NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb cross country squads made two solid performances racing on their home track for the Vanderbilt Invitational Saturday morning.
"I am really happy with the effort and result today!” Bill Taylor, director of cross country, said. “The girls competed so hard. They fought and did some super positive things I haven't seen our team do before. It was a big step forward for our program.”
The women’s team finished fourth overall sporting a total time of 1:29.26 with the runners averaging 17:54. Top three runners, Sally Larson, Madi Talbert, and Dani Walker, sat out Saturday.
"To finish fourth, without three top girls, three number one girls, is incredible,” Taylor said. “If we had raced Sally, Madi, and Dani we would have been second pretty easily. Their past times on this course would have placed them in the top 20, and today we had perfect racing conditions, so they could have been faster.
“We still aren't quite up to Vanderbilt (ranked No. 23 in the nation). However we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Despite sitting out this weekend, the three top runners for the women’s team still used the Vanderbilt Invite to their advantage.
"It was the right call to hold those three out though,” Taylor said. “They have learned so much from watching.
“Sally and Dani are getting stronger by the week. Madi is hungry to race. It will be fun to let them loose at Boston in two weeks.”
Finishing 17th overall, freshman Paige Stoner came home with a strong performance clocking in with a time of 17:33.39.
"Amazing performances by our freshmen up front,” Taylor said. “Paige Stoner ran the second fastest time ever for Lipscomb at Vaughn's Gap, and with that being our home course for years and years before I came to Lipscomb, that is a lot of history.
“Paige dropped 39 seconds off her time on the same course two weeks ago. She now ranks No. 3 on our all-time list as well.”
Freshman Kayla Montgomery followed Stoner placing 18th with a time of 17:34.75 for her first meet of the year.
"Kayla made her college debut and ran right with Paige,” Taylor said. “Kayla finished just one second behind Paige, ranking No. 3 all-time for the Vaughn's Gap course and No. 4 on our all-time list. It was an incredible debut!”
Not far behind Stoner and Montgomery was Atlantic Sun Runner of the Week for week one Barbara Lee Ball who nabbed 20th overall crossing the line in 17:43.54.
“Barbara Lee Ball came in with a time of 17:43, which is her all-time Cross Country personal record, and 21 seconds faster than she ran on this course two weeks ago,” Taylor said. “She now ranks No. 7 in Lipscomb history on the Vaughn's Gap course, and No. 10 on our all-time list.”
Several of the returnees saw positive results from the Vanderbilt Invitational Saturday as well.
"We also saw some great work by Minna Fields, Kaitlyn Llewellyn, and Kayla Droessler,” Taylor said. “Minna and Kayla were up in our front pack helping their teammates for a lot of the race. Kaitlyn got stronger and stronger as the race went on.
“Freshman Katie Sperry made a huge improvement and really worked through some challenges out there. She is going to be really good very soon.”
Taylor and the coaching staff saw strong results from the women’s team. All of the runners who ran the course two weeks ago at the Belmont Opener ran faster this weekend.
“Avery Franklin ran way faster,” Taylor said. “Avery dropped one-minute 10-seconds off her time, and ran her all-time 5-K personal record already!”
On the men’s side, the group finished 12th overall with a total time of 2: 11.55 and a 26:23 average.
"The men were running without our top four guys, and Fidel Leon among others sat out as well,” Taylor said. “Fidel is a contender for a top-five spot.
“So this race was really about trying to develop our 5-6-7 runners, which are going to be the most important spots on the team. We were happy with what we saw from the men. They raced hard and we had some big early season positives.”
DA Lowery ran a time of 26:04.02 while Jared Daedler finished the course in 26:11.50. Daniel Lenart followed with a time of 26:21.36.
"We really thought DA had a breakthrough race today,” Taylor said. “He ran his fastest time on our course by 36 seconds, and I think his time of 26:04 was also his all-time personal record in the 8-K.
“Jared Daedler looks really good this year too. Daniel Lenart started a bit slow, but really worked his way through the field to be our No. 3 today.”
With top runners being absent from competition Saturday, the rest of the men continue to show signs of improvement.
"I don't know where we would have placed if our top runners had run,” Taylor said. “We still have too big of a gap to our No. 5 runner.
“So today was a big positive step forward, yet we have a long way to go with the men. I think we will get what we need by the end of the season.”
The Purple and Gold return to action in two weeks as they travel to Boston, Massachusetts to compete in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Bean Town.
“Our top nine men will race there, minus Christian Freeman, who is still coming back from an injury,” Taylor said. “We should finally be at full strength with the women.
“It will be a terrific test, going against Providence, Michigan, Oregon and so many other nationally and regionally ranked programs. It will be another nice step in our development and our plan for the end of the season."