NASHVILLE – Lipscomb track and field will be sending a record six Bisons to the NCAA Division I East Region Preliminary Round.
The meet takes place from May 28-30 in Jacksonville, Fla., where Lipscomb just competed in its most successful Outdoor Atlantic Sun Championships in program history.
Four women have qualified in six events, while two males have qualified in two events. The previous program record was three athletes total in four events.
Junior Madelin Talbert: 3K Steeplechase and 5000m
Freshman Paige Stoner: 3K Steeplechase and 5000m
Sophomore Sally Larson: 5000m
Freshman Karly Hibbard: Javelin
Redshirt Junior Gemikal Prude: High Jump
Redshirt Freshman Wayne Newman: 110m High Hurdles
"It's another step towards being the best NCAA I program in the nation,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “We doubled the largest number of qualifiers we have ever had, and tripled the number of events we are entering.
"I'm really proud of these athletes and our whole program.They continue to push the bar ever higher."
The three female distance runners to qualify (Talbert, Larson and Stoner) also run for Lipscomb’s cross country team, the reigning A-Sun champions.
"For the women, this is another big step forward in track and, just as important, towards our quest to qualify the team for the NCAA Division I Cross Country nationals,” Taylor said. “Having three long distance women here, and getting national championship experience, is big.”
For the third year in a row, Talbert has qualified for the East Region Prelims in the 3000m steeplechase. In both years she made it to the National Finals, earning honorable mention All-American her freshman year and Second Team All-American last season.
She is currently ranked 7th in the East Region in the steeplechase. Despite ranking 47th heading into the East Region Prelims each of the past two seasons, Talbert was able to finish in the top 12.
"Madi has already had an extraordinary career and has developed so much,” Taylor said. “This year she comes in as one of the top girls in the race. She is mature and experienced and knows what to do.”
Talbert’s qualifying time of 10:00.01 puts her just over the sub-10 minute mark. Only six runners from the region have ran under 10 minutes in the event this season.
“I'm really excited because last year her water jumps and barriers were not very good. She lost a lot of energy last year there and a lot of seconds. This year she looks really good on her water jumps and barriers. It opens up a whole new level. She can compete with anyone and is ready to see how good she truly is.”
This year is the first time Talbert has qualified for the 5000m.
"The 5000m is a bonus for Madi,” Taylor said. “It's after the steeple, both at prelims and at national finals. So there is no harm in doing it, and she wants to run a lot faster than her 16:20 qualifying mark. It's a great second event to help her development and the teams development.”
Both Talbert and Stoner broke the A-Sun steeplechase record in the A-Sun Championships as they finished in the first two spots.
"Paige has done amazing things as a freshman,” Taylor said. “To qualify for National prelims as a freshman is amazing enough, to do it in two different events is special. She's a super hard worker, she has tons of talent, she is super competitive, she has gigantic desire and yet she keeps things in proper perspective.”
Stoner’s qualifying time of 10:20.12 ranks her at 38th in the region coming into the meet.
“I hope things go well for her at National Prelims, however she has already had an amazing season no matter what happens and will have some very important experience that will help her get to the next level. If we can get her to the national finals, she's in the bonus round.”
Larson also qualified for the 5000m, giving the Bisons three runners in the event.
"The plan for Sally was to qualify in the 10,000m this year,” Taylor said. “She ended up just 7 places short of that. Barbarba Lee Ball was also hoping to qualify in the 10,000m, and came just 10 places short. Sally stepped up big at the Oregon State meet and got a qualifier in the 5000m.”
Larson’s qualifying time in the 5000m was 16:27.07, which places her at 44th in the region.
“This is a huge accomplishment for Sally, and is going to be a very valuable experience. I'm actually glad she qualified in the 5000m instead. Sally has a ton of room for improvement in this event and really has nothing to lose in this. She has freedom to throw it all out there and see what happens. It's a good place to be in, she is extremely talented, and I am excited to watch her race.”
Talbert (16:20.52) and Stoner (16:26.17) placed 30th and 41st respectively in the 5000m qualifying list. Stoner's time also broke the Lipscomb freshman record in the event.
"Having three women in the 5000m is awesome,’ Taylor said. “That's a big statement on our program, and a big statement for the next cross country season. Having three women, all returners, under 16:30 is a big statement too. I think it also helps them psychologically to know they are in it together, and to know that although track is considered an individual sport, we look at it as a team sport, and we are always projecting to the team sport of cross country.”
Qualifications for the East Region Prelims becoming more and more regular for the Bisons, and Taylor believes this will push other runners into the next level.
"These girls are also showing our other girls what can be accomplished,” Taylor said. “We have tons of talent in our returners and a very talented freshman class coming in. They are showing that qualifying isn't that big of a deal. It's normal. It's completely possible. They are helping build the program, and are pushing it to the ultimate goals we have.”
In the women’s field events Hibbard qualified for the javelin with a throw of 45.66m, placing her 41st.
"Karly has had such an exciting freshman season,” Taylor said. “Coach Syverson has helped her develop to a whole new level. It's hard to qualify for Nationals anyway, and of course as a freshman, but I think it's even harder in the throws. This is a huge accomplishment for Karly, and we are really excited to see her throw. It's a bonus that she gets to throw at the same venue that she won the Atlantic Sun Championship at last week.”
On the men’s side, Prude will be looking to qualify for his third career National Championships. Last season made it to the both the indoor and outdoor finals, earning Second Team All-American for indoor honorable mention All-American for outdoor. This is his third consecutive season qualifying for the East Region Prelims.
"Gemikal has massive experience at this level,” Taylor said. “He knows how to perform, what to do, and understands how to keep it calm. He's been there, done it, and is very well prepared to give his best out there again.”
Prude’s 2.18m puts him at 5th in the East Region in the event, the highest mark for any of the Lipscomb qualifiers.
“We probably say it too often, however, it is just so cool to see a 5-7 guy leaping 7-1 to 7-3 in the high jump,” Taylor said. “It's quite a sight, and I am very excited for Gemikal to compete in this event again.”
In the 110 high hurdles, Newman’s 14.01 qualifying time puts him at 27th in the East Region.
"Wayne is such a great kid and an amazing talent,” Taylor said. “He deserves to be in this meet and earned it. He's been recovering from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Atlantic Sun Championships. Things are looking good with his recovery. I think he's a bit of a wild card though. Anything can happen for him at this meet, and no matter what he comes out ahead, especially for the future.”
Sophomore Juan Gonzalez missed out on qualifying in the 5000m by less than two seconds and five positions.
“He had an amazing season and will be motivated by being so close,” Taylor said.
With the East Region Prelims being hosted by North Florida University, the Bisons are going to have a sense of familiarity and comfort. This is the same site the event was held at last year, and the same venue that has hosted the A-Sun Championships for the past five seasons.
"It's really nice to be able to go to a place we regularly go,” Taylor said. “We know the track, the facility, where to eat, etc. We've had a ton of success at this facility. It's really a bonus for us to be able to compete there, and gives us a bit more comfort and one less thing to have to worry about.”
48 athletes will be competing in each prelim, with only 12 making it on to the NCAA Division I National Championships in Oregon on June 10-13.
"We love going out to Eugene,” Taylor said. “First, I'm from the Northwest and used to bring my teams out there down to meets at Hayward. Second, it's a special atmosphere there for the national championships. It feels amazing and energizing. Third, Madi has already been there twice and Gemikal has been once, so it's a very familiar place for much of our team. I also feel each year that it's where we are supposed to be. It's where tons of our athletes here are supposed to be.”
As the success and accolades continue to pile up for Lipscomb, Taylor says that the program is only heading up.
"We are rising and competing with the best in the country,” Taylor said. “Each year we get stronger and do things we've never done before. It's inevitable. Lipscomb will be known across the country as a track and cross country power. This year is another step in that process."