NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With the indoor season completed, the Lipscomb track and field squad is moving on to the outdoor season where a date with crosstown-rival Belmont awaits the opening weekend.
The outdoor season will kick off with the Belmont vs. Lipscomb Dual, the track Battle of the Boulevard, which takes place on Friday, March 14.
"We've been working with Belmont for a couple of years trying to figure out how to put this meet together,” Lipscomb head coach Bill Taylor said. “The proximity of our campuses, the historic rivalry between the schools, and the opportunity to put together a low-key, fun, early season dual meet drove us. Dual meets are rare these days. Having a meet that can be completed in three hours, instead of two full days, is refreshing. This is the first Belmont-Lipscomb dual in the NCAA I era for sure."
The Bisons will follow up the Belmont vs. Lipscomb Dual with a trip to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama Relays on March 19-21.
"It's been a few years since we have been to this meet,” Taylor said. “It looks like a growing meet and a good opportunity early in the outdoor season. If the weather is good, we should see some solid early season marks. This meet really gets us back into the swing of competing after a short break in competition after the indoor season."
The squad will close out March with the Vanderbilt Black and Gold Invite and the Raleigh Relays.
"Raleigh is one of the upper tier distance meets in the nation,” Taylor said. “We have a bit of a quandary because Stanford is the next weekend, so we will run some of our top distance kids at Raleigh, some will wait for Stanford, and some will race in both.
"Most of the team will compete here in Nashville at Vanderbilt. This is another solid meet, and fits most of the team’s early outdoor season needs. It's always nice to compete in our home city too."
In April, the Bisons will be on the road often. They have meets, the Big Blue Classic and the Stanford Invite & San Francisco State Distance Carnival, in the first weekend alone.
"Stanford is the best distance meet in the nation each year,” Taylor said. “About 70 percent of the National Championship Preliminary round qualifiers come from the distance races at Stanford. The weather is always about perfect, the energy is incredible and everyone goes there to run fast. It's a must for us. San Francisco will serve as a backup since we will already have flights booked before we learn who is accepted.
"Big Blue is a great meet for the bulk of our team. I think the only challenge is whether we get good weather there. We should see some teams that we don't normally see, which is also good."
Next in April are two meets in Tennessee, the Tennessee Relays and the Boston Moon Invite. "Tennessee Relays is a solid meet that has a big history,” Taylor said. “The past few years it has faded a bit in quality, however I get the impression it is being built back up and I expect it is going to be a really good meet this year and beyond.
“Boston Moon is hosted by TSU here in Nashville, and will be a great meet for anyone on our team that doesn't qualify for Tennessee."
The Bisons will close out April with the Austin Peay Invite and the Larry Ellis Invitational on the 17 and 18.
"Larry Ellis is another very good distance meet,” Taylor said. “There are a few key meets for distance runners across the country, and we have to take our top distance runners to them to get the best chance for personal records and national qualifying times. This will be our first time competing at this meet. Last year it was strong and produced some national qualifying marks. It should be a great opportunity for a mid/late season fast time.
"Austin Peay is new on our schedule. The bulk of the team will compete there. It will be another great opportunity to post big marks and develop our athletes."
For the month of May, the Bisons will use the Tennessee Challenge, Payton Jordan Invite and Georgia Invite as preparation for a slew of postseason meets.
"Peyton Jordan is also one of the top distance meets in the nation,” Taylor said. “The standards are very difficult to get in. Madi Talbert will definitely compete in the steeplechase there. We will see who else gets a distance mark that qualified.
"The Tennessee Challenge is a bit lower key than the Tennessee Relays, which is perfect to prep for the A-Sun Championships two weeks later. The Georgia Invite is really a dress rehearsal for the A-Sun Championships. It's a last chance to improve marks in many events. Distance runners will either rest or drop down to middle distance. We competed here last year and really felt it was a terrific prep for the Atlantic Sun meet.”
The Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championships will take place on May 15-16 in Jacksonville.
"We are very familiar with this track and have had a lot of fun and success at the A-Sun meet,” Taylor said. “This track is also host to the NCAA Division I National Championship Preliminary Round, so it's perfect prep for our National qualifiers as well.”
The NCAA Division I National Championships East Prelims take place on May 28-30.
"The past three years, I think we have qualified three each year,” Taylor said. The goal this year is to get at least eight in. We have a season schedule and a plan to accomplish that. We know the venue and have experience at this meet. This is one of the main goals of the entire season.”
Athletes who qualify at the East Prelims would then move on to the NCAA Division 1 National Championship Finals in Eugene, Oregon.
"Talbert and Gemikal Prude made it to the finals in Eugene last year,” Taylor said. “It was Talbert's second trip in two years, improving her finish in the 3000m steeplechase to earn Second Team All-American honors.
“Prude will redshirt the outdoor season. Talbert looks to make it to her third championship final, and hopes to be joined by a number of her teammates. For our top kids, this is the ultimate goal of the whole season."
After the NCAA Division 1 National Championships, Taylor will send any of the atheletes who qualified during the season to the U.S. Junior and Senior National Championships.
"As a bonus, we usually take any of our athletes that qualify for the United States Junior and Senior National Championships out to compete in the biggest meet in the nation,” Taylor said. It's a terrific experience and very helpful in the development and experience of our athletes. Qualifying marks must be hit during the season."