NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb track and field team started off their two-meet weekend with a successful day at the Husky Invite.
"We had a terrific evening at the Husky Invite in Seattle,” Lipscomb head coach Bill Taylor said. “Four of our five 5000m runners ran faster than our respective indoor 5000m school records. All five of our runners ran excellent and intelligent races. They definitely represented themselves and Lipscomb incredibly.”
Madi Talbert, Barabara Lee Ball and Sally Larson all built on strong seasons with some of their best times of the year.
"Talbert started things off, running in heat two,” Taylor said. “She put herself right up in the lead pack and kept making smart moves. Though she faded just a bit at the end, she ran 16:42, which is only three seconds off her all-time personal record that she ran at Stanford during the outdoor season last year. That time is well under our school record.
"In the next heat, Larson and Ball also ran incredible. For most of the race Sally was in second position, and set herself up for a big day. The last four or five laps didn't go as expected for Larson. She didn't tell me that she woke up this morning feeling sick and feverish. She says she doesn't remember the last few laps and was in bad shape after the race. Despite dealing with sickness, she ran 17:01, just six seconds off her all-time outdoor personal.”
Despite a slow start, Ball ended up joining Talbert in the sub-17 minute club for the event.
"Barbara Lee had a rough start,” Taylor said. “Her starting position was inside on the second row, so when the race started she got swallowed up by the field of runners. For the first 150m of the race she was at the end of the line. She really stayed calm though and worked her way forward. By mid-race she was floating at the back of the lead pack. With two laps to go she moved up strongly. In the last lap she was passing tons of people. She finished second in the race, with a huge all-time personal record of 16:48, also under our previous indoor school record. This was her first time under 17-minutes, which is always a big milestone.”
On the male side of things, Juan Gonzalez led a slow group of runners through most of his heat.
"We were really excited, because all three heats before there heat ran very fast,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately Juan Gonzalez and Christian Freeman’s heat was the exception. The race started, and the whole field went out pretty slow. We are here to run fast times. That's the whole point of this type of meet. So Gonzalez did what he had to do and went to the lead to make sure the pace was decent. All told, Gonzalez led over half the race I think, and showed a lot of courage.”
Freeman pushed his teammate Gonzalez to the very end, helping to improve both of their times.
"With Gonzalez trying to push the pace, Freeman was working his way up through the lead pack,” Taylor said. “In the last two laps Gonzalez faltered just a bit, and Freeman put in a terrific surge. With less than a lap to go Freeman passed Gonzalez. Gonzalez responded to his teammate and threw in one last kick with all he had. Both guys sprinted to the finish and secured new all-time personal records and ran almost 20-seconds under the indoor school record.”
Taylor says the team works to peak in May or June, so all of the training is suited to that plan.
“We've only been doing quality workouts for a few weeks, and it's all the early season quality stuff,” Taylor said. “Where we are right now, given where we are on the calendar and in our training, is so exciting and projects one incredible outdoor season. This is a terrific start, but it’s just a start.”
"There are so many things you look for as you build and develop a whole program. Obviously fast times are one benchmark. We continue to get faster and faster every year. Success at the conference level is another. We have been doing incredibly well at the conference level the past four or five years, getting better every year.”
According to Taylor, to perform well in a meet like the Husky Classic is a huge step in becoming an elite program.
"The final one is racing maturity and tactical intelligence, in particular at the biggest competitions,” Taylor said. “In the past we haven't shown the full maturity and courage it takes to be truly elite. I'd explain tactics to them before races, and most of our runners would do none of it because they were panicked.
"We have arrived on that third benchmark. What I saw tonight was exactly what we need to move into that final top tier in the nation. The girls and the guys ran with courage and intelligence. They were confident and smart. This is the best big meet we've ever had, by far. It's the kind of psychological breakthrough that moves the whole program forward.”
With the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships quickly approaching, Taylor feels that this indoor season could be not only a success on its own, but a prelude to success in the outdoor season and in the future.
“I'm so proud of this program,” Taylor said. “We've always had this incredible one of a kind team culture. We've always had the nicest team in the nation. We are now moving solidly into that top tier of performers.
"I am excited for the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships in two weeks. We always compete very well there. Across the team we are ready to go after it there. I am even more excited about the outdoor season and our future. This is a breakthrough season and we are never looking back. ”
HOOSIER HILLS INVITE
The Bisons were not quite as triumphant at the Hoosier Hills Invite in Indiana, but there were several standouts among the athletes that competed.
“Overall, it wasn't our best showing of the season in many of the events but we still managed to put together some solid marks for several of our runners,” Lipscomb assistant coach Luke Syverson said. “Freshmen Danny Marsh and Brianne Hoglin both had solid 800 races and both ran lifetime personal records so that was good to see.”
Paige Stoner gutted out a career-best race despite having undergone an appendectomy two weeks and a half weeks prior to the race.
“Stoner was definitely one of the highlights, taking second in the women's 3000 with a huge personal record. But even better was the way she raced. She put herself in position to win and was leading the race with 600m to go. This is her first race back since undergoing an emergency appendectomy a couple of weeks back.”
Gemikal Prude had another solid day in the high jump, but did not reach the height he and his coach were looking for.
“Prude had three super close misses at 2.20m, which would have tied his school record and indoor personal record,” Syverson said. “Now we will have to put it all out there at the A-Sun to win and try to earn a safer mark to stay above the top 16 mark in the NCAA to advance to the Championships.”
The Bison will have next weekend off to improve on any factors that may be effecting their game heading into the A-Sun Championships.
“I'm glad we have next weekend off and have two weeks to iron out some of the kinks, both physically and definitely mentally before we tackle conference championships,” Syverson said. “I'm confident the kids will step up and make the needed changes in both areas.”
The Bisons will compete in day two of the Hoosier Hills Invite and the Husky Classic on Saturday.