LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The sun and sweat of California seemed to agree with the Lipscomb track and field teams at Saturday’s Oxy Invite. Lipscomb athletes set numerous personal-bests and school records in their attempts to qualify for the NCAA Regional round at the end of May.
Sophomore Dani Walker was the big winner of the day. She finished third in the women’s 5000m run, breaking the school record with a 16:38.53s mark. That shaved a minute off her previous personal-best.
"Dani ran tough and had a terrific breakthrough," said head coach Bill Taylor. "She looked great and this race sets up big things to come for her. I'm very proud of her effort."
Freshman Kendra Lobley pushed the pace early, finishing sixth with a 16:51.99s mark.
“Dani has to thank Kendra for pushing the pace,” Taylor said. “They were on an 18-minute pace in the second lap. So Kendra ran to the front and pushed the pace hard. It was hard on her and she really sacrificed herself for her teammates, but it got the race back on track.
"Kendra actually ran very well through most of the race. She slipped back in the last three laps and still ran 16:51. She's had an incredible freshman season and I admire the fight she has and the willingness she has to take chances. Again, if she hadn't gone to the front to push things, I don't know if anyone in the race would have broken 17-minutes.”
Sophomores Tessa Hoefle (17:12.26s) and Alex Newby (17:22.21s) finished 12th and 17th, respectively.
“Tessa ran a PR by a few tenths,” Taylor said. “She's run 17:12 three times this season and I know she is sick of it. She is so close to a big breakthrough. I can't wait to see her get it.
"Alex just keeps getting better and better. Our team has improved so much it's hard for people to remember that just last year Alex was our number two runner in Cross Country on a very good team. She's dealt with some injuries and the team keeps improving, but Alex is definitely working her way right back up there. It's very exciting for her and our team. She will be under 17-minutes soon.”
Freshmen Maggie Lawrence (17:30.15s) and Renee’ Menzie (18:05.61s) both turned in top personal-bests at the Oxy. Lawrence finished 21st and Menzie 33rd.
"Maggie dropped another 30 seconds off her 5000m PR tonight,” Taylor said. “There is nothing wrong with that! She is just going to get stronger and stronger in her career here and this race was another exciting step forward.
"Renee was about 20th on our team I would guess in cross country. So she has been improving very rapidly this track season and ran another terrific PR tonight. She's on the verge of breaking 18 minutes and gets smarter and stronger as a racer every week. The goal at Georgia Tech is going to be sub-18, and actually sub 17-45 to try to qualify for USA Junior Nationals.”
Sophomore Tucker Peabody finished seventh overall in the men’s 200m dash event with a 21.26s mark that is his second-fastest this year. He was also 11th in the 100m dash (10.64s).
“Tucker ran into headwinds in both the 100 and 200, which was unfortunate,” Taylor said. “He looked good and I think this was a good rust-breaker after two weeks off and finals. He will be ready to get his times down next weekend.”
Freshman Colin Dempster was seventh overall at 47.89s in the 400m, coming in sixth in a heat that featured 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Felix Sanchez.
“Colin was super nervous,” Taylor said. “Having a gold medalist in your race can do that to you. He ran well but was not as smooth and powerful as he was at the A-Sun Championships.
“This was a great learning experience for a freshman. To know you can run in these kinds of big races, and to understand that you have to focus on your own race and what you need to do with each phase of the race. He will be a better runner for this experience.”
Junior Ashton Fisher started strong but faded slightly in the 3000m steeplechase. He gutted out a fifth-place finish in the event with a 9:24.86s run.
"Ashton ran great early in the steeple, but slowed quite a bit in the second half,” Taylor said. “It's too bad, because his pace through most of the race was for a big PR. He gave it back and more in the last three laps. He is still learning and hopefully it pays off next weekend at Georgia Tech.”
Lipscomb will compete in the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta next weekend.
"All in all a successful trip,” Taylor said. “It wasn't perfect, but everyone has gained from this experience in a variety of ways that will make them better in the future."