NASHVILLE – After a season filled with individual and team success, the Lipscomb track and field squad is about to take on its toughest test yet: the Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championships.
The Bisons have been building towards this moment all season, and on Friday and Saturday they will finally get to compete at the A-Sun Championships.
"I think we are ready for the championships,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “The team has been very focused all season. It's been a very good year for us. This has been one of the major focuses, and everyone appears very relaxed, yet ready to go. I'm excited to get things going on Friday.”
As they have all season, the women’s distance events could provide the Bisons with great success over the weekend.
Madi Talbert is heading into the weekend as the two-time defending A-Sun champion in the 3000m steeplechase and the defending champion in the 5000m.
"Madi Talbert leads a talented group of distance women for us,” Taylor said. “Madi has so much talent and range. She can really do anything she decides to do. She is one of the favorites in her specialty event, the 3000m steeplechase, and the 5000m.”
Talbert has already qualified for the East Region preliminary round of the National Championships in the steeplechase and the 5000m. She qualified for the national prelims and finals her freshman and sophomore years and was an All-American in the event.
Freshman Paige Stoner will be competing in the same two events as Talbert with the goal of qualifying for the national prelims as well.
"Paige Stoner will also be a contender in the steeplechase and the 5000m,” Taylor said. “She is super talented and has been breaking all of our freshman team records. Her 5000m time should qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championship Prelims. We are hoping to get a qualifier in the steeplechase as well.”
The 10,000m will be host to a trio of blazing Bisons who are also looking to earn East Region qualifying times.
"Sally Larson, Barbara Lee Ball and Kayla Montgomery are a strong trio in the 10,000m,” Taylor said. “I really think they are capable of anything. It's a tough race, but all three have really been looking forward to this. Sally most likely will get into the NCAA prelims in the 5000m. Her training indicates she is ready to run a very fast 10,000m race.”
In the men’s distance races, sophomores Christian Freeman and Juan Gonzalez should lead the charge as they have all season.
"Juan and Christian have led the way for men's distance this season,” Taylor said. “Juan has really been hitting his stride, running personal records all season. He dropped a 1:53 800m last weekend, so he knows he has the speed now too. He will focus on the 1500m and the 5000m.
"Christian is due for a big breakthrough. He leads the A-Sun in the 3000m Steeplechase, but he is looking for more than the win. He wants to get an NCAA Division I National Championship Prelim qualifying mark, and needs to improve his time by about eight or nine seconds to get that done.”
Freshman Karly Hibbard has turned heads by earning multiple A-Sun Field Athlete of the Week awards this season. She looks to carry that momentum into the weekend.
"Karly has led the way for the women's field events,” Taylor said. “She has a mark that will qualify her for the NCAA Division I Prelims in the javelin, and leads the ASUN in the event. It's fun to watch her compete and the javelin is a cool event.”
Gemikal Prude qualified for the National Championships in the high jump for both indoor and outdoor last season. He currently leads the A-Sun in the event.
"Gemikal is one of the stars of the team,” Taylor said. “He's got plenty of experience at the championship level, and is ready for this part of the season. It's awesome to watch a 5-foot 7-inch guy jump well over 7-feet.”
Wayne Newman is the two-time defending A-Sun Indoor 60m hurdles champion, but an injury kept him from competing during outdoor season in 2014. Now that he is healthy, Newman is on target to qualify for the East Region preliminaries.
"This is Wayne's first outdoor A-Sun Championship,” Taylor said. “He has already proven himself during the indoor season. He's excited to compete in both hurdle races. Wayne is looking for a prelim qualification time in the 400m hurdles too.”
For the pole vault, the Bisons have a contender on both the men’s and women’s side.
"Kevin Floyd and Annika Backlund are always contenders in the men's and women's pole vault,” Taylor said. “Both have earned All-Conference honors in the past.”
Fresh off of their first career A-Sun weekly awards, Grayson Webber and Danny Marsh will be expected to perform well in the discus and 800m respectively.
"Grayson Webber leads the discus as a freshman,” It will be fun to watch him go after it in his first A-Sun championship.
"Danny Marsh leads the way for the men in the 800m. He earned All-Conference honors in the event during the indoor championship.”
Even with all of the individual accolades up for grabs, the strongest component driving this Bison squad is how much they care about each other.
"We have an exciting weekend ahead of us,” Taylor said. “The athletes are competing for individual marks and places, for team points, and in some cases for NCAA Division I National Championship Preliminary round qualifiers. Mostly, they are competing for each other."
The Atlantic Sun Championships will kick off on Friday at 9 a.m. and continue through Saturday.