NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb track and field squad will be splitting up into two groups over the weekend, with one group heading to the Hoosier Hills Invite in Indiana and the other trekking all the way to Seattle for the Husky Classic.
Five Bisons will be heading to the Husky Classic, which is known for its distance running events.
"It's very exciting to bring some of our distance runners out to Seattle to compete in one of the best distance indoor meets in the nation,” Lipscomb head coach Bill Taylor said. “Although we don't train for the indoor season, we have developed as a program to the point where many of our kids are running really fast, even in the early stages of training. I think that's a factor of strong training backgrounds, recruiting great athletes and the mindset and courage that grows every year.
"So this year we bring out three women (Madi Talbert, Sally Larson, and Barbara Lee Ball) and two men (Juan Gonzalez and Christian Freeman), but our roster is packed with more distance runners we expect to bring here next year. This is another step in our development as a nationally elite distance program.”
With a meet of this notoriety, Taylor says the team’s goal is to post times that will compete with the best in the nation.
"The 5000m races at the University of Washington serve multiple purposes for us,” Taylor said, “First, every time you race you strive to do your best, and you hope your best takes you where you've never been before.
“We also are striving to post some marks that will guarantee our kids entry in to any meet in the nation. We go to the biggest meets in the country, and we want to get into faster and faster heats and bring more of our athletes.”
For many of the racers, this weekend will be about nailing down qualifying times, but for some those marks have already been reached.
"Madi Talbert can already get into any meet in the nation in the 3000m steeplechase and the 5000m, so for her it's more about racing well and seeing what happens,” Taylor said. “For the other four, improvements are important for future races. So this is a big opportunity for them to get qualifying marks out of the way.”
The Lipscomb track and field team has several connections to the state of Washington, including Seattle being Taylor’s hometown.
"Being in Seattle is also fun because it is where I am from,” Taylor said. “It's been about three years since I've been back. Nashville and Seattle are two of the best cities in the country. I love living in Nashville, but Seattle is fun to show off too though.”
The Husky Classic will also be a homecoming for Larson, who is from Washington, an area where the program has had in success recruiting.
“Sally Larson gets to come home and race in front of friends and family. I know she is happy about that, and excited to show off the area to her teammates,” Taylor said.
In the future, the Bisons are planning on making the Husky Classic a regular destination each spring.
"We will be regulars at this meet going forward now,” Taylor said. “It offers the perfect opportunity to take the next step during the indoor season, and is a terrific destination. I expect we will bring at least twice as many athletes out here next year.”
The rest of the Bisons will be heading to the Hoosier Hills Invite over the weekend, an event Lipscomb has competed in before.
"Indiana University's Hoosier Hills meet is a terrific opportunity for the bulk of our team,” Taylor said. “It's a fast 200m banked track, and we always have great performances there.”
Usual standouts Gemikal Prude, Wayne Newman and April Terry are looking to improve upon their already high scores for the season so far.
"Our athletes will have a great opportunity to improve their marks and will get great competition,” Taylor said. “For Prude, it is another opportunity to solidify his place at NCAA Division 1 indoor nationals in the high jump. I am excited for Newman in the hurdles, and Terry in the throws.”
Just like at the Husky Classic, the women’s distance races will be an area to watch for at the Hoosier Hills Invite.
"In women's distance the 3000m will be the highlight race,” Taylor said. “Paige Stoner will run her first 3k of the indoor season. Two weeks ago she had her appendix removed. I've never heard of anyone recovering so quickly, however Paige has and this last week was up front with our top runners in every workout.
“She is definitely ready to go. She will be joined by standout distance runners Kendra Lobley Jones and Minna Fields, both senior veterans who have had terrific careers. They are looking to make a statement too.”
The men’s distance runners did not make the cut for the Hoosier Hills Invite, something Taylor wants to address for the future.
"I was disappointed to hear that many of our distance guys didn't get into the meet,” Taylor said. “It's very confusing. We will have to re-examine our schedule a bit for next year to make sure everyone is competing. I think it's also a reminder that each of our athletes needs to take advantage of their opportunities when they get them. The faster you run, the more opportunities you have.”
This weekend will be the Bisons last meet before the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships take place on Feb. 28-March 1.
"I'm glad both meets are on Friday,” Taylor said. “It gives us two full weeks to prepare for the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships. It will be good to have next weekend off, before we travel to Winston-Salem.
“It’s crazy how quickly the indoor season goes by. It's exciting too, since all of our training goals are focused on outdoor track and getting as many as possible to the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor National Championships. This indoor season has already been our best yet. That projects very well for how we will finish it, and how we will do in outdoor."
The Husky Classic and the Hoosier Hills Invite will both take place on Friday and Saturday.