NASHVILLE – The Lipscomb cross country team turned in one of its best performances of the season thus far with both the men’s and women’s teams excelling at the Greater Louisville Classic and the Foothills Invite.
"Both teams, in both locations, ran really well,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “We had a bunch of personal records again, and something like half the team either ran their all-time personal record or season best.”
At the Greater Louisville Classic, the women’s squad finished fifth out of a field 30 teams qith 195 points, placing ahead of Mississippi, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and less than a minute behind fourth-place Minnesota.
"The women finished 5th out of 30 teams I think,” Taylor said. The only teams in front of us were top-30 ranked teams in the nation.”
Nationally-ranked Michigan, Iowa State and Penn State nabbed the top three spots.
"It was easily the best we have ever run at this meet,” Taylor said. “More importantly, the women have been showing they don't treat the biggest meets in the nation any different than any other race. We've been right in the mix, confident and competitive with top ranked teams. That is really important.”
After performing well against similarly difficult competition at the Battle in Beantown and Commodore Classic, the Lady Bisons have made it through what was potentially the toughest stretch of its regular season schedule unscathed.
"This was also a really tough stretch for our women,” Taylor said. “Three big meets in a row is hard physically, and harder mentally. We usually have a weekend off between meets. The schedule just set up different this year. We had specific goals. I really feel we made it through well, but I'm looking forward to be able to focus on training and tactics now.
"The women are so close. At the level we are at now, small improvements result in huge improvements in score and place. We are closer now to top 10 in the nation than we are to 40th. There are a few things we know we need to improve on. That will be our focus over the final stretch of the season.”
As the postseason looms in the future, Taylor knows the South Region will be a tough field to compete in.
"The South is really good on the women's side this year,” Taylor said. “It is deep with a lot of close teams that are all worthy of being ranked in the 20's nationally. It's going to be quite a shootout at the end of the season.”
Senior Madi Talbert led the way for Lipscomb, finishing fifth out of a field of 266 athletes with a time of 17:22, the fastest time in the Atlantic Sun this week.
"Madi Talbert is really setting the table for our women,” Taylor said. “She is getting out fast and in the right position. We just need other girls to bridge the gap to her. They are close. We need those last few seconds and places. Madi is doing some very, very important things for the team. I know the rest of the girls will rally.”
Newcomers Kate Bucknam (17:34) and Brooke Kingma (17:36) placed almost one right after the other in 38th and 41st.
"We were also impressed with Kate Bucknam and Brooke Kingma,” Taylor said. “Those two are really at the opposite ends of the spectrum, with Kate a fifth year senior transfer from a Big-10 program, and Brooke just a freshman. Both are running awesome and putting up the best races they have ever run.”
On the men’s side, the Bisons finished 11th out of a 24-team field with a point total of 376.
"The men's race was a mixed result for us,” Taylor said. “11th was good enough to beat conference rival North Florida, but certainly wasn't where we were expecting to finish.”
"We've got some guys up front really running great. Christian Freeman and Jake Poyner both went under the Lipscomb school record for 8000m. They ran tough up there, against great competition.
Juniors Christian Freeman (24:33) and (24:42) Jake Poyner took the top two spots for Lipscomb in the men’s race, finishing 25th and 44th, respectively.
"We fall off way more than we expected to our number three runner, even more to our number four runner, and the gap to number five is huge,” Taylor said. “We really expected to have that five gap solved this year. Unfortunately some key returners aren't where we expect, and we are relying on freshmen right now for our number five guy.
“We need a combo of returners stepping up the way we know they can, and freshmen taking the next step. We need five to seven guys pretty much together, which is what we expected this season. If that comes together, the men are capable of anything. It looks like the South Region is wide open on the men's side this year."
At the Foothills Invite, the Purple and Gold finished fourth in both the men’s and women’s meets with point totals of 97 and 135, respectively.
Sophomore Brianne Hoglin placed the highest for the Lady Bisons at 22nd with a time of 18:54, while freshman Sam Geiman placed 12th with a mark of 26:30 for the men.