NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After working out, training and competing since December the Lipscomb track and field teams will lay it all on the line this weekend at the 2012 Atlantic Sun Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The two-day event will be hosted by North Florida at Hodges Stadium.
At last season’s outdoor championships 11 school records fell, including eight set by the women’s team. The women finished fifth (81 points) and were led by conference champions O’Neisha Smith (high jump) and Catherine Beals (3000m steeplechase). Both will be back to defend their titles this year.
“We go into this weekend with confidence,” said Lipscomb head coach Bill Taylor. “We feel like we’ve communicated with our athletes and they know what they need to do for success. Everyone’s performance counts at conference and I think we do a good job of helping our athletes see that and they do a good job of rising to the occasion.”
Sophomore Tucker Peabody will be a threat all over the track for Lipscomb this year. The favorite in the 200m dash, Peabody is a contender in the 100m dash and will run a leg in both the 4x100m and 4x400m dashes.
“Tucker is a talented guy,” said Lipscomb sprint coach Marcus Evans. “He’s going to be a busy guy at conference, but that’s part of the plan at the Division I level. Having him in three or four events is going to be what’s best for the team.”
Freshman Colin Dempster (third) and junior Bobby Bassett (fifth) will represent the Bisons in the 400m dash.
Freshman Kendra Lobley, who led the A-Sun for much of the season and for a brief time the NCAA’s East Regional in the 5000m run, will be one of many Lady Bison distance runners looking for big days in Jacksonville. Lobley ranks second in the A-Sun behind USC Upstate’s Jemeli Sang, and is also a top-five competitor in the 3000m steeplechase, in which she ranks third in the A-Sun.
“Kendra is an excellent competitor,” Taylor said. “She has great race instincts. I expect her to keep getting better and I expect a lot of her teammates to get to her level.”
The steeple looks to be a big event for Lipscomb this season. In addition to Lobley and Beals, the women’s team will receive a boost from freshman Minna Fields and junior Emily Longden. Juniors Ashton Fisher (second) and Isaiah Greer (third) will compete for the steeple title on the men’s side.
“I love the steeple,” Taylor said. “As a coach, my biggest success areas have been the 5K and the steeple. It’s an exciting event and you have to have good technique. The way we train sets our athletes up well for the steeple.
“Minna ran the steeple for the first time recently, and she did great in that and in the 5K. Catherine has had some injuries that set her back, but she’s the wily veteran who is a two-time champion. I’m excited for her to get out in her last opportunity.”
Lobley will be pushed in the 5K by a host of excellent Lady Bison runners: Fields, sophomores Tessa Hoefle and Alex Newby and senior Ashley Lehman will each run the event. Hoefle will join senior Louisa Van Batavia in the 10,000m run as well.
A pair of high-ranking sophomores lead the pack in the middle distances. Katie Bunker and Dani Walker are both set to compete in the 800 and 1500m run – Walker is second in the 1500 and sixth in the 800, with Bunker a spot below her in each.
“Dani has looked her best in the last few weeks,” Taylor said. “Mentally and physically, she’s rounding into the right situation at the right time. Katie Bunker has really come on in the last few weeks.”
Both the men and women’s 4x400m relay teams broke the school record two weeks ago at Auburn and enter the conference meet with confidence to spare.
“It’s hard at the college level to get everyone at practice for the relays at the same time,” Evans said. “Different class schedules and practice schedules make it difficult for a group to gel. The athletes that compete in relays have to know and trust one another to be very successful. I think all those components have come together and we’ve gotten much faster because of it.”
A pair of freshmen throwers have come a long way since December and have set the stage for a coming-out party in Jacksonville. Houston Ward enters the weekend fourth in the discus, fifth in the shot put and sixth in the hammer throw, while April Terry is sixth in the hammer and seventh in the shot.
Both young athletes received acclaim from the Atlantic Sun this week, claiming the conference’s Field Athlete of the Week honors.
“It’s been nice to see their progression,” said Lipscomb assistant coach Luke Syverson. “They work really hard and hold themselves accountable.
“The exciting thing is looking into the future and seeing what they’re going to be able to do. They’re both excited for this weekend and I think they’re going to be able to do good things.”
Freshman Matthew Deery will be busy as well, competing in the hurdles, javelin and pole vault. He ranks fourth in the 110m hurdles, sixth in the 400m hurdles, second in the pole vault and eighth in the javelin.
“Matthew Deery is a kid that just loves to compete,” Evans said. “Anyway he can chase someone down or beat somebody, he does it. It’s easy to work with someone who’s that passionate.”
Syverson, his coach in the pole vault, concurs.
“He’s one of those athletes that does anything for the team,” Syverson said. “If we told him to go run the 10K he would figure out how to do it. He likes to compete and wants to do whatever he can for the team.
“The important thing is to let him develop. Some schools would take a kid as diverse and talented as Matt, stick him in 20 events and burn him out. The goal is to score as many points as possible but that’s not necessarily in Matt’s best interests as a freshman.”
Also competing in the javelin will be senior Austin Ray. While many other javelin competitors will be entered in the decathlon Ray, ranked second in the javelin, will focus solely on his spear-chucking abilities this weekend.
Senior Brittany Duerk, junior Taylor Mason and freshman Kaitlyn Collier are each within striking distance of a point-scoring position this weekend. Duerk ranks second and Mason fourth.
Smith and junior Adam Austin will represent Lipscomb in the high jump. Austin is closing in on the school-record mark of 6’ 10”.
Senior Dillon Seigenthaler looks to take gold in the decathlon after earning a runner-up finish at the A-Sun Outdoor Championships in 2011.
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