BOSTON – The Lipscomb women’s cross country put together it best performance of the early part of the season on Friday at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. The Lady Bisons placed fifth with 151 points out of a highly competitive field of 25 teams.
"This was the type of performance I have been looking for,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “The girls ran their guts out. They put themselves in really good position and fought hard for each other.
“When the race was over, we had no idea what their times were or what place we had finished, but we were very proud of them and knew that we had done our best for this day. We had run it right. That is what this is all ultimately about.”
The Purple and Gold placed just behind nationally-ranked Providence, Syracuse and Georgetown and above Dartmouth. It was the first time in program history that the Lady Bisons have defeated a nationally-ranked team.
"To find out we had beaten one of the current nationally ranked teams was a great bonus,” Taylor said. “One of the reasons we compete in a big meet like this is to see if we can knock off someone ranked higher than us. We beat the number 25 ranked team in the nation today, and two other teams that have gotten more national votes than we have.
"It's hard to know how it will turn out at the end of the season, but we very likely picked up our first ever at-large points today. If so, those could be super important this year.”
Lipscomb also placed ahead of Florida State and New Hampshire, both of which have received votes for the national rankings.
Several of the top teams the Bisons has faced so far this season are fellow South Region teams, meaning the NCAA Regionals will once again be a tough affair.
"The South region is super good this year,” Taylor said. “It's the best I've ever seen it. There are clearly five teams that probably should be ranked in the top 30 of the nation, and all the teams are very close together.
“A week ago we were within five points of 22 ranked Vanderbilt, and just two points from Mississippi State. Today we ran amazing, and were just 4 points in front of Florida State. Alabama is really good too. At least five teams will be fighting for two automatic qualification spots. It's going to be very exciting and very tough to get to nationals this year.”
In the same race last year, Lipscomb finished 12th. This year’s top five girls all finished with a better time than the Bisons’ best runner from last season.
"We are so fast and deep this year,” Taylor said. “Today we had five women run faster than our top runner in this race last year. That is huge improvement. Our pack is getting tighter and the team is doing a lot of the right things tactically.
"Another really big thing today was the attitude and spirit of the team. The girls were calm and relaxed. It was the first time we have come to a big race clearly focused and looked like we totally belonged. And they absolutely do belong.”
Senior Madi Talbert led the way for Lipscomb. She placed 20th with a time of 17:28 in a field that was over 200 runners deep.
"It was amazing to see Madi up there again,” Taylor said. “She competed like she did all of last year and clearly she has caught up with her iron issues. That's a huge boost for our team athletically. Her performance today also gives the team so much more confidence in what they are all capable of. I'm really proud of her.
“The first six weeks of the season have been a major challenge for her, and it would have been easy for her to give up hope. To see her out there continuing to put it all on the line for her team, and rising up, is awesome. Everyone was important today, but Madi was the difference-maker.”
Lipscomb had five other runners finish in the 17:00-17:59 range during the race.
Freshman Brooke Kingma (17:38), junior Barbara Lee Ball (17:39), and sophomore Paige Stoner (17:40) finished almost simultaneously at 29th, 30th and 31st.
"We had so many great performances today,” Taylor said. “Brooke Kingma was our number two runneras a freshman. She is so consistent for the team. All the girls in the varsity race ran great. Barbara Lee, Paige and Kate Bucknam came in together in key positions.”
Senior Kate Bucknam and junior Sally Larson finished close together at 41st and 49th with times of 17:50 and 17:54 respectively.
Several Lady Bisons also took part in the open race later in the day, with freshmen Sam Woodford (18:36) and Hannah Owens (18:57) leading the way in that race.
“In the second race I was really impressed with all of girls as well, however Sam Woodford and Hannah Owens in particular stood out,” Taylor said. “Sam had her best race for Lipscomb and looked smooth and strong.
“She almost won the open race with a huge kick over the last 400m. We've known how good she is capable of being at any distance. I hope today really boosted her confidence and opened her mind to what is possible. Hannah Owens really took a huge step forward today as well.”
With another crucial race coming up next weekend at the Louisville Classic, Taylor hopes this momentum will propel the team forward.
"We have one more big meet next weekend at Louisville, which is where Nationals are this year,” Taylor said. “There will be a number of nationally-ranked teams there. If we run like we did today, or better yet, if we make a few relatively small improvements, we do ourselves a lot of good for the end of the season. I think we will carry this momentum into next weekend and have a lot of fun there."