TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Lipscomb track and field squad is headed down to Tuscaloosa for the weekend to compete in the Alabama Relays.
This is the first large-scale outdoor meet for the Bisons after last weekend’s Lipscomb-Belmont Dual.
"We are pretty excited to get things going this weekend at the Alabama Relays,” Lipscomb track and head coach Bill Taylor said, ‘”It's a meet we used to go to every season but have not gone the past two years. All indications are that it will be a terrific early outdoor season opportunity to put up great marks and to see where we are.”
After taking some time off for spring break, Taylor said Lipscomb is ready to get back into gear for the meet.
“The hope is that the break has been a big help mentally,” Taylor said, “I hope our athletes come back hungry, focused and ready to kick butt the next three months. I think that will be the case for most. If some come back flat from the break, they will have to figure things out and get it right quick.”
The Bisons are diving right into the outdoor season, which moves just as quickly, if not quicker, than the outdoor season.
"The outdoor season goes fast,” Taylor said, “For those that don't make the A-Sun Championships, the season is six to seven weeks long. For those who make the A-Sun Championships but not the National Prelims, it's only eight weeks. Even for those that make it all the way to the NCAA Division I National Finals, we only have 12 weeks left. Those weeks will fly by. We want our athletes to take advantage of every day, be focused and motivated and make every opportunity to compete count.”
After sitting several of the top distance runners for the Lipscomb-Belmont Dual, Taylor said he is ready to unleash the athletes for the Alabama Relays.
"We will have an outdoor debut for some of our top distance runners at Alabama,” Taylor said, “The top guys, Juan Gonzalez, Christian Freeman and Jared Wingerter, will drop down to the 1500m to start their outdoor campaign. It's an opportunity to work on speed and race tactics before moving back up to the longer distances.”
The men are not the only athletes entering the long distance events. Lipscomb’s top female distance runners will also be hitting the track in Tuscaloosa.
"Most of our top distance girls will compete as well,” Taylor said, “Some of our top girls will be working on specific things like race tactics, pacing and such, instead of going all out. We are sending Paige Stoner and Minna Fields out to go after 5000m personal records. We'd like to get them a time that gets them into Stanford in a few weeks. They both have a great chance for that, and this race should set them up well.”
For the distance runners, this race is a warmup of sorts for even stronger races coming down the road.
"We have some really big meets coming up, so for many of our distance runners, Alabama is a dress rehearsal,” Taylor said, “We aren't going to run Madi Talbert or Sally Larson hard. We are sitting Barbara Lee Ball and Kendra Lobley. It's an opportunity to work out the kinks, get back into race mode and practice some things, all while keeping it relatively low-key.”
Kayla Montgomery will also be running in the distance races over the weekend despite an injury to her ankle.
"Kayla Montgomery is still working her way back in terms of race prep,” Taylor said, “We will race her at 1500m this weekend and use that as a set up for her to run the 5000m next weekend at the Raleigh Relays.”
Coming off of a week that saw him win an Atlantic Sun Track Athlete of the Week award, Wayne Newman is looking to follow up that race with a strong performance.
"Wayne Newman had a terrific outdoor debut last week, without any competition,” Taylor said, “It will be fun to see what he is ready to do in both hurdle events with another week of training and some terrific competition. We really expect him to have an amazing season.”
In the field events, Gemikal Prude is in the midst a season-long journey to get back to the national events.
"Gemikal Prude is always an elite athlete for us, and as usual, his high jump competition will be really fun to watch,” Taylor said, “He is also working on a new event, the long jump. It will be fun to see him work on that event. He has a lot of opportunities to see improvement throughout the season.”
Karly Hibbard earned an A-Sun Field Athlete of the Week award last week in her first-ever outdoor meet.
"Karly Hibbard had a nice collegiate debut last weekend,” Taylor said, “She's been waiting all indoor season to get to outdoors so she can compete in her specialty. She was second in the state of Washington in the javelin last year. It's going to be fun watching her throw this season.”
After a string of solid performances in the indoor season, April Terry has chosen to redshirt for the outdoor season.
“April Terry, who has been a standout for us in the throws, has decided to redshirt this outdoor season so she can focus on student teaching,” Taylor said, “She wants to come back next year and be able to focus so she can have the best possible senior season.”
Overall, the Alabama Relays provide the Bisons with a chance to tighten up their outdoor skills before heading into a fast-paced season.
"This meet will really serve to help us either feel really good with where we are already, or it will be a very valuable opportunity to see where we need work and move forward to fix it,” Taylor said, “Either way, it will be an important competition that will set up bigger moments later this season.”