Lipscomb Track and Field opens season in Birmingham
Thursday, January 9, 2014
By Mark McGee
Lipscomb Track and Field opens season in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It’s the first meet of the season and first collegiate outing for several Lipscomb Bisons and Lady Bisons. If tradition holds true that means the coaching staff will be dealing with jitters, possible freak outs and nausea as well as overseeing what their athletes do on the track and in the field events.

“I am always excited for the first meet because it realty gives us a chance to see where we are,” Lipscomb assistant coach Luke Syverson said. “I usually don’t have high expectations coming into the first meet.”

Syverson points out the low expectation factor is based primarily on training in less than ideal weather and the fact that some athletes have not completely honed their techniques at this stage of the season.

“It is a good chance for the upperclassmen to kind of start off where they left off last year," Syverson said. "It is a great chance for the freshmen to experience their first college meet. A lot times they are pretty nervous and have first meet jitters. This is a good meet to give them the chance to work those things out.”

Syverson expects this season’s freshmen to possibly be a little more poised and prepared for collegiate competition.

“The freshmen we have put up some pretty great marks and have been in some pretty big meets in high school,” Syverson said.  “I think they will do well.”

But don’t think Lipscomb head coach Bill Taylor and his staff are easing into the indoor track and field season. The Bisons and Lady Bisons are participating in the third annual UAB Blazer Invite at the Birmingham Crossplex Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.

Field events begin Friday at 3:30. Running events start at 4. Saturday the meet resumes at 9 a.m.

In the field are Florida, a five-time NCAA champion; Florida State, a three-time NCAA champion; Tennessee; Mississippi State; Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

Also competing are FIU, Alabama State, Samford, Troy, Georgia State, Alabama A&M, Mississippi Valley, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Florida A&M, Western Kentucky, North Texas, South Alabama, UT-Chattanooga, Bethune-Cookman, Tulane, Jacksonville State, Savannah State, Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, Jackson State, Mississippi College, Kennesaw State, Alabama-Huntsville, Birmingham-Southern, Johnson C. Smith, Zap Fitness, Shorter, Academy of Art, Trevecca Nazarene and Speed Factory Athletics.

“This track is very popular,” Syverson said. “It is a very good track. Because this track is going to be the site of the NCAA Division I Indoor Nationals in two years it is a very well respected destination.”

Two of the biggest standouts for the Bisons are senior sprinter Tucker Peabody, who has a goal of the NCAA Indoor Nationals this season, and sophomore high jumper Gemikal Prude, who also has his sights set on national honors.

“Historically, Tucker sometimes makes huge jumps in his times and that is not normal for a short sprinter,” Taylor said. “We expect him to do well, but it is early in the season. This will be a meet where he can break the rust off.

“He is a very hard worker. This is his senior season. He has very big goals.”

Taylor has no doubts that Prude will compete in the Indoor Nationals at some point in his career.

“Hopefully it will be this year,” Taylor said. “He is too quality of a jumper and has too much talent not to do it.”

Prude is only three centimeters away from a jump that would qualify for the Indoor Nationals. His personal record is 7 feet, one-and-three-quarter inches.

“He is fully capable of reaching that height,” Taylor said. “But small increases are difficult, especially when you jump as high as he is going.  He practices so well that he can do anything at any moment.”

Junior April Terry is always a threat to set new personal and school records in an indoor meet whatever she throws.

“April traditionally keeps plugging away,” Taylor said. “She set and reset her personal records and school records in the shot and weights in each of our indoor meets last season.”

Lipscomb will not be entering any distance events in the meet.

Junior sprinter Colin Dempster will run the longest race for the Bisons at 800 meters. He will also compete in the 500 meters. Several Lipscomb runners will compete in both the 300 and 500 meter sprints.

“Those events are not part of a conference championship meet or a national meet,” Taylor said. “But they are great workouts and a great way to check fitness.”

Both Taylor and Syverson expect some athletes, whether freshmen or veterans, will surprise with solid performances. But some of the freshmen they are anticipating will do well are Wayne Newman and Jordan Pitcher in the hurdles and Phillip Smith in the long jump and triple jump.  Another freshman, Sarah Browning, is expected to perform well as a vaulter.

“From a psychological perspective I don’t expect great things to happen in a first meet,” Taylor said. “A first meet is usually a chance to get the rust out and reset for the rest of the indoor season. But if we do something that is awesome then it will be a bonus.”