NASHVILLE – For the second time in the history of the program, both the men’s and women’s track teams finished the season ranked in the top five in the nation for team GPA, as announced by U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The women’s team earned the number one overall position, while the men had the fifth best GPA in the country.
"I'm so incredibly proud of both the women's and men's teams,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “This is one of our academic goals every year: to get both teams in the top five nationally and to see if we can be the number academic team in the nation. We have one of the strongest histories of academic success in the nation. This is another huge achievement for our track and field programs.
"It's a big honor for our student-athletes. It's a big statement that continues to provide proof of what we say we are about. They work so hard in every way. An honor like this shows the world that they are doing big things.”
This is the first time that the women’s team has ever finished first on the list after two previous second place finishes. The team's 3.74 GPA placed them above fellow top five finishers Chattanooga, Indiana, Portland and Bradley.
The men posted a 3.41 GPA, just below the 3.59 mark of Chattanooga who claimed te/he top spot.
After a successful season on and off the track, Taylor is proud of the team’s achievements in both sectors.
"Athletically, we continue to rise into national elite level,” Taylor said. “That's easy to see with our times, marks, and increasing athletic success. This continues the proof that we emphasize academic success equally. We do not see it as a choice of athletics or academics. We strive for ultimate success in both.”
Five Lipscomb student-athletes were named to the Academic All-American teams, setting a new school record.
Wayne Newman earned the nod on the men’s side. Madi Talbert, Sally Larson, Paige Stoner and Karly Hibbard placed on the women’s team.
"I'm really proud of our individual honorees too,” Taylor said. “Madi, Paige, Sally, Karly, and Wayne are terrific examples of doing it all. National qualifiers and excellence in the classroom. I really cannot say enough about each of them. They are incredible representatives of Lipscomb and our program in every way."
Taylor believes the program’s success can be attributed to a number of factors, including team culture and the atmosphere of Lipscomb’s campus.
"We have the best team culture in the country,” Taylor said. “Our kids are a family and they both strive for greatness, while taking care of each other. That really helps us succeed athletically and academically.
"Add to that the spiritual development both within the department and university and specifically with our team in the form of devotions, service projects, prayer and interaction, and the most unique aspect, our team mission trips.
"Finally, we go about things differently than any other program I know of, both in terms of personal attention for everyone on the roster, competition opportunities for everyone on the roster, and the Fortune 500 corporate level teambuilding and leadership development programs our athletes get that prepare them for big success here and bigger success after they leave Lipscomb. We live up to our stated goal of whole person development, and these honors just reinforce that.”
Taylor stresses the importance of the many advantages a student can find at Lipscomb in the classroom.
"We also have some very unique advantages academically at Lipscomb,” Taylor said. “While we have created a culture of academic success, Lipscomb University is an incredible place to grow academically. We have some of the best academic programs in the nation.
“Our education program is one of the top four in the nation, our engineering program is incredible with a 100 perent pass rate on the national engineering exam most years, and our pre-med has an 80 percent acceptance rate to medical school immediately after graduating from Lipscomb.
Lipscomb’s small class size, especially in comparison to some of the other top track programs in the nation, helps provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.
"Even more valuable are the small class sizes,” Taylor said. “With an average class size of 14 students, our student-athletes get more academic interaction and attention than almost any NCAA Division I school in the nation. Professors are easy to find and talk to. That really has a positive impact on learning. We just have so many great resources here and a university culture that is the nicest and most helpful I have ever seen.”
Taylor thinks that Lipscomb’s overall success in academics and in athletics goes hand in hand.
"As an athletic department, all the programs at Lipscomb have risen,” Taylor said. “It's become our culture in the Lipscomb athletic department to excel athletically, and in every way. It's why Lipscomb has won the past two Atlantic Sun Academic Trophies.
“We see academic success as a whole department team, and each sport here strives to do their part. I don't think it's a coincidence that as our academic success has risen, all of our athletic teams at Lipscomb have also been rising. It’s a really incredible time to be a part of Lipscomb University.”
Another unique and key factor that Taylor surmises helps with the program’s success is their faith.
"Finally, as a strong Christian university, which is very unique at the NCAA I level, we just don't have to deal with many of the negative distractions that athletes at other schools often deal with,” Taylor said. “Our team studies together. They help each other. They still have strong social lives, and enjoy all the great things going on at Lipscomb and in Nashville, but it's all positive and it's prioritized. They help each other to be better in every way.”