TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After another historically successful Atlantic Sun campaign, the Lipscomb cross country team is once again heading to the NCAA Division I South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
After winning a fifth consecutive A-Sun championship on the women’s side, and three straight for the men, Regional appearances are becoming second nature for the Bisons.
"To be honest, it has really been a business as usual feel the past two weeks, actually, the past four weeks,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “We are excited for Regionals, but we haven't made it a big deal. It's a race. It's on a course we have run. It's against competition we have already faced. We know what we need to go out and do. We've done great things all season. It feels like just another week and just another race.
With a potential National Championship appearance on the line, Taylor and his squad understand the importance of the race, but also that their season has already been a great success.
"We would love to qualify for nationals of course,” Taylor said. “That is a goal. No matter what though, we've had another amazing season. If it happens, that would be great. If it doesn't, then we enjoy what we've done and move on to track.
“I'm good with whatever happens. I believe the team is ready to give their best and be good with whatever happens as well. We will get there though. Maybe this year. If not, then next year probably. It's going to happen though and we know it.”
The women’s team and men’s team enter the race facing much different fields of competition. The women are heading up against one of the toughest fields they have ever faced, while the South Region has been inconsistent on the men’s side this season.
"The South is a contrast on the women's and men's sides,” Taylor said. “For the women, the South is probably as strong as it has been in 15 or 20 years. There are a lot of really good teams this year. In some ways, I suppose, that makes it tougher. In some ways it could make it easier for us, if we take advantage of it. Having a lot of very good teams can be an advantage, especially for a team that has the ability, history and confidence to run together like ours.”
Despite the difference in competition, both teams see a path to success opening up in front of them.
"The men's side of the South region isn't very strong nationally,” Taylor said. “I don't think there is a single men's team nationally ranked from the South. Even the teams that are supposed to be the best in the South have been pretty inconsistent this year. In a different way, the men's side also provides an opportunity for many teams to have a chance. It could be more wide open than ever.”
Taylor says that the women’s team has its plan down completely, so going through with it is all that’s left to do.
"For the women, we've talked about what we are going to attempt to do for at least four weeks,” Taylor said. “The plan is clear. It isn't complicated. It's just a matter of making the decisions out there and each person remembering throughout the race what they need to be doing. It's taking it a quality step at a time and putting those together, in the right place. It's about desire and belief, power, relaxation and maybe most of all, toughness. I really think this women's team can do anything they decide to do.”
On the men’s side, Taylor thinks that the runners just need to give themselves a fair shot to succeed.
"For the men, they just need to give themselves the chance,” Taylor said. “Once the Atlantic Sun was over they turned their focus to Regionals. This is a men's team coming together at exactly the right time. The improvement across the season has been terrific, and they had their best race, maybe ever, at conference. They have a real chance. They have a plan. I don't think they even have to have the best race of their lives to make it. They just need to go execute and hold themselves accountable the whole 10,000m. They need to believe, even when it is tough.”
With two more A-Sun titles and several athletic and academic accolades under in tow, the 2015 season will be a success no matter the results in the Regionals.
"I believe we are at peace with whatever happens down there Friday,” Taylor said. “I know I am. There is no pressure, just curiosity. Both teams have trained hard. Both teams have excellent seasons in the books. Nothing will change that. We've done all the hard stuff already. Regionals is dessert. Who doesn't like dessert?"
The women will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday with the men kicking off at ten. You can follow along with live stats with the links provided.