NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb cross country squads will be closing out the regular season Saturday as the team splits to compete at Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana and the Front Runner Invite in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Lipscomb will be racing in Pre-Nationals against top schools such as Michigan, Oregon, and Colorado.
"Pre-Nationals is a great race, on the national championship course, against some top-level competition,” said Bill Taylor, director of cross country. “In a lot of ways it is a dress rehearsal for Regionals.
“It should be extra fun this year. Word is the course got eight inches of rain last week and is very wet and muddy. That's cross country.”
The women’s team continues to raise the bar for the program finishing fourth and first at the Louisville Classic. As a result, the Lady Bisons moved to third in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association’s South region poll marking the highest-ever regional ranking in Lipscomb history.
"The women at Pre-Nationals are working on racing the way we've been practicing and just getting better each week,” Taylor said. “We've had terrific practices over the past two weeks. The girls know what they need to do.
“They understand our strategy and our strengths. It's really just a matter of keeping it simple, being relaxed yet powerful, and doing what they need to do. I think they are ready to run with, and for, each other.”
Coming off a 19th-place finish at the Louisville Classic, the men’s team looks to close out the regular season with solid results.
"The men at Pre-Nationals need to take a step forward,” Taylor said. “They know what needs to be done. It's time for Juan (Gonzalez) and Daniel (Gardne) to show they are elite. That means running up with the other elites from the start and responding to everything that happens.
“Jared Wingerter needs to step it up and he needs company. He shouldn't be alone as our third guy. There should be two or more guys with him every step.”
Led by Gonzalez and Gardner, the men’s team is still on the hunt for No. 4 and No. 5 runners.
“We can't achieve what we are capable of until we have that No. 5 guy that is solid and ready to pour it all out there for his teammates,” Taylor said. “We want to see the guys really compete, push themselves to the limit, and run for each other this week.”
Those traveling to Chattanooga will face off against seven other teams for the Front Runner Invite including Chattanooga, Tennessee State, and Mercer.
"Chattanooga provides a terrific opportunity for our runners who couldn't be entered at Pre-Nationals to get another race in and to get better,” Taylor said. "On the women's side, we've had so much improvement from the girls. We have a bunch of girls that are just figuring out how good they can be.
“There are some very bright futures in this group. I am excited to see some of our young runners go out and make a statement to themselves and to the team. This is a great opportunity for them.”
Sophomore Christian Freeman will be rejoining the men for his debut race after missing action during most of the season.
"For the men, the biggest thing will be the season debut of Christian Freeman,” Taylor said. “He has looked great in practice and gets stronger every day. We felt it would be best for his first race back to be a 5-K rather than an 8-K at Pre-Nationals.
“It gives Christian a chance to break the rust off in a very low key way, and to see what he needs to work on in the two weeks before Atlantic Sun.”
The women will be on the mark first at Pre-Nationals beginning their race at noon CT with the men following at approximately 12:35 p.m. CT. The women racing in Chattanooga will begin at 4:00 p.m. CT followed by the men at 4:45 p.m. CT.
This weekend’s meets will be the final tune-up competitions before Lipscomb heads out to Sanford, Fla. for the conference championships.
"This season has flown by,” Taylor said. “I really can't believe this is our last weekend of racing before the Championships. It's been a terrific regular season.
“I would like to see both teams put a bit of an exclamation mark on it as we close it out and move to the Championships."