strong competition at the Belmont Opener Friday and the Hatter Invitational Saturday.
"I am really happy with how we performed at Belmont Friday,” said Bill Taylor, director of cross country. “The women and men ran hard and set a good tone for the start of the season.”
After concerns from coaches and timing issues at the Belmont Opener, the men’s and women’s results were reviewed but are still considered unofficial and inaccurate. However, several of the Lipscomb athletes seemed to perform well regardless.
"Barbara Lee Ball ran aggressive and had a terrific performance,” Taylor said. “She actually had a dog run in front of her at the finish, then she stopped at the wrong place in the chute and had to start running again to finish. Still she ran 18:04 which ties her 5-K cross country personal record and shatters her best time at Vaughn's Gap (Barbara Lee ran this course in high school as well).
“Her time was also one minute and 10 seconds faster than she ran in this race last year. Her practices have been great and this race was just a taste of what she will do this year.”
Competing in her first collegiate cross country meet, Paige Stoner enjoyed a strong performance Friday night as well.
“She is one tough runner,” Taylor said. “A time of 18:22 in her first college race, in September, on our course, which is a tough course, in really hot weather. It's going to be fun watching her develop into an elite collegiate runner.”
While many of Lipscomb’s top runners were absent from competition Friday, the five returners who did compete improved their times from last year by about one minute.
"It wasn't easy on our young runners to be out there without Madi (Talbert), Dani (Walker), Sally (Larson), and others,” Taylor said. “We are a pack running team and it is very helpful when you have more teammates, especially the top runners on the team, out there to set the pace.
“I really thought everyone stepped up though. My first concern is always 'how hard did we compete?' It's more important than the result, because it takes care of the result.”
Only four men were sent to compete at Belmont, but Taylor was very happy with what he saw.
“All four guys fought hard,” Taylor said. “That is the first step. Daniel Lenart in particular ran great, and knocked off almost 40 seconds from his all-time 5000-meter personal record!”
“That was impressive and should really motivate him. He has a chance to make our travel squad for sure.”
Previewing the course for the A-Sun championships, eight men were selected to compete at Stetson’s Hatter Invitational Saturday morning.
"The men running at Stetson Saturday morning had a decent showing,” Taylor said. “Coach Benton Reed took the top eight men down there and reported that Juan Gonzalez and Daniel Gardner ran great.
“He said the rest of the team looked a little flat. My understanding is that it was a strong season opener, but it shows we have a lot of work to do.”
Gardner finished second overall with a time of 26:44.28 while Gonzalez placed third crossing the line in 26:44.71.
The Bisons learned over the weekend sophomore John Kingstedt would not be returning from Sweden to compete this year due to health problems.
“It's a huge loss for our team,” Taylor said. “Going into the season we felt we had a clear top five, and a significant gap. So our road to a second A-Sun championship and nationals for the men just got a lot tougher.
"At the same time, we have very talented guys behind the top four. It's just a matter of those guys taking responsibility and stepping up big. They can do it, they just need to believe and commit.”
The Bisons and Lady Bisons will make another appearance at the course in two weeks when they compete at the Vanderbilt Invitational Saturday Sept. 13.
“We will still sit Dani and Sally, but Madi, Kayla Montgomery, Minna Fields, Kayla Droessler, Kelsey Ibarra, Meredith Kilburn and possibly Kendra (Lobley) Jones will join our runners from this meet,” Taylor said. “All of these girls have been in our top seven either in every meet, or in multiple meets. Then at Boston we hope to add in Dani and Sally, two of our three top runners the past two years. I'm excited to see the team forming more and more as one.
“The men will run 8-K in that race, and it will be nice for our guys who ran at Stetson to come home and race our home course in front of the home town fans.”