NASHVILLE – The 2015 Lipscomb cross country schedule has been announced by Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor on Wednesday.
After a season that saw the women’s cross country team win its fourth consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship, and the men’s squad earn back-to-back titles of its own, Taylor has put together a strong fall slate of familiar faces.
"We've really come to a point where our schedule is fairly consistent,” Taylor said. “We know where we need to go to get the right competition. Our goals are clear and the meets line up well. We only have two new meets on the schedule this year, so there is good familiarity with the courses and competition. That is a positive.”
With eight meets set to take place before the postseason starts up in in late October, the Bisons’ fall schedule should give everyone a chance to race.
"I also like our schedule because everyone on the roster, 34 women and 35 men, get to compete the same number of times, and in most cases, at the same meets,” Taylor said. “We travel well and give everyone an opportunity to improve. Likewise, everyone has many chances to make the postseason roster.”
The Bisons kick off the season in Nashville with the Belmont Opener on September 5, which takes place at Percy Warner Park, a familiar site for Lipscomb.
"This is our traditional season opener,” Taylor said. “It provides solid early season competition in a low key environment, and it's on our home course. We train out at Vaughn's Gap all the time on the course, so it's nice to start the season each year with a race out there. We will likely hold some of our top returning runners out for this meet. However, we will still race a strong team.”
On the same day, Lipscomb will also take on the A-Sun Preview at North Florida.
"We are going to send a few athletes and coaches down to the North Florida Preview so we can get a feel for the Atlantic Sun Championship course this year,” Taylor said. “I'm not sure what the competition will be like beyond a very strong North Florida program. It's more about the experience.”
Next up will be a pair of in-state races with the Powerade Invite in Chattanooga on Spetember 12 and the Commodore Classic in Nashville on September 19.
"The Powerade Invite will most likely be a meet for our second squad,” Taylor said. “We want to develop all of our athletes, and this meet provides a nice opportunity to develop.
"The Commodore Classic is the second meet on our home course. We've raced at the Commodore Classic all nine years I've been at Lipscomb. It's good to be able to race at Vaughn's Gap again and the competition is usually strong, with a number of SEC teams and other regionally strong programs. It's fun to race twice in front of the home crowd, and traditionally we draw a lot of fans for the two Nashville meets.”
The Bisons close out September in Massachusetts for the Boston Battle of Beantown on the 25.
"We are just taking the women's team this year,” Taylor said. “The NCAA season is shorter than last year, which compacted the schedule. We decided that we didn't want the men to race three tough 8K’s in a row.
"Last year we took the top 10 women. This year we are taking the whole women's team. It's a business trip though. This is one of the best early season meets in the country. There will be many nationally ranked teams competing. We raced well there last year, and expect to take a big step forward. Knowing the course and the competition from last year will be a nice advantage. Hopefully we will leave Boston with some national at-large points.”
On October 3, Lipscomb will participate in both the Louisville Classic and the Foothills Invite in Jacksonville, Ala.
"We've raced at the Louisville Classic many times and look forward even more to it this year,” Taylor said. “Louisville will host the NCAA Division I National Championship meet this year, so getting on the national course and racing nationally-ranked teams is great for development, preparation for hopefully racing at nationals, and another opportunity to grab some national at-large points.”
The Bisons close out the regular season on October 16 at the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
"We've been to this meet once before, however we have raced on this course a number of times as Alabama has hosted the South Region Championships at least three times,” Taylor said. “That is a main reason we are going this year.
“Alabama will again host the South Region Championships, so this will be a great opportunity to preview the course. It's a beautiful course and is pretty tough. I think it is a big advantage to get some racing work done on it. I don't know about quality of competition, but Alabama is hosting, and they are really good.”
Once the regular season wraps up, Lipscomb will look to defend its A-Sun Championships on October 30 in Jacksonville, Florida.
"Back to Florida again for an ASUN Championship,” Taylor said. “I think the A-Sun Championship has been somewhere in Florida three of the past four years. The good news is that our men and women have won A-Sun Championships in Florida. In fact, our women have won two on Florida courses.
With the women seeking their fifth straight title, and the men going after three in a row, we don't really care where we race, we just want to race. It will be tough, especially with North Florida on their home course.”
After qualifying for the NCAA South Regionals last season, the Bisons will look to make it back this year on November 14 in Tuscaloosa.
"The women finished a program best fourth last year,” Taylor said. “The top two teams automatically qualify for NCAA Division I Nationals. The men were farther back, however we lacked depth.
“The women and men return six of our top seven. We added a great recruiting class. We've raced this course before and will preview it earlier in the season. It's a challenging course, which I think works to our strengths. It will be an exciting meet.”