JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Lipscomb cross country program heads into Friday’s Atlantic Sun Championship with two streaks on the line. The women’s team has won four consecutive titles, while the men have won back-to-back championships.
Entering the meet, the women are ranked as the top team in the A-Sun, third in the South Region and are receiving votes in the national rankings. The men are also ranked first in the conference and are seventh in the South Region.
"We feel good going into the A-Sun Championships and are looking forward to defending our championship titles,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “Both teams are excited for the opportunity to race and take this meet very seriously.”
On both sides, North Florida will prove to be tough competition. They are ranked tenth 10th in the South Region in both men’s and women’s. FGCU are also a strong team on the women’s side, as they are ranked 12th in the region.
"For the women, they are moving into very rare air if they win their fifth consecutive title,” Taylor said. “The girls have team goals and individual goals for this meet. We have a lot of talent and a lot of depth. The girls could really finish in any order Friday. They are all hungry to race too, since most of them haven't raced in four weeks.”
The Lady Bisons come in with the defending A-Sun champion, senior Madi Talbert, as well 2014’s Freshman of the Year, Paige Stoner, and two other All-Conference Team members from last season, juniors Sally Larson and Barbara Lee Ball.
All-Conference honors are awarded to the top 14 finishers in the race. Talbert as a chance to earn her fourth consecutive All-Conference honor, while Ball and Larson are going for three straight. Last season Lipscomb landed seven runners on the All-Conference Team, an A-Sun record.
Freshmen Brooke Kingma, Kelli Nesky and Bridgette Doucet all will have a shot at the A-Sun Freshman of the Year award, as well as a spot on the A-Sun All-Freshman Team for the top five freshman racers.
With the South Regionals coming up on Nov. 14th, Taylor wants the team to use this race as a building block to get ready for Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"This is also a dress rehearsal for the NCAA Division I South Region Championships in two weeks,” Taylor said. “It's a chance to polish things and fix anything that needs to be fixed. We will also determine who we are racing at the South region meet based a lot on the results from this meet.”
On the men’s side, juniors Juan Gonzalez and Christian Freeman and seniors Jared Wingerter and Daniel Gardner are all vying for their third consecutive All-Conference honors.
"The men really have their work cut out for them,” Taylor said. “This is the best men's team we have ever had. North Florida has a very strong men's team too, probably their best team since joining the A-Sun, and it is going to take a very unified and purposeful effort to win it again this year.”
Junior Jake Poyner should also have a good shot at earning an All-Conference nod, while freshmen Andrew Ayers, Psalm Ocampo and Robert Rupp are expected to be in the mix for Freshman of the Year.
"Last year we had some challenges with our strength at our number five spot,” taylor said. “Jared Daedler stepped up big to get the guys over the top. This year we have a lot more depth, but it looks like the end result will once again depend on our number five runner. We really need a few guys to step it up, and there are several guys who can do it.
"No matter what, these are going to be fun races to watch.