NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With the cross country season winding down, the Lipscomb squads will make a stop in Louisville, Kentucky to take part in the Greater Louisville Classic Saturday.
"It's been a rough week for us, but I think we are ready to go for the meet this weekend,” said Bill Taylor, director of cross country. “We've just been hit with a lot of sickness and a few small injuries, which all kind of popped up Sunday or Monday. I think we've weathered the storm though.”
The Bisons will be running alongside 125 colleges and universities including 24 men’s teams and 27 women’s teams throughout the NCAA and the NAIA.
"Louisville is a good meet,” Taylor said. “The competition level is a bit lower than we just faced in Boston, but the field sizes are bigger. So there will be a density of runners in the race, which is good for us to learn to deal with.
“The course is really fast if it’s dry. So it's a great opportunity for our team, and also for our individual runners to do very well.”
The women’s team will be led by junior Madi Talbert who was named the Atlantic Sun Women’s Runner of the Week for her contribution to the women’s 12th-place finish at the Battle in Beantown.
"The women are working on some very specific things right now,” Taylor said. “We aren't concerned about results, as it relates to team placing. Obviously we would love to do well. We'd love to win a meet like this.
“But that isn't our goal for this meet. Everything we do is designed to practice what we want to be as a team later this season and beyond this season. We are willing to sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long term.”
In the three races the women’s team has competed in this season, three runners have been No. 1 for the Purple and Gold.
“We have tremendous depth, and a lot of different combinations that work,” Taylor said. “The beauty of that is that there is no pressure on anyone. Nobody has to be number one for us to succeed. Everyone just needs to work together and to finish near each other.
“In any given race anyone in our top-10 could lead the team. In fact, what is more important is that each of our girls leads at whatever point of the race that they can. If they pack correctly, and use each other’s strengths to carry the team through, we will see incredible results.”
The men’s team is still trying to define itself after losing two key runners for the first half of the year.
"John (Kingstedt) wasn't able to come back so we took a big hit,” Taylor said. “With Christian Freeman out still, we take a double hit.
“The good news is that Christian is making great progress. He is training and looks good, though he will not be ready to race for a bit yet.”
Taylor believes a big challenge the men face is the need for a few of the runners to step up and help lead the team.
"That didn't happen at Boston, but that doesn't matter as long as we see guys put it on the line now,” Taylor said. “Juan and Daniel do a good job up front. Both have the opportunity to become elite collegiate runners, which is exciting.
“They lead this team though. We just need other guys to believe in themselves and fight for the team. We have the talent, so it's completely possible.”
The meet at Louisville is particularly important for Lipscomb because it is the second to last regular season meet before reducing the varsity roster.
"Everyone gets to race this weekend,” Taylor said. “In two weeks at Pre-Nationals, 12 will get to race. Then at the A-Sun Conference Championships, nine will get to race. Finally, at the NCAA South Regionals and Nationals, seven get to race. So each meet will indicate what our best team is.
“Our athletes need to show they belong on the final rosters, and they know what they need to do to make that happen. This process makes us a better team, and improves our opportunity to win A-Sun, and have a chance at qualifying for Nationals."
The meet will be held at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville.
Both teams will run in two groups. The first group for the men will race at 8:30 a.m. CT followed by the first group of women at 9:15 a.m. CT.
The second group for the men will race at noon and the women follow up at 12:45 p.m.